There are many benefits to a public that actively participates in societal issues. One such issue is land management. The obvious benefits are greater citizen awareness, potential for multi-agency partnerships, increased trust among stakeholders, transparency in decision making and the opportunity for mutual learning. The Web of course plays a fundamental role where on line platforms are created to improve communication and simplify complex information exchanges among various stakeholders. A Web 2.0 site for example allows users to interact and collaborate with each, create dialogue and form a virtual community, as opposed to the common website where people passively view content.
The Internet and Land Management: A Case for Social Media.
There are three areas where the internet can improve collaboration among stakeholders in land management. 1) The first is e-Governance which is essentially making information readily available to the public and providing all interested stakeholders with the opportunity to participate in the planning process (e.g. posting online comments). 2) Secondly, making the most of online dialogues through discussion boards and many other communication tools that Web-based platforms offer. The rise of social media has made participation in on-line discussion forums accessible to a great number of people. These social platforms are very effective in incorporating the viewpoints of large heterogeneous populations. 3) Finally, there are Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and various on-line spatial decision support tools. Generally speaking, GIS does a better job at sharing data and spatial related information because they combine scientific theory with practical reality. So, GIS tools, if made available to the general public would reinforce good governance.
Overall ICT technology gives users the opportunity to modify content and participate in the decision making process. Therefore, the arrival of the “Engaging Web,” and the more recent developments on location based social networking, provides users with real-time, dynamic geospatial and location-based information services. However, in order to enhance public participation, it’s more sensible to involve stakeholders in the very early planning stages, where common participation methods (e.g. workshops) will support the development of Geo-ICT tools.
Many will agree that for governments, social media has created new communication channels with citizens, facilitating openness, transparency and democratization while offering new opportunities for governments to reinvent their relationship with citizens. In particular, Web based Geo-tools (that include social media) have the following advantages for public administrators: 1) Improvement of public sector transparency, 2) Improvement in policy making, 3) Improvement in efficiency of public services and 4) Improvement of knowledge management and cross-agency cooperation. However, despite the aforementioned benefits, the adoption of social media by governments poses a number of potential risks and barriers. These relate to records management, privacy and security issues, accuracy and the need for expert-only feedback. In particular, for the information posted on social media to be used wisely there must be resources and procedures in place.
We are definitely facing a new reality in land management and administration. Social media can influence land management and administration systems. I’ll conclude with this figure that illustrates how to use social media, as an e-participation tool, for land management activities. Feedback from stakeholders can provide solutions to land administration and land policy issues only if achieved through the appropriate manipulation of social media.