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Online Democracy Group

Centre for Computational Geography, University of Leeds


The Internet is being promoted by Government as the motivation for radical changes to the way we live our everyday lives. If this is the case the way in which people may participate in the new information society needs to be understood.

The central theme of the group's work is using the Internet as a tool of democracy in the area of environmental decision making. To achieve this aim we maintain a strong geographical content to the work we undertake by developing and implementing Public Participation Geographical Information Systems (PPGIS) on the Web.

The widening public use of the Web means that it could be used to bring a higher degree of democracy to government.

The technology gives every person with access to a public or private internet connection the ability to provide information, and to access information themselves that may help them make informed decisions. The technology also allows those interested in the public's decisions the ability to collect this information from a diverse population and provide feedback. Information collected in this way has the advantage of being in an easily processed format.

Four projects involving real decision making problems in the UK have being developed to test some of our ideas:

  • a local scale project to allow the people of Slaithwaite, a village in West Yorkshire, to decide how they would like to see their community developed.

  • a regional scale project aimed at providing mechanisms for public participation in landscape planning in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

  • a national scale project attempting to find the wildest place in Britain.

  • a national scale project to aid public contributions to the debate over nuclear waste disposal.

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