Over recent years Internet-based GIS have been developed to solicit public opinion about a growing range of spatial decision problems (Carver et al 2001, Ghose, 2001). The basic idea is that if you give the public access to the tools and data traditionally only used by decision makers and planners they become more empowered and more closely involved in decision making processes. It is widely recognised that this can then lead to better informed decisions leading to greater public approval (Kingston et al 2000).
The rise of the Internet and the Web has created many opportunities for those involved in using GIS and decision support systems. Recently many GIS have appeared on the Web (Carver, 1999). The level of functionality among these GIS systems is variable giving the general public, or at least those with a connection to the Web, access to a variety of both GIS systems and data. With the potential increased availability, previous criticism of GIS as an elitist technology (Pickles, 1995) may no longer be valid. GIS and the Web are ever evolving technologies with the potential for public use allowing greater involvement in environmental decision making and "they can design GIS primarily for expert use or they can make them accessible to the lay professional and even to the general public" (Innes and Simpson, 1993, p.231).
A team of researchers in the School of Geography have been developing Internet-based GIS which allow the public to participate in spatial decision making problems and over come some of the criticisms of GIS in the literature. By providing access to the relevant data, the tools with which to manipulate it, and information about particular decision making problems the public can be more closely involved in the decision making process.