Where is it and why is it there? : GIS and its potential use in the human services sector
Hall, Carly & Heffernan, Maree E. (2006) Where is it and why is it there? : GIS and its potential use in the human services sector. In Fehlhaber, Les (Ed.) Combined 5th Trans Tasman Survey Conference & 2nd Queensland Spatial Industry Conference 2006 – Cairns, 18-23 September 2006, 19-23 September 2006, Cairns, Qld..
The purpose of the present paper is to present the results of a study examining stakeholder perceptions of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in a Human Services environment. Policy shifts are increasingly requiring human service agencies to work collaboratively within and across geographic regions and funding boundaries, yet little is offered to assist agencies to both plan and provide for these integrated services. The present study uses a case study approach to examine the perceptions of service providers currently engaged in integration efforts regarding the potential of GIS to assist their agencies and sectors in service planning and provision. A series of GIS visualisations were produced and presented, in the context of a feedback session and four semi-structured interviews, to representatives of an inter-agency group specifically initiated to improve the integration of services for young people with complex needs. The data sets included demographic, social disadvantage and housing information related to the group’s target population. The results suggest that stakeholders perceive that there could be advantages associated with utilising a GIS to present data at a regional scale, including the ability to: facilitate communication across organisational boundaries, provide justification for decisions made at the regional level, and to potentially construct boundaries in alignment with the characteristics of people and place. The stakeholders also perceived potential disadvantages, including: that individual services could be found to be incongruent with the needs of the region, that data could be misinterpreted and potentially constructed in a way that was unreliable, and finally that problems arising from the construction of artificial bureaucratic boundaries could be re-enforced. From the results, it is possible to identify a number of key issues associated with the potential utilisation of GIS in the human services arena. It is recommended that a crucial topic for future investigation is how to develop a GIS appropriate for the human services sector in light of the opportunities and constraints identified by this research.
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