Open source GIS for HIV/AIDS management
1 Centre for Geo-Information, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, the Netherlands
2 Department of Civil Engineering, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
3 Spatial Dimension, Cape Town, South Africa
International Journal of Health Geographics 2008, 7:53 doi:10.1186/1476-072X-7-53Published: 22 October 2008
Reliable access to basic services can improve a community's resilience to HIV/AIDS. Accordingly, work is being done to upgrade the physical infrastructure in affected areas, often employing a strategy of decentralised service provision. Spatial characteristics are one of the major determinants in implementing services, even in the smaller municipal areas, and good quality spatial information is needed to inform decision making processes. However, limited funds, technical infrastructure and human resource capacity result in little or no access to spatial information for crucial infrastructure development decisions at local level.
This research investigated whether it would be possible to develop a GIS for basic infrastructure planning and management at local level. Given the resource constraints of the local government context, particularly in small municipalities, it was decided that open source software should be used for the prototype system.
The design and development of a prototype system illustrated that it is possible to develop an open source GIS system that can be used within the context of local information management. Usability tests show a high degree of usability for the system, which is important considering the heavy workload and high staff turnover that characterises local government in South Africa. Local infrastructure management stakeholders interviewed in a case study of a South African municipality see the potential for the use of GIS as a communication tool and are generally positive about the use of GIS for these purposes. They note security issues that may arise through the sharing of information, lack of skills and resource constraints as the major barriers to adoption.
The case study shows that spatial information is an identified need at local level. Open source GIS software can be used to develop a system to provide local-level stakeholders with spatial information. However, the suitability of the technology is only a part of the system – there are wider information and management issues which need to be addressed before the implementation of a local-level GIS for infrastructure management can be successful.