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Some novel information systems for the empowerment of decision-making process on a territory : outcomes from a four-year participatory modeling in Senegal

D'Aquino P.. 2007. ICFAI Journal of Knowledge Management, 5 (4) : p. 80-89.

The Maps, the Geographical Information Systems (GIS), the Role-Playing Games (RPG) and the other participatory supports, the Multi-Agent Systems (MAS): all are modeling supports designed through their conceivers' perception. Even in participatory approaches, these designing and modeling supports can take off towards technocratic, but often unconscious, drifts. Yet, a true empowerment of local governance means to let stakeholders and their principals totally handle their information and modeling systems. The mere access to information is certainly a first step but it is far from a true power over it, so long as the local people are unable to select, process, and manage their information systems. Actually, the present fast-developing use of these tools could be a threat as much as a progress for the democratization of information. These new information technologies are still often a way to reinforce technical point of view into the decision-making process. This analysis brought us to methodological experiments between 1997 and 2001 in the Senegal river area, to support a land use management local process based on Information Systems Self-Governance (ISSG). Novel forms of maps, GIS, RPGs, other participatory supports and MASs in a designing approach were conceived and tested truly reversed. For all these supports, stakeholders or their local principals guided all steps of designing and modeling process. This method rests on two principles: 1) the endogenous nature of a decision-making process that we consider always continuous and iterative; 2) the self-design of the modeling tools to supply supports for decision-makers much suitable, much handy and much controllable. In such a decision-making process on territories, the technical supports are merely a sort of mediating accompaniment. The results of the four-year experiment allow us to formalize a self-designed modeling approach, for simple maps as well as GIS, RPG and MAS supports. The outcomes also show that this sort of endogenous and self-designed participatory modeling is efficient to let an endogenous dynamics of governance come across into a bottom-up regional policy and planning, from local (2,500 km2) to regional (18, 000 km2) scales. In other words, a bottom-up participatory modeling and planning is more fitted with the more humble place where our post-normal science should be in the 21st century.

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