Module M12 - Introduction to GIS for the Purpose of Practicing PGIS

Unit M12U01 - Introduction to GIS


Since 1995, local communities and organisations working with communities have been increasingly interested in using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). As a result, the use of GIS has evolved from a process that traditionally was practised solely by highly trained experts to one with a heightened capacity to be used by, and on behalf of, local communities and marginalised people. This shift has led to the development of a community of practice that is referred to as Participatory GIS (PGIS).

Because GIS can generate, manage, analyse and communicate spatial information, these tools have become a major conduit to documenting, expressing, presenting and protecting local spatial knowledge, including information related to land use and territory definition. However, in order to realise the benefits of GIS as a mechanism for community representation and empowerment, facilitators and community members need to understand the fundamental capabilities of these technologies.

Unit objectives / expected outcomes

After the completion of the Unit the trainee will be able to:

  • explain GIS and its uses;
  • describe ways of representing data;
  • interpret data layers;
  • work with Quantum GIS;
  • discuss participatory mapping in relation to the use of GIS;
  • explain the use of GPS in connection with GIS.

Content outline, main topics covered and suggested sequencing

This Unit focuses on the topics listed below:

  1. Introduction to GIS (PPT No. 1) (90 min)
  2. A Gentle Introduction to GIS (Exercise No. 1) (45 min)

Components of the Unit


Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in printed format):

Handouts for Trainee (to be distributed in digital format)




2 ¼ hrs

Additional trainer resources

  • Antenucci, John C. et al. Geographic Information Systems: A Guide to the Technology. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. 1991.
  • Clarke, Keith C. Getting Started with Geographic Information Systems. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 1997.
  • Sutton, T., O. Dassau & M. Sutton. A Gentle Introduction to GIS. South Africa: Spatial Information Management Unit, Office of the Premier, Eastern Cape. 2009.
  • Quantum GIS. User Guide Version 1.1.0 ‘Pan’.

Equipment needed

Beamer, computer and Internet connection for the trainer, computers with Internet connection for each trainee or for every two or three trainees (depending on local circumstances), QGIS manual, software installed on the computers

Additional downloads