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Evaluation of an open-source collaborative web-GIS prototype in risk management with students


Over the past decades, advancements in web services and web-based geospatial technologies have led to increasing delivery, access and analysis of rich spatial information over the web. With the use of open access data and open-source technology, it has become possible for policy and decision makers to make more transparent and informed decisions. Under the framework of the CHANGES project, a prototype web-based collaborative decision support platform was developed for the evaluation and selection of risk management measures, mainly targeting flood and landslide hazards. The design of the conceptual framework was based on the initial observations obtained from field visits and stakeholders’ meetings at the case study areas of the project. A three-tier client–server architecture backed up by Boundless (OpenGeo) was applied with its client side development environment for rapid prototyping. This developed prototype was tested with university students to obtain feedback on the conceptual and technical aspects of the platform as well as to analyse how the application of interactive tools during an exercise could assist students in studying and understanding risk management. During the exercise, different roles (authorities, technicians, community) were assigned to each group of students for identification and selection of risk mitigation measures in a study area: Cucco village located in Malborghetto-Valbruna municipality of North-Eastern Italy. Data were collected by means of written feedback forms on specific aspects of the platform and the exercise. The subsequent analysis of the feedback reveals that students with previous experience in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) responded positively and showed interests in performing exercises with such kinds of interactive tools for learning, compared to the ones with fewer or no GIS experience. These results also show that the prototype is useful and supportive as a decision support tool in risk management while user-friendliness, interactivity and practical aspects of the platform could be further improved.

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The authors would like to thank all the participated students of the risk communication course (spring semester, 2015) at University of Lausanne for giving their valuable feedback and suggestions on the developed prototype. We also express our thanks to the CHANGES Project team for sharing of research data and results in the case study area of Italy. We acknowledge the funding provided by European Commission for FP7 Marie Curie ITN CHANGES Project (, 2011–2014, Grant No. 263953), which made possible to carry out this research on prototype development of a decision support system in risk management. In addition, we acknowledge that this study was initially presented at the Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial Conference (FOSS4G 2015) in Seoul, South Korea.

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Correspondence to Zar Chi Aye.

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Aye, Z.C., Charrière, M., Olyazadeh, R. et al. Evaluation of an open-source collaborative web-GIS prototype in risk management with students. Spat. Inf. Res. 24, 169–179 (2016).

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  • Collaborative web-GIS
  • Open-source
  • Risk management
  • Natural hazards
  • Active learning