GIS Diffusion in China: Theoretical Models and Empirical Analyses

Geographic information technology has been increasingly recognized and widely applied in certain fields in China since the beginning of 1990s. Following several top political and scientific advocators, more and more researchers, government officers, information engineers and end users are devoting to the domestic GIS industrial development and national geographic information strategy. However, their visions, opinions, suggestions or recommendations on GIS development in China are rather diversified and contradictions. In such academic context, this research introduces innovation diffusion theory to the study of GIS diffusion in China, and attempts to investigate general characteristics of GIS diffusion through theoretical model-building and empirical analyses.

Based on literature review of innovation diffusion theory, GIS diffusion studies and GIS technological development, a general model of GIS diffusion at national level is formulated as dynamic interactions between GIS echnology, processes of adopting GIS within an organization, and its external environments. GIS are organized activities by which people measure and represent geographic phenomena and then transform these representations into other forms of knowledge while interacting with organizational and social structures.

The processes of GIS diffusion within an organization can be generalized as dynamic interactions between knowledge accumulation, investment decision-making, system implementation, system application, and assessment of GIS utilization. nowledge learning and decision-making are two determining factors within the full cycle of GIS diffusion. National GIS diffusion environment mainly concerns market conditions, knowledge bases, institutional settings, and socioeconomic and cultural contexts. Market environment is the most undamental factor influencing GIS diffusion for a long term and other factors effecting GIS by directly or indirectly effecting market mechanism.

On the other hand, multiple data sources, resulting from questionnaire survey, case study, individual interview, Internet information, academic database and commercial database, are empirically analyzed to investigate the organizational and institutional characteristics of GIS development, application and diffusion in China. It is concluded that:

  1. The future of GIS applications in China should be understood and predicted by national long-term stages of GIS development and organizational levels of GIS utilization.
  2. Government is suggested to nurture the market only in the fields of market failure. Governmental strategies and policies should be reexamined to avoid policy failure.
  3. Simple, low price, relatively free, 'single-track' policies, rather than strictly copyright-protected, high price and 'multiple-track' policies, on geospatial data are essential for GIS diffusion.
  4. It is argued that there are multiple risks in GIS investment and GIS diffusion.

This GIS diffusion research has rich implications for GIS development, in terms of improvement of GIS implementation in an organization and improvement of external environment of GIS diffusion. Firstly, it help to understand and explain the GIS diffusion process within an organization, and therefore contribute to the organizational effectiveness of knowledge accumulation, investment decision making, system implementation, and management assessment of adopting GIS technology. Secondly, the environmental research potentially provides fundamental, but essential, factors that facilitate or prohibit GIS applications. The findings from such research are critical for government policy making on geographic information dissemination and national strategic GIS development.

Please contact Mr. KONG Yunfeng for further information.