Question: Simple desktop GIS for participatory mapping

mir asked on March 28, 2018 17:26
164 | 4 answers | shortlink

We are working on a project with remote forest communities in Panama with the Almanaque Azul Foundation over there. We will be facilitating participatory mapping of their local forest reserves, and we will train local teams to keep collecting data and keeping their maps updated. So we will be testing Mapeo ( for data collection and QGIS ( as a general purpose desktop GIS application.

However QGIS is pretty full on in terms of features and user interface, and some of our community partners have limited experience with desktop computers. We would ideally like a (free) desktop GIS that has a user interface more like Mapeo (which is based on OSM's iD). Something that would allow people to load raster and vector layers and do basic styling at least, so they can quickly produce maps for print or display.

Does anyone have ideas on whether this exists or if folks might be interested in developing a custom UI for QGIS for participatory rural cartography?

gis answered



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4 Answers

Maybe uMap ( could be a good solution for you.

Other feedback I've received from the geospatial community includes:

"I think GeoDa ( is friendlier than QGIS if you need an open-source alternative."

"gvSIG ( would be my other choice but only if no other option. I would rather make an inventory of required tools in QGIS to be accessible and make a custom profile, I believe the toolbars can be hidden/shown with some customization."

I like GeoDa for its clean interface. Its an easy way to make a quick map and create charts. I recommend it to people who need to simply view GIS data and interact with it a little bit. If you want to apply more analysis you can move the project into QGIS.

It's awesome to hear about your participatory mapping work in Panama! It's great that you're testing out DigDem's Mapeo, I'm interested to try it myself. The big name out there for FOSS4G is definitely QGIS, but this article ( from earlier this month has some desktop software that might be more simple for a less computer-literate community. It might require trying a few of them out yourself first, though, to find the most appropriate one.

I've posted your question on a participatory mapping forum and will update my response if I hear from anyone with any more software suggestions, I would also love to hear what software you end up using with the community!

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