Integration of environmental information from the whole of Europe – this was the motto of a conference called Towards eEnvironment, held in Prague in March 2009 by Masaryk University. Almost four hundred specialists from all over the world discussed a shared information system, which will support not only progressive changes in the field of environmental information but will also develop effective communication within the European Community.
The new shared system, which will be established by the EU Commission, will provide to the general public, public administration, companies and also to the media a high quality and verified information about the environment, its situation and activities aimed at its protection.
The system will include, information on the quality and quantity of water, waste management and quality of air, land monitoring, information on protected areas, emission limit values, applicable legislation and further useful and verified information. According to deputy minister Rut Bízková, the system should be completed at the end of 2011.
VITAL STEPS TOWARDS THE eENVIRONMENT
source: British Publishers / Projects, April 2009
Professor Jiří Hřebíček of Institute of Biostatistics and Analyses, Masaryk University and Towards eEnvironment conference chairman, emphasises the impact ICT will play in creating the eEnvironment and how important this is for eDemocracy.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) plays an important role in the European and global economy, but ICT also embodies other possibilities that will improve the well being of the citizens of the world. The member states of European Union (EU) have been suffering from the financial crisis and the rising levels of unemployment, but all are doing tremendous work to contribute to a sustainable future. Current environmental challenges include the world-wide and the rampant over-consumption of resources, air pollution, the loss of biodiversity, waste and, most important for the world’s development, climate change. Such problem areas, especially those relevant to environmental degradation, clearly indicate the need to raise the level of a combined discussion on the economic, environmental and social objectives in relation to sustainable development.
E for Environment
A positive economic and social development, including the preservation of the environment, is a precondition to the development of our societies and eEnvironment will play the important role. The idea of the eEnvironment (Electronic access to Environmental information) was presented at the second CAHDE (Ad hoc Committee on E-Democracy of the Council of Europe) plenary meeting, which was held in Strasbourg on 8-9 October, 2007.
The legal basis for the eEnvironment is the Aarhus Convention, which is implemented in the European Community and supported by the EU Directives: 2003/4/EC Public Access to Environmental Information; 2003/35/EC Public Participation; 2003/98/EC Re-use of Public Sector Information and 2007/2/EC Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE). The eEnvironment belongs to the eParticipation and eGovernment initiatives and it is going to be one of the fundaments of eDemocracy.
The Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions provides the political, organisational and technical basis for the eEnvironment, and states that any citizen is to be informed about environmental matters and can use this information for active participation in decision making. The group Go4: the Directorate-General (DG) Environment; the European Environment Agency (EEA); the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC), controls the development of the SEIS. It collaborates with the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative, which represents a concerted effort to bring data and information providers together with users, so they can better understand each other and make environmental and security-related information available to the people who need it through new, enhanced services.
The objective ICT-2007.6.3: ICT for Environmental Management and Energy Efficiency, which is part of EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), introduced a Single Information Space in Europe for the Environment (SISE) in which environmental institutions, service providers and citizens can collaborate or use available information without technical restraints. This will also become a platform for efficient research support for the eEnvironment.
With this background, TOWARDS eENVIRONMENT was a conference held in Pargue in March as part of the Czech Presidency of the EU Council. The conference objectives were to streamline the development of the eEnvironment networks. The future Internet, the achievement of interoperability, the extension of digital contents, the support of new ways of mobility and the development of a cutting-edge technical basis for integrating information are all tasks for research and enterprises.
There was one duty of the TOWARDS eENVIRONMENT conference summed up in its subtitle Opportunities of SEIS and SISE: Integrating Environmental Knowledge in Europe. This was to look at ways to build SEIS, a system, which integrates information on air quality, freshwater, climate effects, nature conservation, waste management and all the important issues, where the DG Environment and EEA currently deal with them in an multidisciplinary manner.
The framework of the SISE could support building SEIS. The SISE is an ICT research vision for real-time connectivity between multiple environmental resources, which would allow seamless cross-systém searches, as well as cross-border, multi-scale, multidisciplinary data acquisition, pooling and sharing. Furthermore, it would allow for service-chaining on the Web, thereby stimulating data integration into innovative, value-added Web services, which needs SEIS.
Merging interests of the DG Environment, the DG Enterprise and Transport, and the DG Information Society and Media the TOWARDS eENVIRONMENT conference was dedicated to information exchange among public administrations, EU institutions, environmental agencies, scientists and businesses involved in development and use of environmental informatics for the delivery of modern eEnvironment services in Europe.
To achieve this, the conference dealt with the key questions surrounding the delivery of effective eEnvironment services.
• How can ICT contribute to strengthening a collaborative information space on the Web that will maximise the use of distributed environmental information for multiple purposes and actors?
• Does Europe champion challenges and seize the opportunities in provision of eEnvironment/eParticipation services?
• How can ICT be best exploited for the monitoring and control of energy efficiency and security, modeling of air pollution, climate changes and for the support of decision making in environment protection?
• How can the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) be used as an efficient European tool to harmonise data collection, provision and final use? Also we should be looking at GMES services for the end users from new EU member countries and atmosphere and land services for users.