18 February 2009

Information, the environment and citizen contributions

The general public should inform and be informed on environmental issues. Through online applications of real time information, which includes public contributions, for public action and consumer choice, as well as decisions by policy makers.

"We need to engage with citizens and ask how they can inform us, and it will also give us a better indication of what we need to do to be truly sustainable." says Jacqueline McGlade, head of the European Environment Agency (EEA) in a thought-provoking lecture carried in the BBC.

Does Singapore have any such online applications? Hmmm...
I can't think of any, can you?

Among Jacqueline McGlade's other comments, she warned the current approach left the public sidelined as "silent observers".

Political and business leaders were not able to tackle the problem without help from ordinary people. Environmental policies would also benefit from data based on public observations.

"There is just no way that we are going to be able to shift ourselves to tackle the fundamental problems of the crisis without addressing public participation,"

To encourage and benefit from participation we need to present our information in a way everyone can understand.

"It is no longer sufficient to develop passive lists or reports."

"Information is [currently] made available as lists of figures or speadsheets that only experts can interpret. Imagine if all of the statistics that inform our evening weather forecasts were presented in this way; do you think they would continue to be as popular?"

To really engage the public, more co-ordinated and timely gathering of complex data needs to be complemented by "real time" delivery of the information, in language that is accessible to all.

Examples cited of information systems that empower individuals:
Full articles on the wildsingapore news blog.

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