Public authorities that collect data on the environment increasingly offer online public access to information, but they do not always consider by whom such information is used and for what purposes. And where they do, demand may not be homogenous or sufficiently known, thus adding to the difficulties of which information should be presented in what ways. Here we discuss the main issues in the process of supplying online environmental information to unknown demand, as identified by interviewees from both sides of online environmental information supply. Our focus is on river level information collected and presented by the main Scottish water regulator. Two main areas came to the fore: liability of the supplier regarding consistency and quality of the provided information; and interpretation, related to discrepancies between science-based expert and layperson understandings. In light of the new societal role that this regulator aspires to – that is, replacing ‘command and control’ regulation with ‘command and covenant’ stewardship – this case study offers insight into the two areas proved key to institutional decision-making about environmental data display, thereby generating new insight into the dynamics of a digital society.
Bibliographical noteThe research described here is supported by the award made by the RCUK Digital Economy programme to the dot.rural Digital Economy Hub; award reference: EP/G066051/1. It has been ethically considered within the University of Aberdeen's Framework for Research Ethics and Governance.
- information governance
- sensor network
- dynamic data
- user group profiling