Shared Environmental Information System
What is SEIS?
History of SEIS: In February 2008, in response to Europe’s environmental information challenge, the European Commission (EC) proposed a solution through its Communication entitled ‘Towards a Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS)’. Since that time, SEIS has become a collaborative initiative of the EC, and the EEA and its Eionet (European environment information and observation network) of 38 countries. In fact, its implementation is now at the centre of the EEA’s 2009-2013 Corporate Strategy and daily operations.
SEIS goals: SEIS aims to create an improved environmental information system for Europe. The goal is to have it based on a network of public information providers that share their environmental data and information. Their existing systems and processes would be simplified, streamlined and modernised, including being web-enabled. The overall system would be decentralised but integrated. Quality, availability, accessibility and understanding will be improved as a result.
SEIS is also about a shift in approach, from individual countries or regions reporting data to specific international organisations, to their creating online systems with services that make information available for multiple users – people and machines.
7 SEIS principles: SEIS is based on seven ‘principles’. Information should be:
- Managed as close as possible to its source.
- Collected once, and shared with others for many purposes.
- Readily available to easily fulfil reporting obligations.
- Easily accessible to all users.
- Accessible to enable comparisons at the appropriate geographical scale, and citizen participation.
- Fully available to the general public, and at the national level in the relevant national language(s).
- Supported through common, free open software standards.
Cutting across the principles above, a key goal of SEIS is to maximise and expand use. Information is often created to serve one purpose, but the truth is, there is usually lots of potential for other uses, and applying SEIS principles makes that easier. For example, information about floods, while needed to mitigate potential flood impacts, is also extremely valuable for insurance companies and homebuyers, to assess risks for buildings and other properties.
Technological opportunities: Clearly, SEIS needs to take advantage of, and foster the development of, modern information and communication technologies (ICTs). ICTs are making it increasingly easier to share information, be it among individuals, closed groups or enter web communities. Examples include sensors, satellites, interactive map services, web services and mobile applications.
ICTs are particularly valuable in providing real-time data which can be used for immediate decisions – from national governments managing emergencies, to citizens planning their day by being informed about local weather or traffic conditions.
Reduced costs: An added benefit will be a reduction in the administrative burden of public authorities – for example, electronic systems could automatically replace much of the human resources now devoted to exchanging information -- and the associated cost savings from improved efficiencies.
Three pillars: A SEIS that works should also be structured around three pillars: content, infrastructure and cooperation. First, the system needs to identify the types of content (data) that are required as well as potential sources. Second, an effective web-enabled technical infrastructure is required that takes full advantage of the most cutting-edge ICTs, including web services (where machines talk to each other without the need for costly or inefficient human involvement). Thirdly, the cooperation and governance structure is required to manage human resources, inputs and networking.
Many applications: Interestingly, the application of the seven principles and three pillars of SEIS is becoming increasingly relevant for, and perhaps even necessary elements of, any network which is based on information sharing, including the EEA’s Eionet.