Improved access to environmental information: The European Environment Agency revamps its Internet gateway
Copenhagen, 30 October 1999Improved access to environmental information: The European Environment Agency revamps its Internet gateway
Today, after months of preparation, Europe's main gateway for electronic information on the environment, the website of the European Environment Agency (www.eea.europa.eu) was presented to the public with a completely redesigned look and feel.
However, the Agency is quick to point out that changes introduced are far more than just a cosmetic restyling - the primary aim for the EEA's web developers has been to facilitate matters for the users and to make the Agency's huge depository of online environmental information more easily accessible. Says EEA executive Director Mr. Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán: "After four years of successful presence on the Internet, it is with pleasure that we may now present a completely renewed and restyled website. With this reinforced Internet presence, we combine and build further on our achievements while extending the services in several areas".
In the age of information overload, the EEA faces a tough challenge when trying to fulfil its mission of bringing order to the complexity of environmental information and target the relevant information to a wide variety of user groups. By organizing the best available environmental information by environmental themes, and introducing powerful multilingual search and retrieval services, the Agency feels confident that it has improved the accessibility of relevant information for its main stakeholders and the European public at large.
The bulk of information available on the new site is made up of electronic versions of all EEA publications, including the Agency's main environmental assessment reports. But Mr. Jiménez-Beltrán also points to new, more dynamic elements that are being introduced: "We also aim at increasing the transparency of the reporting process by providing overviews of the data underpinning our analysis, and making these data accessible. This is done partly through interactive tools where the user can order graphs and tables to be made on the fly. Furthermore we include an extensive number of links to relevant information from other reliable sources".
The decision to carry out this extensive revamping of its website was taken in response to the extended mandate that that EEA got when its founding Regulation was revised recently. The Agency was here told to further develop a European reference centre for environmental information. According to Sigfús Bjarnasson, part of the team behind the site "the Agency's new website is our vehicle, the Internet based tool, to implement this ambition. It is the gateway, the first door of entry, to the information our users need about Europe's environment".
The improvements introduced to the EEA website have been possible thanks to existing partnerships and extensive collaboration with the Agency's "network of excellence", the European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET). This network comprises more than 500 national organizations, and is coordinated by National Focal Points in the 18 EEA member countries. Nine European Topic Centres on key areas such as air quality, coastal areas and waste are the prime sources of data, information and knowledge that go into the Agency's products - including its website. Mr. Jiménez-Beltrán underlined the importance of the co-operational aspects when officially launching the new website: "Only by joining forces will we be able to continue meeting the challenge of maintaining this valuable information pool and broaden the scope of work.
He emphasized that what the Agency presented today was not the end station, but merely a stop along the way, though representing a solid basis for further work. "Our ambition for the time to come is to broaden the multilingual offerings, expand further the linking to additional data sources and continue including more relevant environmental information links".
Finally, the EEA executive director pointed to the need to maintain a dialogue with the end users to help further develop the site, and welcomed comments, suggestion or questions to the EEA Webmaster (firstname.lastname@example.org). "Together with my colleagues I hope you will visit and make use of the website, and help us realize our ambition of being Europe's reference centre - or if you like, the main 'portal' - for environmental information. I am confident that the Agency now has an excellent basis from which to face its main challenge - namely to provide quality information to help improve Europe's environment".
- A wide spectrum of users looking for green information
The EEA's ambition with its website is to be able to cater to the environmental information needs of a diversity of audiences