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Information and Communications Technology for Environmental Regulation: Critical Perspectives


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From online booksellers highlighting interesting items, social networking sites encouraging users to divulge personal information and auction sites using reputation-based systems to reassure consumers entering into transactions with strangers, computers can, and do, change human behaviour and have changed society in dramatic ways. There is, as a result, a considerable interest in the use of information and communications technology (ICT) for environmental regulation (ER).

However, while there is now a substantial body of literature on regulation and ICT, this focuses on either the regulation of information (such as data protection) or the regulation of communications (such as freedom of speech online). It is also predominantly concerned with ICT as something to be regulated, rather than on the use of ICT for regulation (e-regulation). This presentation attempts to fill this gap.

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Information and Communications Technology for Environmental Regulation: Critical Perspectives

  1. 1. Image: European Space AgencyInformation and CommunicationsTechnology and EnvironmentalRegulation: Critical PerspectivesRónán KennedySchool of Law, National University of
  2. 2. ICTs and BehaviourChangeReducing complex behaviours to simple tasksGuiding users through a process or experienceProviding content tailored to individualsSuggesting behaviour at opportune momentsEliminating tedium of trackingObserving the behaviour of othersProviding positive reinforcement
  3. 3. Benefits of ICT for ERNew modes of regulationImproved resource efficiencyIncreased effectiveness
  4. 4. Applications of ICTInformation gatheringRemote sensors Waste management Land-use change Fisheries protection Remote harvest reporting Vessel monitoring systems
  5. 5. Applications of ICTAnalysis and modellingSupport for compliance and enforcement MARPOL, Kyoto ProtocolManaging markets for intangible property Water rights, emissions trading
  6. 6. Applications of ICTInformation dissemination and ‘reflexive’ regulation Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking (EMPACT) Envirofacts ( Scorecard ( Toxics Release Inventory ( Google Carbon Footprint Calculator
  7. 7. Applications of ICT ‘Smart’ goods, services and processes: Smart logistics Smart buildings Smart grids and smart meters Smart products
  8. 8. Disclosure as aRegulatory ToolPublic distribution of information as a driver forchange (‘reflexive’ regulation)History: 1930s: financial regulation 1960s/70s: environmental law, health and safety Now: widely used
  9. 9. Rationales forDisclosureSignal to stock marketsSocial impact (‘naming and shaming’)Benchmarking against peersFaster regulatory responseOvercoming individual bounded rationality
  10. 10. Difficulties withDisclosureReplicating the weaknesses of command-and-controlStrategic reporting and gaming the systemAccuracy of informationIntractable individual habitsUnpredictable resultsDifficulties in analysing cost/benefitMuddying the rule of law
  11. 11. Improving Disclosure-Based RegimesStandardised methods and metricsMaking behaviour change a normUse as an element of or alternative to conventionalregulation?
  12. 12. Information inEnvironmental RegulationOften flawed and incompleteICT expanding the scope and span of control? Measurement often imprecise Costs difficult to estimate Methodologies rarely produce useful figures More information is not necessarily better
  13. 13. Science in theRegulatory ProcessContested role: Objective truth or uncertain knowledge? Challenged as product of ideology ‘Post-normal science’Law and science: incompatible cultures?
  14. 14. Models in the Policy-Making ProcessFundamental to constructing policy context: Catalyst for policy Structure for regulatory decision-making Mechanism for collaborationOften codified in software
  15. 15. Difficulties with ModelsScientific literacy of audience?Accuracy and currency of models?Data: Accurate? Verifiable? Consistent?Over-optimistic or over-simplistic useModels as proxy for real debateRisk of manipulation
  16. 16. E-governmentPerspectivesFocus on the citizens as consumerSees government activity as single step decision-makingSignificant gap in research on “e-regulation”
  17. 17. E-Regulation“The use of ICT within regulators and those whodeal with them, such as NGOs, as an integral partof the process of measurement, assessment andfeedback which is central to regulation.”Cannot simply re-use private sector experiences
  18. 18. ICT and RegulationBenefits: cheaper, more, quicker, better, newImprovements: Better informed More targeted More iterative More transparent and democratic
  19. 19. Difficulties with E-RegulationICT not neutral or deterministicImpact on existing imbalances?Disempowering external actorsBrake on change: Institutional Organisational Procedural
  20. 20. ICT and LegalProcessesLegal processes neither simple nor linearNot easily modelled by logic or expert systemsRisk of destructive feedback cycleICT as embedded and entrenched infrastructure
  21. 21. RecommendationsDesign principles: Flexibility Rule of law Human rights Open, re-usable data