Proceedings of the 2014 conference ICT for Sustainability

Citizen observatories of water: Social innovation via eParticipation

Uta Wehn, Jaap Evers
Corresponding Author
Uta Wehn
Available Online August 2014.
DOI to use a DOI?
social innovation, citizen observatory, eParticipation, governance, two-way communication, flood risk management, disaster cycle
We live in the age of Big Data, yet many areas of environmental management are still suffering from a lack of relevant data, information and knowledge that impedes sound decision making. A highly relevant phenomenon is therefore the so-called citizen observatories whereby the observations of ordinary citizens, and not just those of professionals and scientists, are included in earth observation and environmental conservation. Advanced citizen observatories can enable a two-way communication paradigm between citizens and decision makers, potentially resulting in profound changes to existing flood risk management processes and, as such, in social innovation processes and outcomes. This paper analyses the social innovation potential of such ICT-enabled citizen observatories to increase eParticipation in local governance processes related to flood risk management. The findings from empirical research in two case study locations highlight the divergent roles that authorities conceive for citizens and the role(s) that citizens in practice assign to themselves. A challenge for citizen observatories is therefore to consider the extent to which the (in some cases) essential, continuous face-to-face contact and relationship-building between authorities and citizens can be moved to, or complemented with, functionalities in the online sphere of the observatories. Moreover, given the institutional structures identified in these cases and the obligation of authorities to be accountable for their decisions, citizen observatories do not automatically imply that citizens will have a higher level of participation in planning and decision making, nor that communication between stakeholders improves. As long as flood risks are perceived as an issue that should be dealt with by the authorities, there will be little motivation for citizens to participate.
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ICT for Sustainability 2014 (ICT4S-14)
Part of series
Advances in Computer Science Research
Publication Date
August 2014
DOI to use a DOI?
Open Access
This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY-NC license.

Cite this article

AU  - Uta Wehn
AU  - Jaap Evers
PY  - 2014/08
DA  - 2014/08
TI  - Citizen observatories of water: Social innovation via eParticipation
BT  - ICT for Sustainability 2014 (ICT4S-14)
PB  - Atlantis Press
SP  - 1
EP  - 10
SN  - 2352-538X
UR  -
DO  -
ID  - Wehn2014/08
ER  -