The application of information technology and environmental protection

Publication Date01 December 2012
Date01 December 2012
AuthorMirjana Drenovak Ivanović
International Review of
Administrative Sciences
78(4) 692–709
!The Author(s) 2012
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DOI: 10.1177/0020852312455305
Review of
The application of information
technology and environmental
Mirjana Drenovak Ivanovic
University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia
The Aarhus Convention became a part of the Serbian legal system through the adoption
of the Law on Ratification of the Convention on Access to Information, Public
Participation in Decision Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in
May 2009. Although the legislation in Serbia, prior to the ratification of the Aarhus
Convention, pointed, to some extent, to the realization of ideas promoted by it, fol-
lowing the ratification, there was the formal possibility of the consistent application of
rights stipulated by the Convention. This article analyses the role of information tech-
nology (IT) in providing public access to environmental information. There are three
basic ways IT may be applied in environmental protection. First, through the use of IT
for environmental matters, the public can be informed about the general condition of
the environment. In the legal system of Serbia, the Agency for Environmental Protection
is obliged to collect environmental information from local government and compile
annual reports on the environment that should be presented on the Agency website.
This article analyses the information systems of the Serbian Agency for Environmental
Protection and the further possibilities of using these. Second, IT can be used as a way of
regular communication between government and citizens. In accordance with the prin-
ciple of transparency, government bodies are obliged to provide an adequate way for
the public to have an insight into their work. In addition, the authorized person is
responsible for the accuracy of this information and for providing public access
within a reasonable timeframe. In this sense, the article analyses the legal framework
of e-access to environmental information and the relevant practice of the
Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection.
Third, the application of IT in environmental matters can promote public participation
in environmental decision-making. If there were a legal framework, the public would be
able to participate in procedures, such as environmental impact assessments, by sub-
mitting their opinions as e-documents. This article points out the relations between the
Corresponding author:
Mirjana Drenovak Ivanovic
´, Faculty of Law University of Belgrade, Bulevar kralja Aleksandra, no. 67, Belgrade,
11 000, Serbia
application of IT and the level of public awareness about the environment, and the
impact these relations have on environmental protection.
Points for practitioners
The article examines whether there is a possibility of using IT as a means of achieving
daily communication between government and citizens in matters of the protection,
preservation and improvement of the environment in Serbia, how the application of
information technology achieves wider public participation in environmental decision-
making, and whether the application of IT can eliminate deficiencies in the assessment of
environmental impacts which occur in practice. The article provides an overview of
environmental legislation in Serbia, which regulates the possibility of using IT in envir-
onmental protection and administrative practice.
environmental information, information technology, Serbian environmental law
Environmentally responsible communities that have achieved the appropriate level
of environmental health protection are aware of environmental risks and threats.
Environmental risk is acceptable in so far as there is awareness of the risk and it is
implemented in the environmental policy. In addition, it is not sufficient to have
only certain pieces of information about the environment, but also to know which
pieces of information should be used in specific cases, and what the correlation is
between those pieces of information and environmental values. Environmental
information is necessary for the administrative bodies to be able to understand
the nature of environmental problems, as well as all the effects of decisions for-
mulated: ‘Environmental decision-making depends critically on data and analysis’
(Esty, 2004: 115). When making decisions on environmental matters, administra-
tive bodies balance public and individual interests, public interests and protection
of confidentiality, and the possibility that the release of some environmental pieces
of information may be potentially more serious than their retention (Flournoy
et al., 2007: 1581–1582).
In order for administrative bodies to acquire the information necessary for
environmental decision-making, on the one hand, and to achieve a balance between
the power and responsibility of market and regulators, administrative bodies and
citizens, or markets and citizens, on the other hand, it is necessary to establish
certain stages in the information procedure. There are three basic stages that are
obligatory for optimal realization of the potential of environmental information.
These are: (a) the collection of environmental information and its formulation, (b)
the use of environmental information, and (c) access to and distribution of envir-
onmental information (Kysar and Salzman, 2008). The common denominator in
Drenovak Ivanovic

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