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Information and knowledge for water governance in the networked society

Belén Pedregal
Department of Human Geography, University of Seville; Seville, Spain; bpedregal@us.es

Violeta Cabello
Department of Human Geography, University of Seville; Seville, Spain; vcabello@us.es

Nuria Hernández-Mora
Department of Human Geography, University of Seville; Seville, Spain; nhernandezmora@us.es

Natalia Limones
Department of Human Geography, University of Seville; Seville, Spain; natalialr@us.es

Leandro Del Moral
Department of Human Geography, University of Seville; Seville, Spain; lmoral@us.es

ABSTRACT: In the last few years, parallel evolutionary processes in the socio-political, governmental and technological arenas have been providing new pathways for the collaborative generation, coordination and distribution of polycentric information. From a technological perspective, the proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has boosted the availability of information about our planet, along with its storage, processing and dissemination capabilities. The Worldwide Web and satellite and electronic sensors combined with smart phone technologies have also opened new means for social, political and scientific innovation. From a socio-political standpoint, the implementation of policies that encourage the reutilisation of data and protect the right to information of interested parties, together with growing social demands for transparency, have resulted in an increasing number of governments drawing strategies to open up public data. In this context, this paper addresses two main topics that we deem will be key drivers for improved water governance in the near future. First, it discusses new practices of collaborative and distributed generation and disclosure of information for water governance, and the resulting challenges and opportunities afforded by the use of ICTs. Second, it looks at the interplay between the uptake of ICTs and institutional frameworks, social dynamics and technological structures within which they operate to understand the extent to which ICTs affect decision-making processes and contribute to creating alternative spaces for the production of common services or alternative discourses. Despite the advances in open data policies, findings suggest that there remain significant challenges to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by ICTs, mostly derived from the structural conditions of existing models of decision-making, and information generation and management. It seems that the potentialities of ICTs as transformative tools are conditioned by the regeneration of the context within which decisions are made, that is, the democratic process itself.

KEYWORDS: Water data, open data, polycentric information, networked society, technopolitics, water governance