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Maastricht WG, 8 October Last meeting in Hong Kong. SB Group in KL. SB crowd at registration. SB small group work. Global ABC issues report on April meeting SBE16 Torino declared a success SBE partners launch international survey on effective climate change measures Excellent primer on climate change The Triple Bottom line Revisit. One should not forget, however, that this statement is part of a larger argument in which two key concepts are identified: Based on these concepts, the Commission could discuss linkages between economic development, social equality, poverty and environmental protection.

While the social dimension was present through the emphasis on the concept of needs , with an overriding priority being the poor of the world, the emphasis was on economy and environment.

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At the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in , the social dimension was given equal importance to the economic dimension and environmental protection. Most importantly, Agenda 21 was signed by a majority of the world's countries, indicating a commitment to break with the 20th century tradition of unsustainable use of the world's resources.

Further summits the Millennium Summit , the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development and the New York World Summit have consolidated this basic definition with some minor revisions. The United Nations General Assembly utilise in their World Summit Outcome document the metaphor of 'pillars' to characterize the three constituent parts of sustainable development as social development, economic development and environmental protection.

This is one of three alternative models of visualizing the relation between the three constitutive parts Adams The model of the three pillars can be used to illustrate how each of them must be in place to hold up the roof of sustainable development. A model of concentric circles gives, on the other hand, a very specific and economic perspective.

The economy is positioned in the most central circle, surrounded by society which in turn is surrounded by the environment. This tends to make economy the most important part. Finally, there is the most popular model, that of overlapping circles, which clearly highlights the principle of integration see below: Sustainable development and the idea of integration. This will also be the basis for my articulation of sustainable information.

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These three parts, policy areas or 'pillars' have otherwise remained unchallenged after the turn of the century as an intellectually and aesthetically pleasing definition. One notable exception is the articulation of cultural diversity as a possible fourth policy area of sustainable development World Commission on Culture and Development This is an interesting challenge for the purposes of this paper, since images of cultural diversity easily connect to a series of issues relevant for information resources management.

Actually, with the breakthrough of the World Wide Web during the s, new forms of global communication have served to create an increasingly large number of cultural groups that both support and undermine traditional cultural groups. Some researchers have, as a consequence, added a fourth constitutive part of sustainable development: Arguably, however, the cultural dimension can be seen as overlapping the social. It might therefore be better to broaden the definition of the social part, to include the cultural dimension, in order to avoid adding complexity to an already highly sophisticated model.

One of the core ideas of sustainable development is integration , developed and emphasized as a principle in Agenda 21 United Nations Division for Sustainable Development The peoples of the earth should not, it is argued, build special institutions for sustainable development that exist apart from other institutions. Rather, sustainable development should be integrated into all other institutions. For instance, architects should not design a new building and once it is done, send the blueprints over to the Department for Sustainable Development in order for them to add their ideas.

Instead, the ideas of sustainable development should be on board from the start, as one of the core guidelines of any project. The principle of integration is most commonly used to create linkages between the three different parts of the project to construct a sustainable society: These can and must be seen as integrated in order to create real sustainable development. As the idea of integration is pursued systematically, not only must the three parts be integrated, but each of them must also include all the others.

Consequently, in line with this integration ideal, when pursuing sustainable information , I do not suggest a new research area with such a label to be constructed. Rather, the ideas of sustainable development should be present in the design of all research projects and educational programmes. There is a certain advantage in a concept that allows so many interpretations and can therefore serve to unify actors with distinctly different perspectives and interests.

An important problem lies in the concept of development embodying both the objectives of change and the means of change, a distinction that tends to be forgotten in discussions on sustainable development. This conceptual problem makes it possible to discuss development as synonymous to material growth. Sustainable development can then simply be translated into successful development. The major impact seems to be a rejection of the idea that environmental conservation by necessity would constrain consumption.

According to Jacobs , the concept should be analysed on two separate levels. First, at the level of ideas or ideals, the World Commission on Environment and Development has composed a global strategy for change. Second, at the level of practice, it is likely that massive conflicts will appear when these ideas are implemented. This is where different ideas are pitted against each other and short-term economical perspectives tend to be privileged.

A number of fault lines can be identified in which it is possible to proceed with either a weak or a strong interpretation of sustainable development.

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Moving over to the strengths of the concept, these can be said to reside in the policy process. Arguably, it has only been possible to make the current progress toward a global strategy against unsustainable use of resources with the help of a very broad concept. As the majority of the world's nations have signed Agenda 21 , they have in principle committed themselves to working toward sustainable development. Therefore, regardless of existing criticism, the concept is established within the United Nations framework and it remains for actors in all sectors of society to connect to it in a responsible fashion.

It is also vital that academic educational programmes not only work with the concept, but also do so in a way that does not weaken the basic premise of the concept, which is to change our current use of resources in a way that is sustainable for future generations.

It is possible for an academic subject such as information science to adapt by systematically pursuing a weak interpretation of the concept. However, as any academic subject, information science must uphold certain ethical standards. In order to do so, it would be best to avoid a shallow interpretation of both sustainable development and sustainable information.

After a good start articulated in the Brundtland commission World Commission on Environment and Development , United Nations' interest in information as part of sustainable development seemed to break down. Our Common Future , actually contains frequent references to the concept of information. Most clearly this can be found in chapter 12, Common Action.

It is stated that 'New technologies and potentially unlimited access to information offered great promise' p. Furthermore, it is emphasized that information gathering procedures are needed in order to help policymakers set priorities and develop policies. Environmental indicators and databases such as the Global Resource Information Database need to be developed in order to 'bridge the gap between an environmental assessment and management' p. In another section, information sharing is emphasized as well as high-speed data communication technologies that would enable access for individuals, corporations and governments.

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Each government should have a principal responsibility in systematically collecting information. A special section is devoted to 'Making informed choices' emphasizing that the transition to a sustainable society requires a process involving a great number of complex and politically difficult decisions.


These decisions need in turn to be underpinned by good information and information analyses. Summing this up, clearly information technology, information gathering, information databases, information sharing and information analyses have been seen as crucial in Our Common Future. The ideas concerning information visible in the Brundtland Commission, were fleshed out further in the early s during the so-called Earth Summit, The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, June in Rio de Janeiro.

Agenda 21 United Nations Division for Sustainable Development was one of the most important outcomes. It is basically an action plan and contains, interestingly enough, a more fundamental emphasis on information than was in Our Common Future World Commission on Environment and Development Three building blocks were identified: Information is, in this way, given the same kind of central position as integration. In the various detailed strategies of Agenda 21 United Nations Division for Sustainable Development 'data and information' reoccur regularly, signalling what kind of research and data collection needs that are relevant.

In addition, there is a frequent articulation of other kinds of information needs. Changing consumption patterns, there is an emphasis on the informed consumer and Chapter Information for decision-making, there is a similar discussion of the informed decision maker. The science and technology community thereafter produces both warning signs in the form of sustainable indicators and tools for transformation e.

The main policy documents of the United Nations that followed continued to emphasize sustainable development, but without any associations with concepts such as information or ICT. Connected to this is a tendency to lose the critical governing notion of integration. In articulating distinct goals, the different parts of sustainable development are held apart.

In the fourth goal, which deals with Protecting our common environment, information is only mentioned in connection with free access to the human genome sequence. The main outcome document of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development United Nations Division for Sustainable Development, contains no mention of information at all.

There was, however, a re-affirmation of the commitment to implement Agenda The World Summit United Nations General Assembly placed heavy emphasis on sustainable development, but had little to say about information and the Information Society. The concept of information was merely mentioned a few times in the paragraphs of the outcome document.

The only substantial reference is in the section on science and technology for development, and the last of seven points in paragraph This also includes a mention of the World Summit on the Information Society. The only other reference to information is a comical seventh point once again last in paragraph , which deals with the secretariat begging the UN Secretary-General for better information and communication technologies in order to do a better administrative job.

As will be demonstrated below, one reason for the lack of linkage between two major global transformations of our time, digitalization and environmental degradation, lies in the United Nations' weak history in terms of developing information policy. An early attempt at information policy came in , when there was a discussion on information access as a basic human right, connected to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Raboy However, in the end, this initiative was dropped and it was to be decades before information became a policy issue again. In the s, there was a debate on a New World Information and Communication Order connected to global structures of inequality.

The World Summit on the Information Society can be said to be the United Nations third initiative in developing information policy. This relatively successful process was tied to the idea of supporting developing countries, one of the main projects of the United Nations. It was built on concerns regarding inequalities in the s on ' knowledge for development in the information age ' and later discussions on the digital divide.

The core ideas were solidified in the mids. The process can therefore be seen as both similar and parallel to the process of developing sustainable development as a United Nations policy stream. These two policy streams were not integrated at that time and a specific kind of digital divide would remain in place. The World Summit on the Information Society can be said to emphasize both the social and economic dimension of sustainability.

Strangely enough, however, environmental sustainability as well as the concept of sustainable development itself do not have a clear presence. It is possible to identify initiatives to bring in sustainable development, but these have seem not to have been successful. One attempt at bringing these discussions together, was made by the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development in the late s. Information technology was selected as a main theme for the session.

The book Knowledge Societies: Despite the title, fewer than twenty of pages were devoted to sustainable development. This initiative did not manage to communicate sustainable development to the World Summit on the Information Society. At a late stage, the concept of information society was challenged by the notion of the communication society. According to Raboy , this concept signalled the values of 'human rights, social justice, participation, shared resources, solidarity and sustainable development' Raboy When the concept information society was chosen, it was not anchored in any fundamental understanding of either communication or sustainability.

The World Summit on the Information Society was formed with an emphasis on inequality issues. It extensively dealt with two of the constitutive parts of sustainable development, the social and the economic, but not environmental protection. The World Summit did support the principle of triple-bottom line reporting developed by Elkington , which incorporated the three parts of sustainable development into accounting from a business win-win perspective.

Nevertheless, the major consensus document, the Tunis agenda for the information Society World Summit on the Information Society , does not even mention sustainable development or sustainable information society. This is a striking failure for the principle of integration.

Perhaps one reason for this failure is the difficulty with the notoriously multidimensional concept information society. In his critical overview of the concept, Webster identifies five radically different interpretations of the information society economic, occupational, technological, spatial and cultural ; in the end arguing that the concept is too heterogeneous to be of real value as a platform. Another factor that could explain this striking disconnect is the dominance of an economic discourse.

Building on the global industrialization view discussed by Spink , it is difficult to avoid thinking that the social development, cultural development and environmental protection become secondary aspects. Based on an interview study of the integration of sustainable development into different sectors within the European commission, Nolin argued that sustainable development tended to remain a peripheral aspect of a sector even when it had officially been integrated. The reason for this was that the culture, expertise and main focus remained the same. Integrating sustainable development did not change the essence of the policy-oriented work, as it should have done.

Sustainable development could therefore figure in peripheral documents but not in the most important policy statements. Still another aspect of these parallel policy streams is that the three constitutive dimensions of sustainable development may be incomplete from an ICT perspective. The three pillars social, economic and environmental protection should perhaps be joined by the technological. Obviously, information and communication technologies belong together with energy technologies as tools for building sustainability into the future.

However, without a clear technological dimension of sustainable development, it becomes difficult to package ideas and strategies in a way that are clearly linked to the three dimensions.

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As it is, discussions on technology tend to be held apart, connected to individual dimensions. Mostly, this has been the case in traditional research on renewable energy forms.

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Such projects are usually based on the perspective of countering environmental degradation; less common is a link to the more complex dimensions of sustainable development. Information and communication technologies have also been analysed from a social, development, perspective on sustainable development. Hietanen introduces the concept of digital balance , referring to the harmonious development between the three pillars social, economic and environmental protection in relation to the role of the technologies. From this kind of perspective, these technologies can contribute to increased economic growth while decreasing the pressure on the environment.

The problems within United Nations policy to connect sustainable development with information and information and communication technologies, is mirrored in information science research. Research attempts under the banner of sustainable development are few. However, it is possible to identify dimension-specific research, linked to one or two of the three pillars of sustainable development social, economic and environmental protection. According to Spink a; b; , the main thrust has been to implicitly connect to the economic dimension.

Spink identifies an association with what she calls the global industrialization view Clinton The basic idea is that continued high levels of economic growth and technological progress will eventually solve the problems. This view also contains an implicit conflict between the established lifestyles of the northern and southern hemisphere.

Spink argued that as information science has associated itself with the global industrialization view it thereby serves to promote an unsustainable future. She maintained that information science could play a crucial role in helping societies transcend modernity and support sustainable development under different views. Above all, she suggested that information science must be increasingly connected to discussions on sustainable development.

Now, a decade later, it can be seen that not much more has been done in this specific research area. The ambitions with these projects seem to have run parallel with those of the World Summit on the Information Society, attempting to solve the problems of developing countries with the help of modern information and communication technologies. The concept of 'sustainable information systems' has, however, seemingly not been further developed within information science.

Rather, it has at times been picked up by other research fields and given other, diverse, meanings, such as within developmental studies Schech , economics Maruster et al. A relatively lively area of discussion relates to information development, wherein researchers can develop information related issues connected to the social and economic dimensions. One main approach is to utilize information and knowledge management in developing countries in order to facilitate transition into information and knowledge-based economies Mchombu However, it must be pointed out that these approaches may not be, and indeed seldom are, linked to issues of environmental sustainability or to the concept of sustainable development.

One important factor for this lack of connection is that both research and policy on developing countries are much older and more institutionalized than the concept of sustainable development. For instance, the specialized Sage journal Information Development was founded in , several years ahead of the publication of Our Common Future World Commission on Environment and Development Another important journal in this area, Information Technology for Development , was founded in In recent years, there has been made significant progress in the field of human-computer interaction and the notion of sustainable interaction design Blevis ; Hanks et al.

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Interestingly enough, this research links to the concept of sustainability rather than sustainable development. In this interpretation, sustainability is seen to include social equity, health issues and ecological stability. This approach is focused on the links between interactive technologies and environmental sustainability.

Issues concerning the environmental sustainability of information and communication technologies have also been raised in the field of technology studies Hilty et al. Summing up, research within information science has been scatter ed among the various dimensions of sustainable development, very rarely dealing with the core concept itself. According to Spink , information science has been geared toward economic sustainability without much reflection concerning the other dimensions.

The strong social science tradition of investigating developing countries has touched upon information science as well. There has also been some research connected to environmental sustainability. From the vantage point of the current paper, information science lacks concepts and frameworks that can be used to tie together research on the three dimensions. In order to construct a solid link, it is crucial to revisit the essentially contested concept information. This is a concept with so many meanings that some within our field would find it not useful at all.

The article now identifies problems in the way that information has been used in the foundational documents of sustainable development, and then specifies two main usages that are valuable as a link to sustainable development. It is safe to state that there is a relatively heavy, but vaguely articulated, emphasis on information in the foundational documents for sustainable development.

As anyone involved in information science is well aware, information is an unruly concept Machlup and Mansfield ; Dervin ; Buckland ; McCreadie and Rice ; Frohmann ; Case and it is perhaps not surprising that there is a mixture of notions in policy documents. The concept of information is, without doubt, in many ways unsuited for the functions involved. Nevertheless, it is the task of the information scholar to create a kind of pragmatic compromise.