The Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) are nowadays fundamental in all areas of society, including in the protection of natural and cultural heritage. The growing broadband and mobile connectivity, the access to online data, the use of remote sensing technologies and platforms – these trends determine also the future of the environmental and cultural assets management.

The European Union (EU) member states use electronic databases and digital maps for management of the protected areas, Natura 2000 sites and land use in rural areas. The Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are widely engaged for environmental monitoring, analysis and impact assessment, in line with the standards set by INSPIRE Directive. The accessibility of environmental data and the use of mobile applications for voluntary monitoring on the biodiversity stimulate citizen involvement in the management of the ecosystems in rural areas. 

New tools for digitisation and virtualisation are used to protect the European cultural heritage and communicate its unique value. The investment into digitisation of historical documents, cultural artefacts, collections and intangible assets turns into improved access, promotion and better management of the data. Online platforms have become the dominant environment for professionals and general audience and serve as attractive channels for promoting heritage of the regions.

At the same time, it is a challenge to establish a common digital environment for sharing of community-developed data and tools. 90% of Europe’s heritage has not yet been digitised1. There is a persistent need for sharing and updating knowledge and for identifying common solutions2. Recognising the enabling role of the ICT in implementation of natural and cultural heritage policies, the EU promotes the use of common digital platforms and tools.

One of these platforms, the Biodiversity Information System for Europe (BISE), is a single-entry point for data and information on biodiversity. The platform supports the implementation of the EU biodiversity strategy and the Aichi targets in Europe by bringing together facts and figures on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The information is organised by:

  • policy
  • topic
  • data
  • research
  • countries

BISE is a partnership between the European Commission and the European Environment Agency, and also serves as the Clearing House Mechanism for the EU within the context of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).3   

Other platforms related to protection of natural heritage are Shared environmental information system (SEIS) and Natura 2000 data and maps.

For cultural heritage, Europeana stands out as a unique common multilingual access point for digital cultural material. It connects digital collections of cultural heritage from the EU member states. Europeana also helps to develop and implement standards and interoperability in this area, and provides space where culture professionals share digital expertise.4

The Interreg Europe supports number of projects addressing the challenges of knowledge-based policy making and providing innovative ICT solutions related to the environment and resource efficiency. For example, CD-ETA project aims to contribute to the improvement of digitisation strategies for cultural and natural heritage, including historical documents and archives, artefacts, sites etc.

CD-ETA project highlights positive approaches in digitalisation of natural heritage

In Slovenia, an interactive geographic information system shows information about important natural areas. Since 2008, the system is available online also via an interactive map. The Slovenian Register is one of the most comprehensive and advanced tools in the EU, and can serve as an inspiration for other countries and regions aiming to improve digitisation of natural and cultural heritage.

Source: CD-ETA E-bulletin

Other Interreg Europe projects, which address the use of ICT:

  • CHRISTA promotes the innovation and digitisation approaches and interpretation facilities to preserve natural and cultural heritage assets. These tools are then used for the development of innovative and responsible tourism strategies
  • IMPACT aims to change management policies to promote productive activities in protected areas, together with biodiversity conservation, including improving spatial and management tools for Natura 2000 sites.