2. A basic Forest Resource Assessment scenario

2.4 Reporting and communication

Information management is a key component of meeting national and international reporting requirements. With the overflow of information it is becoming increasingly important to present information and knowledge in an interesting, easily available and digestible form (FAO 2001b). Governments and organizations need to ensure that information and knowledge are neutral, objective and widely disseminated in a timely manner, but must avoid information overload (FAO 2003). Traditional forms of communication must supplement the digital flow of information. Automated reporting aspects of information management can help tailor information to specific audiences and sectors. Schiller et al. (2001) discuss communicating of assessment results to decision makers and the public, especially where results are in terms of indicators. The World Wide Web is widely used for reporting and communication, but as it involves inter-computer communication, it will be discussed in section 3 below.

2.4.1 Reporting requirements and information management

International reporting requirements can become a considerable burden on countries, and some information being requested is duplicative and redundant (Braatz 2002). Reporting obligations can be overlapping, and without coordination confusion is likely (Schoene 2002). Automated reporting can reduce this burden and minimize confusion.

2.4.2 Maps, graphs and statistics

Programs for generating maps, graphs and statistics that can be included in reports are described in 2.1.3, and Thomson and Schmoldt (2001) discuss ethical issues of their use. Appropriate information management can mitigate problems of countries changing name, splitting, merging or changing their administrative units (FAO 1999b). However, forest information provided by countries needs to be scrutinized carefully because it is often political (Holmgren and Persson 2002): some countries may want to hide their high deforestation rates, while others may want to exaggerate the figures so as to seek increased assistance to forestry. Reported forest condition depends highly on the national policy context, and countries may exert pressure to hide information that they consider embarrassing. Information is sometimes released or interpreted to fit a policy purpose, and this usage erodes confidence in forest information. Information management is therefore closely linked to higher institutional issues, particularly if automated report generation is used, especially over the Internet.