After a brief review of the mutation from modern to postmodern conditions of society, that is, from societies of knowers to societies of consumers of knowledge, the position of the knowledge provider in hydroinformatics is introduced. The provider's changing role in a society with an ever-increasing emphasis on communication is introduced. The sociotechnical forces that have driven numerical modelling, first from second to third generation, then to the fourth generation, and now into a fifth generation, are explicated. These forces are exemplified by an increasingly active stakeholder participation in projects, joint policy formulation and on-line management. The applications to the increasingly problematic developments in the so-called ‘Third World’ are then considered.

The overall consequences for the future of numerical modelling practice are then explored. The role of open-source software developments interacting with proprietorial software, together with the development and introduction of service-oriented architectures are explained. The concept of the knowledge supply chain is then advanced to introduce the concept of the extended halo of the global knowledge provider. This paper concludes with an analysis of appropriate and less appropriate business models.