Is Information technology A New Era of Nature Conservation?

By Haifaa Abedalhaleem, member of team Transformational Impacts of Information Technology

Information technology (IT). It refers to anything related to computing technology, such as networking, hardware, software, the Internet, or the people that work with these technologies (Christensson, 2006).

IT has profoundly shifted the life we know. It gives us a large amount of information. It reforms how we interact with each other, how we perceived the environment and nature. It enforces new trends of interactions between the different social, environmental, and economic sectors. Consequently, these trends influence how people perceive Biodiversity and conservation practices.

In an ideal world, adequate IT tools, information, and data accessibility can build a base for equitable and effective participation, planning, and decision-making for all stakeholders. However, the processes of credibility and accountability  are highly dependent on effective communication and equitable access to all stakeholders. Moreover, IT offers a platform that facilitates communication and exchange among all stakeholders. 

Data accessibility: empowers conservationists and local communities; it facilitates connectivity and exchanging ideas and desires; consequently, governance systems compositions greatly improved. IT provides tools that integrate various kinds of data feeds the decision-making; visualise and spatial interpretation for site’s essential features, constraints, challenges, usage and development desires created a paradigm shift in conservation and development relationship. Therefore, IT is often perceived as a final resolution to address conservation challenges and considering other  interests of the stakeholders’.

Information Technology is a tool that helps to comprehend the values of the site, stakeholders’ interests, and challenges, yet user ability to understand and process information is essential for employing these tools to achieve the conservation goals.  

The real conservationist’s challenge is to rightfully identify their objectives, determine proper techniques/ tools, and set a methodology and criteria for its application. Accordingly, communication between conservations and involving/ developing industry partners is essential to find tools to answer nature conservation needs.

On January 9th, we, the OurWorldHeritage IT theme team, organised a 24hour Globinar. The event e gathered professionals from different regions, fields, and backgrounds, talked and exchanged thoughts and concerns, and explored various tools, applications, challenges, innovative implementation, and lessons learned. Two common issues continue rising during these discussions. 1) How is data obtained by information technologies linked to research and decision-making for the site’s conservation? and 2) Would an independent Global Information Platform that monitors information of World Heritage Sites be valuable for improving the conservation of these properties?

Type of Data and information used for nature conservation: 

  1. Environmental and Species Data: To identify and list key species and environmental areas associated with the conservation objectives such as IUCN- RedLists. It includes available data and Information on Species, and their status, distribution, habitats, Key Biodiversity areas.
  2. Data on community and People: this type of information would help to identify key stakeholders, and their relation to the area, etc. and it includes: community within or around targeted areas, census and trends, traditional practices related to natural resources, local values, development needs, in addition to any other social information could impact. 
  3. The Institutional and legal systems: It helps to understand the national and international context. This includes the legal and political context, international agreement and treaties connected to the sites, etc.
  4. Geographic information Data: It helps conservationists to visualize the data and interpret the relationship between conservation priorities such as  the geographic distribution of endangered species with other factors such as social, economic and development needs. It also uses  the acquired data from Species’ GPS tracker tools, which enables conservationists to understand and predict species behaviors and mainstream their conservation measures accordingly.
  5. Real-time data and information: it is data that is not kept or stored, but is passed along to the end user as quickly as it is gathered (Techopedia, 2021). It’s about using the real time data on biodiversity, climate and land-cover, storms, floods, earthquakes, tourism data, etc. 

We concluded the following issues to be addressed as part of the OWH IT recommendations: 

  1. Make data accessible and available for the site managers, communities, civil societies, practitioners to improve transparency and consciousness of the sites significance and threats that jeopardise the sites sustainability. 
  2. The application of IT can enhance the connectivity between different stakeholders, improving conservation and governance systems. 
  3. The need for guidelines or toolkits on information technologies, good practices, addressing the tools, how to use them, where, and why some IT systems work or not. Where are our limits for technology application? 

In conclusion, notwithstanding the unprecedented advancement. IT faces many practical challenges. For instance, the effectiveness of tools is essentially dependent on the skills and knowledge of those implementing them. IT could have negative impacts -monitoring species using drones could be disturbing. Therefore, we shall not have the power of IT to resolve nature conservation challenges. On another note, this rocket-up industry needs further consideration for a systematic, standardised, flexible (with certain limits), and innovative code of conduct or practice regulating practices using IT.

Bibliography

Christensson, P. (2006). IT Definition. TechTerms. Retrieved March 22, 2021, from wwwtechterms.com
IUCN. (2021). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. www.iucnredlist.org
Runting, R. K., Phinn, S., Xie, Z., Venter, O., & Watson, J. E. M. (2020, April 24). Opportunities for big data in conservation and sustainability. Nature Communications, 11(2003). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15870-0