Written by: Smart Earth Network, Founder, Simon Hodgkinson
There are over 200,000 protected areas (PAs) in the world as of 2014, covering 30 million km-sq – that’s over 10% of our planet’s land and oceans. Protecting these PAs is fundamental to the preservation of our planet’s biodiversity and ecosystem.
Sadly, many of these parks are inadequately resourced and poorly managed and it often proves impossible to assess if the programmes are working. It is also difficult, given the scale of the parks and the limited ranger resources they have, for many parks to detect threats from poachers and loggers and to apprehend. It’s safe to say given the statistics we’re hearing that the PAs need help.
The traditional answer to these problems is to wait for more people, more funding, more equipment, improved skills. We need to be realistic how much of such scarce resources can or will be thrown at all the PAs on the planet and for this reason we turn to technology for the answer to help PAs do the job we need them to do.
There is much discussion about applications of the Internet of Things. Exhibitions, such as CES 2017, full of gadgets that no-one really needs or wants, sadly fails to show off the real value of interconnected devices. The IoT will serve a much higher purpose if it’s applied correctly: IoT sensors and network technologies have the power to help us save the planet.
Africa is an obvious focal point in demonstrating how the IoT can deliver immediate benefits in wildlife conservation and the Pendjari National Park in Benin is the location of an ideal case study. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
(IUCN) has been working with technologists and conservationists from UK charity Smart Earth Network and IoT consultancy Eridanis to develop an IoT-based ‘Digital Maturity Model’ for Protected Areas such as the Pendjari Park. This model is designed to enable PAs to assess themselves against an accepted structure and importantly, on the back of this, to establish the technology infrastructure requirement and via phased investments help them deploy it quickly and cost-effectively to achieve a full IoT capability on a shared platform.
How can the IoT make a difference?
Deploying these technologies in PAs has its problems. Most PAs have no connectivity, and the tendency is to undertake piecemeal investments in standalone technologies often with expensive satellite comms. The skills to govern and manage such investments are rarely there and the initiatives that are taken often fall into disrepair. The Smart Earth Network believes that for PAs to become effective they must achieve ‘digital maturity’ hence why we developed a Digital Maturity Framework. This Framework covers not only the technology but also the organisational steps necessary to create a sustainable capability which transforms the effectiveness of these vital Protected Areas in preserving our planet’s biodiversity.
Readers interested in understanding more can read the public report: ‘The Internet of Things for Protected Areas: The Application of Innovative Technologies to Improve Management Effectiveness, First report of IUCN Mission to Pendjari National Park’ Simon Hodgkinson and Daniel Young, IUCN, 2016.
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