Panel Paper: Using National Data Platforms For Better Global Policies In Biodiversity Conservation: Embracing Information Technology In Africa

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Stetson E (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

George Atisa, University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley

Biodiversity protection is best implemented in a decentralized framework because decisions made at local levels are no lesser than those made at either national or international levels. A decentralized framework is however fraught with inadequate capacities, weak or missing information technology (IT) infrastructure, insufficient training, data, and information. In the absence of sufficient information and data, stakeholders make decisions that are consistent with their own preferences. Stakeholders have no other basis for making decisions other than their individual preference order (Zagare, 1984). Thus, the use of biological resources far exceeds regeneration to the extent that the global population now need an equivalent of more than one planet annually to meet survival needs (Global Footprint Network, 2014). Habitats that host biological resources have continued to lose out to the rising human population. Towards the end of the 1990s, habitat reserved for biodiversity globally stood at 5 percent and for humans at 95 percent (Terborg, 1999). Changes in biodiversity cannot be measured based on the size of habitat alone. Countries should expand data collection channels, analysis and reporting to determine the primary and secondary sources of stressors that deplete biodiversity. The big question is: does the conservation community have access to adequate data and information to facilitate development of effective conservation policies, local enforcement, and evidence based decisions? Individual countries are as, in (Purdon, 2015)’s words, “black boxes” that need opening so the inside can be analyzed. To achieve these objective, the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) has developed a Clearing House Mechanism (CHM) to facilitate information and data sharing within and across countries. Countries that have signed into the membership of the CBD are encouraged to develop their own data and information sharing platforms.

The existence of data platforms, the depth and breadth of actual data and information found at national biodiversity conservation websites of four countries (Ghana, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Africa) is examined. Additional data were gathered from the Global Footprint Network (GFN), ASAHI Glass Foundation and International Conservation Organizations (ICOs) operating in these countries. Using both inductive and deductive data analysis, existence of various forms of online data gathering and storage tools are examined. The CBD has a well-developed CHM with detailed data and information that provides global services to facilitate implementation of biodiversity protection plans. Government and ICOs data platforms are not well developed and do not contain adequate information to facilitate effective policy formulation. This study contributes towards improving national data collection capacities as well as pointing out the need for more development of IT infrastructure to facilitate expanded stakeholder participation, improved data quality and measurement. Lessons from well-established data networks are shared so countries under study can identify issues that stand in the way of effective local data generation and biodiversity protection.