October 21, 2021

IUCN: Harnessing Technology for Conserving and Valuing Nature

                   IUCN: Harnessing Technology for Conserving and Valuing Nature

Speech by IUCN’s Dr. Dindo Campilan at the Tech for a Better Planet Symposium on August 5.

As the world’s oldest and largest environmental organization, IUCN seeks to build on its long history in nature conservation while embracing cutting-edge technological innovations to pursue our shared vision with members and partners for a just world that conserves and values nature.

Established over seven decades ago in 1948, IUCN assists societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. We are a unique membership organization comprising more than 90 state members and 1,300 government agencies, NGOs, and indigenous people’s organizations. Our work is also supported by a network of over 18,000 voluntary experts in a wide range of fields including species conservation, protected areas, environmental education, and environmental law.

With the potential and challenges brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we seek to explore and harness the power of technology advances to realise the shared value of nature conservation for societies. In this regard, IUCN is very pleased to be working in partnership with Huawei on the Tech4Nature project, which is seeking to scale-up success in nature conservation through digital technology innovation.

Read More: Tech4Nature: Protecting the Planet in Partnership with IUCN

One of the flagship sites for the project is Khao Yai National Park, Thailand’s first national park and a World Heritage Site.

Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

In this park, we’re exploring various technological solutions, including the use of digital tools to monitor ecosystem change, mitigate human-wildlife conflict and enhance the visitor experience. The final project design is under discussion with the Department of National Parks and Huawei, and will be determined soon. 

We seek to explore and harness the power of technology advances to realise the shared value of nature conservation for societies.

For this and similar initiatives, IUCN believes that technology can contribute to conservation in three particularly important ways: by increasing accessibility, by improving efficiency, and by enhancing accountability.

Accessibility

Technology can play a huge role in increasing public engagement in conservation and data collection. It can, for example, be used to enhance environmental education and outreach, engage with a wide range of stakeholder groups, and generate data through “citizen science”. There are many apps available these days that enable the general public to record biodiversity and upload the data to a centralised database. IUCN shares Huawei’s vision of “technology for everyone”, which seeks to ensure that all people – regardless of their wealth, education, gender, age, race or nationality – have access to the tools and infrastructure they need to mobilize technological solutions, including access to telecommunications networks and digital infrastructure.

Efficiency

Technology can also play a significant role in supporting more efficient conservation actions. One excellent example is the camera trap, which is now widely used around the world to assist with wildlife surveys and biodiversity monitoring. Camera traps have many advantages over other, more traditional methods of data collection. They:

Can remain in position for long periods of timeAre relatively non-invasive and do not disturb the natural behaviour of wildlifeProduce verifiable dataOffer a highly-repeatable method of data collection and more efficient data transmission if they are connected to cell networks.

Similarly, the use of AI can dramatically reduce the time required to analyse large and complex sets of conservation data. More broadly, in times of emergencies and crises such the pandemic, technology enables us to continue to connect, communicate, and collaborate.

Read more: Return of the Big Cats

Footage source: Northeast China National Tiger & Leopard Park / Camera traps capture footage of wildlife in the 14,600 sq-km park, including the endangered Amur tiger seen above, enabling remote study & powering repopulation efforts.

Accountability

Technology can be mobilised to enable conservation actors and actions to be more accountable to stakeholders, interest groups, and the general public. Technology helps nurture more responsible leaders at all levels and across sectors. They can make more informed decisions, keep pledges, and deliver the best outcomes. Among IUCN’s institutional milestones is its contribution to the design and adoption of many international environmental conventions, including the Convention on Biological Diversity and the World Heritage Convention. In continuing to support stakeholders in implementing these global agreements, IUCN helps provide the scientific basis, offer expert technical guidance, and generate empirical evidence – thanks to technology for unlocking the potential for knowledge-sharing through innovative learning and communication platforms.

Finally let us remember that “Tech for a Better Planet” is more than just technology-driven change. Let us challenge ourselves to harness converging technologies – in the physical, digital and biological worlds – to create a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable future for all.

To find out the more about IUCN’s work, visit the IUCN website.

About the Author

Dr. Dindo Campilan, Regional Director, Regional Asia Office, IUCN.

Dr. Campilan brings IUCN over 20 years of Asia-wide programme management experience in agriculture, food, and environment research and development – with the CGIAR and the UN. He has held regional leadership positions for Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Centers while posted in the Philippines, China, India, and Vietnam, and concurrently served in global senior management teams.

As Asia Regional Director at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) from 2014 to 2020, he managed an 18-country portfolio covering inclusive markets and food systems, climate-smart agricultural policies and investments, and sustainable agricultural landscapes and ecosystem services.

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