“It's not technology that limits us. We're the limitation. Our technology is an expression of our intelligence and creativity, so the limitations of our technology are a reflection of our own limitations. We can't fundamentally advance technology until we fundamentally advance ourselves.”
A broken process will fail you every time.
It is very common to see groups that attempt to introduce technology to any challenge and when it fails to provide the expected results, they tend to blame the solution itself while it has no fault on its own. The fault begins and ends with the process itself and its participants when the inappropriate system is brought to the inappropriate site, conditions or needs.
In the process to select an advanced technology to conservation or humanitarian causes you have two key players:
The conservation/humanitarian agency (The buyer), and the technology supplying company (The seller).
This Buyer/Seller relationship caused and causes an ill-fated process where:
· The seller aims to sell whatever systems he has to this market share, with no regard to actual relevance to challenges, personnel or terrain conditions - the goal is simply to sell.
· The Buyer wishes to buy a system that will help his challenges, but unknowingly selects a system which is inappropriateness for his needs or insufficient in capabilities, training and supplies for long term operation.
The current familiar process that leads to disappointment has several traps, which are easy to fall to when one is urgently seeking a solution.
Why did systems "fail us" so far ?
The current "just do it" process (With common process "traps")
The main reasons why systems failed us so far:
Lack of clear, fact based strategy and tactical planning
Examples of the inappropriate use of technology are numerous and span the globe. Amazingly, $20 billion have been appropriated annually to biodiversity conservation and humanitarian efforts in recent years, but the main tools on the ground remain vehicles and people – dedicated men and women whose efforts are underfunded and under equipped, left to use 30-year-old tools.
Selection process by non-experts who have no operational experience with systems.
Agencies worldwide have been searching for new ways to combat threats. Unfortunately, most of these attempts, especially in anti-poaching, albeit costly, have failed, due to the lack of due process; absence of the required, combined knowledge and experience; failure to properly analyze the needs ; selecting in a haphazard way; inadequate implementation, training and/or maintenance; and ultimately, the absence of long-term strategy and contingencies.
Defense companies view conservation and humanitarian causes as new market shares.
Defense/Security companies have been developing advanced solutions for the defense sectors for many years. With time, companies look for new possible markets and try to sell as much of their products as possible to any interested client. Unfortunately, in this process, humanitarian and conservation clients are not treated as "social responsibility" sectors but rather as just another market share, without proper pricing, training and long term support.
Small companies sell "cheap/Simple" solutions which are ineffective and short lived.
The civil security market (Especially around UAS/Drones) has grown worldwide developing "low cost"/simple versions of known technology.
Conservation & Humanitarian causes are anchored as "low cost" markets and from their dire need they fall into the "low cost traps, buying systems which are still in early stages, without appropriate experience or capabilities to the actual needs in the field. Wasting time and money.
Singular approach instead of systems that can serve multiple purposes.
For various historical and budget reasons, most projects that introduced technology, tended to focus on a single system for a single problem. However, the needs usually include various issues which can empower a selection and actual long term use of a system. The goal is not to introduce technology (Such as drones) just for the sake of technology, but rather to mix and deploy various systems/methods as part of an integrated solution in a greater strategy.
Lack of cooperation between agencies and activists, leading to parallel activities.
Worldwide agencies have been searching for new ways to combat threats. Unfortunately we see that each country, ministry, agency, park, site and fund create their own individual process, their own path and plan to use technology. This lack of cooperation is evident in the field as multiple "ideas and solutions" are introduced and none is actually working or producing results. It is time to join resources to creatr a realistic mutual strategy and plan.
No long term operational planning and correction when needed according to results
The field has multiple challenges and is in urgent need of technological support. Out of this sense of urgency agencies rush to "buy" and use systems which are proposed to and seem appropriate to them at the moment. Unfortunately, the selection process is absent altogether and technology is bought with high hopes and no due process, no operational plan of deployment and no measurable results by which to continue. Instead, systems are brought and fail, waste time, money and good will.
Fear and resistance to accept external help & advice. Stubborn approach to do it "my way".
"I know what I need... I know what is best... I read about it online...I saw these systems work somewhere... I don't need help..."
It is very difficult for people to admit they need help or ask for it. Agencies are desperate to create change, but instead of using professional help to create a real and realistic process they prefer to go on their own, wasting resources, time ultimately endangering people and species.
Lack of appropriate training - lacking short and long term support to achieve results
Any technology is only as strong as its crew.
Nowadays most systems are highly autonomous and seem simple to operate. Still, they are complex systems that require considerable training and may entail high risk. Trainnign should not simply achieve basic operability, but fshould enable teams to perform their missions effectively and get results. Unfortunately, most projects minimize the importance and inadequately assess the required training for independent, mission oriented, long-term operability.
Lack of long term maintenance and spare parts planning for adequate results
Conservation has a long history of systems that worked for a few weeks and then just broke down and died in a hangar somewhere.
In the rush to acquire and deploy systems, users sign contracts which may seem "lower cost" at first glance but ultimately sentence the system to a short life time in the field and failure of mission. End-users must asses what are the real and realistic needs of a system for its life expectancy and then plan on a process that will support its activity during that time (With no additional costs).