Introduction and key lessons
Data sharing is an often overlooked issue in community-based forest monitoring initiatives. It will require more attention as forest communities increasingly participate in monitoring conservation efforts. The growth of participatory monitoring and the increasing use of technology can empower local people and inform external policy interventions; equally, it can generate risks to communities if clear data sharing protocols are not established and agreed. Addressing data sharing and its different challenges is essential to facilitate the flow of critical information for decision-makers, while guaranteeing respect for local rights.
This section of the website draws on the experience of developing a data sharing protocol as part of a community-based forest monitoring initiative in Guyana, with the Makushi indigenous people of North Rupununi. This monitored different aspects of mixed forest/savannah landscapes, using smartphone technology and cloud-based data storage. These webpages discuss key considerations for establishing effective, locally appropriate data sharing processes.
The protocol and approach adopted by this initiative shed some insight into data sharing among communities when using technology, and when data has both local and external relevance. The data sharing protocol was essential to protect information that communities considered to be sensitive. However, a clear and functional data sharing process also depends on strong community management capacity and the data sharing standards and practices of external partners. All these issues would need to be considered if this initiative were to be replicated or scaled up.
This project adopted a ‘rights-based approach to data sharing’. This is based on principles of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC),* and prioritises the protection of the rights of those who generated the data, and/or those potentially affected by data-sharing.
Some key lessons from the initiative in Guyana:
- Data sharing, rather than being an automatic or simple process, requires serious attention within community-based forest monitoring initiatives.
- Data sharing protocols are important governance instruments for community-based forest monitoring models; as such they should reflect the socio-political context in which data is collected.
- Data sharing requires clear processes, agreements, roles and local data management capacity to ensure that communities retain control over data, while also enabling data to be shared effectively. This avoids trade-offs between respect for community-rights and efficient data transfer.
- Building consensus on how to classify different data outputs is an important, albeit lengthy, process, especially for data on sensitive issues. This process needs to happen prior and/or parallel to data collection and should focus on creating an understanding of the risks, value and relevance of the data collected and information generated.
- Basing data sharing frameworks and standards on the principles of free, prior and informed consent is key to enabling effective and equitable data sharing that respects the data ownership rights of local people.
- Data sharing protocols need to be updated and revised periodically as data sensitivities, classifications and relevance change over time.
*Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) refers to the collective right of indigenous peoples to participate in decision-making and to give their consent to, or withhold it from, activities affecting their lands, territories, resources and rights. FPIC is enshrined in Guyana’s national law.
The information on these pages is also available as a pdf.