Technical report

File type: PDF

Perry J, Perdevich J, McCreedy E, and Pearse M (2023). Defining a pathway for the operational use of emerging technologies on Country. Report to the National Environmental Science Program. NAILSMA. Cairns, Queensland.



In this report, we present some key principles for the design and use of technology with Indigenous land and sea managers in Northern Australia. We follow cybernetic approaches that focus on four design principles: human-centred design, adaptive systems design, context-aware technology design, and sociotechnical systems design. We identify a significant opportunity to support Traditional Owners and Indigenous land and sea managers to lead the collection and management of data and technology solutions. Establishing trusted and accessible technology solutions will enable the expansion of regionally and nationally consistent and trusted datasets that will dramatically increase the spatial and temporal scale of environmental data. This represents a latent opportunity that, with investment, could lead to a massive increase in consistent data collection across the nation and greatly reduce the requirement of individual researchers to conduct data collection that does not require specialist in-situ skills.

Firstly, we sought to identify factors of operational use that support local indigenous leadership in environmental management and monitoring. We identified that investment in appropriate infrastructure, including electricity, connectivity and access to common digital technology, is required. The provision of accessible, cost-effective solutions, appropriate skills and knowledge, understanding and accommodating cultural and social barriers and gender and age-differentiated opportunities need to be considered. Indigenous leadership can be supported through appropriate co-development of new technology solutions and ensuring that the associated methods are focused on local values and are embedded within cultural governance and decision-making processes.

Secondly, we used case studies and literature to define key factors that lead to uptake of new technology by Indigenous organisations in remote northern Australia. Here, we suggest that the use and utility of technological solutions will require the establishment of consistent Indigenous-led methods that enable the development of robust monitoring frameworks underpinned by automated human-centred data outputs that are locally relevant and useful for long-term monitoring, adaptive management strategies, and support research projects and longitudinal studies. Technology uptake by Indigenous organisations requires trust in the utility of the solution for meeting local objectives and supporting reporting requirements for external funders. Outputs should be relevant at local scales, and data should be owned or managed by Traditional Owners and not re-used by external organisations without permission. Another key factor determining scalable uptake is that software and hardware solutions should be resilient to rapid change, requiring maintenance and updates of equipment and software to be part of the ongoing support structures embedded within new methods. This requires either high-level external support or significant investment into the capability of Indigenous organisations so that there are internal skills to continuously update skills, equipment and software. We suggest that capable Indigenous organisations need to support internal capability in planning, data collection, data management, data analysis and summary and using data for decision-making.

Finally, we identify potential impactful research areas that address the knowledge and operational gaps we identify throughout the report. There are four areas of research that we suggest will support trust in new methods and rapid uptake of new technology, including development of trusted metrics that use new technology, development and testing of training and skills with associated verification, development of user-friendly software and hardware and explore governance models for the ownership and management of data and systems.