CyberTracker Conservation (CTC) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve environmental monitoring by promoting the use the CyberTracker software to increase the efficiency of gathering higher quality and larger quantities of field observations.
In August 2002 CTC was awarded an EC grant of 1.6 m € over 3 years. The objec- tive was to provide technical support for a series of pilot field projects in southern, central and western Africa where the CyberTracker technology was to be imple- mented to monitor the status of natural resources. The project was granted two ex- tensions to the period of the contract in order to complete and consolidate project activities by June 2007.
The present report provides an update on activities undertaken during the final pe- riod of the project (March 2006 to June 2007) and presents an overview of achieve- ments and lessons learned at the end of the project.
During the final reporting period CTC continued its support to initiatives in Congo- Brazzaville (training and equipment for the Wildlife Department's Law Enforcement Monitoring – LEM – programme; technical assistance support for LEM and Ebola monitoring in Odzala NP), Gabon (training and equipment to the Moukalaba-Doudou and Loango National Parks for wildlife monitoring, LEM, tourism development) and South Africa (Table Mountain and Kruger National Parks). Bug testing of the Version 3 was completed during this period and the software was updated to support a wider range of hardware (PDA's) and operating systems (Palm OS and Microsoft Mobile).
The expected results of the EC grant contract included implementation of CyberTracker initiatives in at least 25 protected areas in Africa, and a total of at least 30 sites on five continents (including independent initiatives). At the end of the project it can be stated that CyberTracker activities have considerably exceeded these expectations. CyberTracker projects in Africa, initiated by the current EC- funded CyberTracker Monitoring Programme, have in fact been implemented in more than 60 sites across 15 countries. Furthermore the multiplier effect of freely downloadable software has meant that more than 30,000 potential users have now downloaded the CyberTracker software in more than 76 countries around the world, of which 21,000 have been since release of the Version 3. Our research indicates the existence of more than 700 independent projects in 75 countries in Africa,
3Australia, South America, North America, Europe and Asia which is a powerful indi- cation of the degree to which users worldwide are assuming full ownership of Cyber- Tracker.
While the majority of CyberTracker use appears to be for wildlife and habitat/ protected area surveys and monitoring, the tool is also being used in humanitarian disaster relief (Sri Lanka post-tsunami), Search and Rescue (USA- California), Post- accident environmental monitoring (Sweden), pollution and water quality monitoring (Canada), agronomy and horticulture (eg insect pest monitoring in orchards South Africa), industrial logging management planning (Cameroun), eco-tourism (Gabon), socio-economic surveys (south and central Africa) and crime prevention (South Af- rica).
CyberTracker has received considerable worldwide media coverage since the EC grant was awarded with at least 74 articles and/or films appearing in the media. CTC makes every effort to ensure that the EC's critical role in supporting Cyber- Tracker is acknowledged in these articles and the EC's support is also acknowl- edged on the Home Page of the CyberTracker Web site (http:// www.cybertracker.org/), which receives more than 4000 Visits per month (about 40 000 Hits per month). Furthermore most articles appearing in peer reviewed sci- entific journals that have used CyberTracker technology for their research cite the CyberTracker Web site as a reference.
A number of important lessons have been learned from this project. Experience has shown that it often requires only one dedicated individual, backed by a management structure that is prepared to listen to and support him/her, to get a CyberTracker programme up and running in a national park, but without such an individual, owner- ship cannot be ensured and it will not be successful. Available resources should therefore focus on a small number of high profile pilot projects. Other parks will then follow these successful examples.
While media coverage is important for promoting CyberTracker, this does not nec- essarily translate into increased user use. It is often only through practical demon- strations that the full potential of CyberTracker can be fully appreciated. Success stories like the Kruger National Park and the data on the impact of Ebola on Gorillas in the Congo are particularly helpful in this respect. On the other hand, many users have been able to get CyberTracker up and running with very little support from CTC. They have simply downloaded the free software and got it going themselves, thereby assuming full ownership of the operation.
Effective promotion of CyberTracker requires also a dynamic Web site that is con- tinuously updated. This is time consuming and requires adequate resources (human and financial). For a non profit organization such as CTC this is difficult to achieve if its only source of funding is from external grant giving bodies.
While accepting that co-funding for this kind of project is an essential ingredient, in practice it has often proved difficult to co-coordinate mobilization of the EC funding with that of co-funders particularly when unexpected delays have held up one or other of the partners' activities. If successful implementation of an activity requires
both partners to be operational at the same time (which is usually the case) then a delay on one side compromises the success of the whole project since the other partner is unable to go it alone.
Finally because of the sometimes precarious nature of donor funding it is likely that having longer project cycle times (without necessarily increasing project budgets) will help small non-profit organizations such as CTC to provide technical support on a more sustainable basis.
Perspectives for the future of CyberTracker will be determined by current advances in mobile devices and web technologies which are significantly enhancing the possi- bilities for community projects and Citizen's Science projects. The next version of the CyberTracker software should therefore adopt a web based approach, making it possible to capture and share data without having to own a desktop PC. The Cyber- Tracker Web Version should have three major features: a Smart Phone component (allowing data to be transmitted without recourse to a computer); a Web Accessible Data application (to allow access data hosted on internet accessible databases); and compatibility with Global Species Information systems (in order to create Cyber- Tracker Electronic Field Guides for Smart Phones).