How do you define government data modernization?

Earlier this year, Future of Fish undertook a research project on fisheries data modernization efforts across governments. From this work we’ve come up with a proposed definition for ‘government data modernization’ and we want to know what you think.
The Information Age is here, but fisheries that are able to effectively collect and use data continue to be a rarity around the world. This generates several problems, including flawed catch limits, a lack of reliable forecasting or enforcement, and the inability to meet demands for adaptive management and sustainable fisheries.
Today, efforts to improve fisheries data are underway but these developments are not producing enough change on and in the water. The lack of progress can be attributed in large part to a lag within governments. While the seafood industry has made some gradual and hard-won improvements to elements of data modernization, government uptake is generally slower due to limited resources, complex bureaucracy, and often outdated technology.

How can we accelerate progress?

In early 2019, after recognizing the gap in effective government fisheries data systems around the world, Future of Fish undertook a research project to investigate what is working and where things are getting stuck across multiple government fisheries data projects, and identify opportunities that could advance work at a global scale.

Using a shared language

An important finding from this research was that shared terminology for discussing government efforts to improve data systems was definitely needed. There are many different stakeholders using lots of different terms to describe different aspects of data modernization. Surprisingly, we didn’t come across a widely used phrase for the holistic endeavor we were looking to understand. From our research and interviews with practitioners, we propose the following term and definition:

“Government data modernization is any initiative or process that results in more relevant and accurate data, and/or more efficient and timely data delivery and analyses that support both improved governance (management, science, and enforcement) and serve industry and public needs.”

Our aim with this definition is to highlight three core outputs of effective data modernization in the government fisheries context:
  1. Accuracy, including data quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC);
  2. Application of that data for improvements, which requires timely data delivery and analyses; and
  3. Delivery of benefits to industry/communities as well as governance bodies, so that intelligence generated by new systems is available and accessible to sectors beyond just government. For this last component, the general public is included as a key stakeholder, with select fisheries data shared for the benefit of society.

While this definition is sector agnostic, the focus of our research was on government data modernization for fisheries management purposes. So, “government fisheries data modernization” to be more specific.
It’s important to note that data modernization is not limited to technological improvements. For example, improved protocols for data capture and sharing in paper-based systems count as modernization if those protocols facilitate better management and insight for industry. Updated decision-making processes or improved analytics also count as “modernization.”

What do you think?

We’re currently testing this term with experts in fisheries and data worlds, and we are really interested in your thoughts and feedback. Does it resonate with you? Is anything missing or unnecessary? We are keen to hear from a wide range of people and organizations working on aspects of data modernization inside or outside of governments, across any sector.
Share your thoughts with us on TwitterFacebook, or message us directly.

What’s next?

We are working on finalising our results from the case study research, and will be sharing this publicly in coming months. We’re also beginning to work with SERNAPESCA, the Chilean government agency responsible for fisheries enforcement, to evolve a data modernization strategy and help put these learnings into practice.

If you work in the data modernization space and would like to keep up-to-date, or become involved with the work we’re doing, we’re keen to hear from you. We are always open to partnerships and building collaboration.
Contact for more information.
Click here to donate and support our work.

Published Sep 05, 2019