Apia, SAMOA – August 22, 2019: 10am (SAMOA OBSERVER): Putting data about changes to the environment in the hands of members of the public is a top priority for a project seeking to bring data to the forefront of policy making.
Manager of the ‘Inform’ project, Paul Anderson said the management of data made it difficult to track changes to the environment over time, such as assessing whether the Vaiusu mangrove areas were shrinking or getting bigger.
“We want to make the investments that are made now to be more useful and valuable so that when people ask the question has Samoa’s forests expanded or contracted, or are there more invasive species or less we can answer the question,” he said.
“We want to make sure that information or environmental data is used as much as possible to inform policy or management to improve the condition of the environment for the people of Samoa and the region.”
The ‘Inform’ project is holding a four-day meeting at the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalows.
Participants include: representatives from the Cook Islands, Niue, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Marshall Islands, the Tonga, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Samoa.
Tonga is represented at the meeting by Department of Environment’s Information and Communication Unit head Siosiua Latu.
Anderson said that the project will address the lack of timely access to data by those who need it. That includes local technical staff, governments, or communities and citizens for the purposes of reporting, planning and decision making.
The ‘Inform’ project is supported by multilateral and regional organisations such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Pacific Community (SPC) and the United Nations.
The project has an implementation period of four years from 2017-2021.
“The project will establish a Pacific island network of national and regional data repositories and reporting tools to support the monitoring, evaluation, and analysis of environmental information,” Anderson said.
“This is an environment focused project, so we are focusing on Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) and their colleagues’ better use and manage data in any way that suits them.
The ‘Inform’ project manager also said that the environmental data can also be used by decision makers in ways that were easy to access:
“So far, various data that has been collected was hard to find and expensive to get like doing a rapid bio-diversity assessment that can cause more than hundreds of thousands.
“MNRE has done a fantastic job at coordinating data collection, they have set-up and I am hoping this project will help make documents be made available publicly and more discoverable.
“And people can access the information through data portals which is a created network of national and regional data repositories to store and share environmental data, to monitor the state of the Pacific’s environment.”