From Paper to Digital – The Mobile App Revolution

Its 3 a.m. in the morning and Ernest Gutierrez Jr. and his brother Derek, third generation fishermen from the island of St. Thomas, are sorting their catch. With only a few hours left before morning customers arrive, they still have their catch report to fill out –a lengthy paper form required by the Division of Fish and Wildlife used for fisheries management. Once a week, Ernest and Derek carve out time to drive over to the east end of the island to deliver their stack of finished reports

Eliminating Paper-Based Reporting

This backdrop of paperwork and livelihoods underscores the ongoing competition for ocean and marine resources–including the increasing overlap of diversified demands of food and economic security- placing relentless pressure on ocean resources. Fishermen and fisheries alike recognize that real-to-near-time data is the path for finding common ground. At the heart of this transformation, however, is the ability to eliminate paper-based data collection –an often inaccurate and labor-intensive process. For the Gutierrez brothers, long-standing manual data collection and time-consuming weekly report delivery is shifting in favor of new technologies, policy changes and an enriched landscape of information management.

Ernest Quetel Jr. entering his gear type into the Digital Deck app. (Photo by Point 97)

Emerging technologies like Digital Deck create a level playing field between fisherman and resource management providers. Mobile apps driven by open source software create a platform that digitizes time consuming catch reports, seamlessly uploading valuable information on fish harvests, species patterns, ocean demographics, and behavioral information creating opportunities to link various stakeholders together and drive everything from improved ocean conservation to resource management to innovation.

With Digital Deck, data can flow seamlessly from the Guiterrez’ boat after their harvest to fisheries’ management databases, delivering aggregated data to the agencies for informed decision making, and providing secure proprietary data back to the brothers through their mobile devices.

Commercial Fishing Boats of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo by Point 97
Commercial fishing boats on the ramp at Frenchtown Market, St. Thomas, USVI. (Photo by Point 97)

For the first time, fishermen like the Gutierrez brothers, and their local fisheries and resource managers can control the flow of data with new technology, driving innovation, services, and conservation.  Striking a balance between economic opportunity and resource management boils down to the timely use of data, a key factor missing with the collection and processing of paper catch reports

Technologies like Digital Deck are quickly becoming the foundation for equitable resource management decision-making, ensuring all stakeholders –from sea to shore- have an opportunity to leverage information and data in new, unchartered ways.  In many instances, fishermen now have easy access to the same data used in determining fisheries management decisions. Their perspective and in-the-field insights contribute to the decision-making forum, providing a layer of feedback not previously leveraged in the resource management process.

Adopting best practices from industries adept at data extraction and applying them to ocean and marine resources can create a common architecture, helping drive data standards and integration points as the industry begins to evolve its relationship to data.

This emerging demand for smart hardware controls and continuous technological improvements demonstrates how ocean and marine resource management can operationalize a data-driven environment for deeper, and more sustained impact.

Ruby Gates is CEO of Point 97, a marine and coastal spatial planning company using unique open platform technologies and engagement solutions that can identify competing interests on the oceans.







Ruby has over twenty-five years experience fusing thought leadership, creative analysis and technology to evolve unconventional solutions driving new era business strategies. A serial entrepreneur, Ruby charts new growth opportunities for Point 97, delivering strategies that impact ocean management efforts across conservation and marine spatial planning. Ruby was selected as a Pivotal Leader in 2012 for her work in energy and technology and continues to explore the intersection of technology innovation and conservation impact.
  • Antoine

    Great Article indeed on how technology can definitely be a plus for sustainable development.

    On our side at Datafield, we propose mobile data collection tool
    in remote area to help development agencies collect specific information about local efforts on child development and family planing. The mobile app helps get rid of paper + take pictures and know GPS position of respondents… so that’s a great improvement from the past.

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