Digital dividends in natural resource management

The report sets out research findings on the "digital dividends" of various types of technology on natural resource management in low and middle-income countries.

It is intended to identify opportunities to enhance the reach, scope and effectiveness of natural resource management (NRM) programmes by applying digital technologies. Its findings can also be applied in other sectors, especially in terms of including environmental sustainability in the evaluation of non-environmental programs.

Authors and their affiliation

Matthew Wilson, CleanTech, GSMA

Key features

The resource draws on desk research, stakeholder interviews, present global trends and examples of best practice, as well as common incentives, bottlenecks and benefits NRM stakeholders have encountered when deploying digital technology.

It discusses digital technology in terms of three types of usage, as shown below (extracted directly from a table in the report):

"Three categories of digital technology usage

Real-time monitoring and data collection

Connected devices (IoT) and other technologies are used to support data collection and the monitoring of species, people and assets, often in real time or near-real time.

Common technologies used: Sensors, Satellite, Drones, Camera Traps and Mobile Devices

Engaging and informing communities

A broad range of technologies and approaches are used to influence positive behaviours or to provide communities with the tools they need to actively participate in NRM projects, to access information or support, or to receive payments for ecosystem services.

Common technologies used: Call Centres, Interactive Content, Peerto-Peer Content, Push and Pull Content, Mobile Payments and Mobile Devices

Data management and analysis

AI and other data management tools are used to provide real-time analysis, support decision making, predict trends and promote efficiencies.

Common technologies used: Inventory Management Tools, Blockchain, AI, Data Visualisation Software"

What is helpful about the resource and how could you use it?

The categorisation of types of digital technology (software, devices and connectivity) and their usage (for real-time monitoring and data collection, engaging and informing communities, and data management and analysis) is very helpful.   

Specific technologies discussed are:

  • For monitoring and data collection- drones, satellite images and tools, sensors and other connected devices and network coverage
  • For engaging and informing communities, gamification, participatory approaches especially using mobile devices, and payment for ecosystem services, including using blockchain and mobile money.   
  • For data management and analysis – data visualisation and storage, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data.  

The report also includes three detailed case studies showing how these digital technologies have been used and the challenges and strategies involved in effective use.

The report also provides an excellent overview of how natural resources, livelihoods and poverty are interlinked and the urgency of addressing the environmental crisis. This is useful material to make a case for addressing equity and the environment together in evaluation.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

The report is well-informed and very clear. Its discussion of digital technology is balanced, including a discussion of ways in which it can produce harm as well as benefit.


Wilson, M. (2020). Digital dividends in natural resource management. GSMA. Retrieved from:

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