This weekend I went on a “volunteer-vacation” fixing up trail around the Maroon Bells. The area is packed but beautiful. However, I was surprised to learn that the entire district is maintained by just two rangers. The problem appears to be that despite the amount of funding, the majority of staff resides at the top of the chain where, from the looks of it, they are least needed.
What are these staff members doing? Why, they are collecting data of course. That data, however, never even makes it back to the district ranges and underlings in a very useful format, at least not from what I was told. It does not even get used to create new bills. In an age of automated reporting, predictive algorithms, and rapidly improved microdevices, a lot of that bureaucracy seesm pointless. In the meantime, the trails system is being maintained in a large and growing way by non-profits who perform many of the duties that actual rangers did just a few decades before.
A few but not all of the solutions that could help or at least provide some conversation since I do not know the full story are:
- Implement smart devices for data collection to eliminate the need for handmade aggregation and data checking.These devices could perform everything from counting the number of parties and detecting dogs off leashes to collecting weather information. This could, in turn be relayed to the ranger and automaticaly be placed in automated database where it is most useful (the ranger or for reporting when needed). The data could help find the worst trouble spots and ease strain on stretched resources.
- Upgrade technologies for the rangers. They are still using paper for reporting which requires immeasurable amounts of checking. A simple interface on a tablet protected by well encapsulated and encrypted code uploaded at a ranger station could alleviate this. Add error checking algorithms that are reliable, and less people are needed to ensure data quality.
- Have good algorithms and ready made data. This places data in the hands of those who use it in real time in the best way. It also sifts out bad from good data. Proper big data use is a boon to the more scientific fields like forestry and good technology can cut through red tape by easing proposal writing as well as reducing the number of number crunchers required for a task.
- Data and idea sharing spaces across every park and forest service in a professionals-only location that only trusted professionals can access. The best ideas should be propogated as quickly as possible, right?
The overall gist is go paperless and replace really repetitive tasks with tech so our open areas are accessible and beautiful for generations to come. A stronger ranger service with good NGO cooperation is essential as is a strong corps. Technology can accomplish this.Technology can also place more decision making power in the hands of the useful if implemented properly.I will be producing more data oriented Spring Posts in the future that can show how this idea flushes out.
Obviously political reforms are necessary to but this can help.