CyberTracker Software and Website Upgrade
Last Updated: January 29th, 2020
For the previous grant made in 2012, click here.
Recent developments in the PDA and smart phone market have made the older version of CyberTracker obsolete, so it was essential that CyberTacker upgrade their software to include Android phones and tablets. CyberTracker successfully developed and released an Android version of their software in 2013 with support of the JRS Biodiversity Foundation (see CyberTracker 2012). This follow-on grant will focus on publicizing the CyberTracker’s applications and the software itself to grow the user community, and the network of partnerships supporting ecological monitoring worldwide.
Key Objectives and Activities
The objectives of this project are concerned with extending CyberTracker to new users and markets to ensure that the new Android release reaches current and future users:
- Improve the CyberTracker web site by creating content that will reduce the ramp up time for new projects. This will include sample applications, methodologies and reports that can be used directly. The following areas will be provided for: indigenous knowledge, scientific research, citizen science, education, farming, forestry, health and disaster relief.
- Build on current success stories and actively promote CyberTracker to other protected areas, scientists, field workers who can benefit from using it. In addition to social networking, the project will improve the website presence and profile on search engines and pro-actively engage in direct marketing to selected projects that will help to increase the software’s profile.
- A plan for the content needed in each area of the website: Through a needs assessment, the project will develop a list of content and resource requirements for content development.
- Template for biodiversity projects: The project will develop a templates for a biodiversity project, so that users interested in conducting similar projects can follow a simple example to start up a monitoring project that culminates in a publicly available data source.
- Templates for other project types: The range of available templates will be expanded through partnerships with organizations in various fields, expanding the resource library for users. Project types will include: indigenous knowledge, scientific research, citizen science, education, farming, forestry, health and disaster relief
- Ongoing maintenance for the website: The CyberTracker web site will be maintained with updated content as appropriate.
- Social networking: To increase the user base, and develop a community, the project will maintain presence on social networks, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc
This project aims to increase adoption of CyberTracker by a variety of user types. By growing the online community of users, the goal is to crowdsource models of new applications of the tracking software, which can be shared openly to promote further software use and inspire ecological discovery. Ultimately, CyberTracker seeks to facilitate the development of a worldwide ecological monitoring network.
Results to Date
Improved communication of CyberTracker’s mission was a key component of this project, and this work has focused on designing an improved website, that is targeted and accessible to three user groups: funders/partners, current CyberTracker users, future potential users. The website now better represents CyberTracker’s vision of growing an engaged network of monitoring projects. Messaging has propelled the software to a new milestone: the CyberTracker software has been downloaded more than 100,000 times by the end of 2015 – more than 108,000 to be precise! The active community of Android users has also showed continuous growth since the Android platform release in 2013 and now numbers at least 1,400 active users (that number doesn’t include the users in remote areas who collect data offline).
The history of CyberTracker is anchored in the union of traditional tracking skills and modern technology, and the unique power of their implementation lies in freeing the tool from any single written language. Ecological monitoring can access traditional ecological knowledge through CyberTracker, but the group knows that the software’s use is by no means limited to just indigenous peoples. In developing partnerships to expand the CyberTracker network, it became apparent that the organization’s main avenue of communication, their website, wasn’t clearly articulating their vision for how the software could catalyze the development of a diverse global network for ecological monitoring. The group discovered that a more effective way to demonstrate the potential of the software was to spotlight the successful projects, which also inspires new users to prototype novel implementations.
Project Director Biography
Louis Liebenberg is Co‐founder and Executive Director of CyberTracker Conservation NPC since 1997. Director of “The Tracker Institute”, which aims to develop the highest standards of excellence in the art of tracking. Initiated and developed the “CyberTracker Tracker Evaluation System”, recognized internationally for developing the highest standards of tracker certification. Author of “The Art of Tracking: The Origin of Science” (1990), “A Field Guide to the Animal Tracks of Southern Africa” (1990) and “The Origin of Science” (2013). Associate of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Justin Steventon is Co‐founder and Lead Software Developer of CyberTracker Conservation NPC since 1997. He graduated with a B.Sc (Hon) in Computer Science at the University of Cape Town in 1996 and is a Principle Development Lead at Microsoft in Seattle. CyberTracker is a Laureate of the Rolex Award for Enterprise and The Wildlife Society SETWG 2011 Award.
Notes from JRS
The conversion of the CyberTracker software to Android over the past two years was an unqualified success and CyberTracker is measuring increased download and use of the software. This follow-on grant has solidified the adoption, outreach, and technical support of the Android platform that has enabled new applications for biodiversity monitoring. This project ended successfully in 2015 with demonstrated increases in CyberTracker downloads, visits to the website, activity in the user community, and publications that used CyberTracker data and highlighted the mobile platform. The project raises interesting questions for JRS regarding whether and how we support specific mobile data collection platforms or do we find common ways to support the many emergent apps and data platforms used by informatics professionals and the burgeoning applications of ‘citizen science.’ The other challenge faced by CyberTracker and other platforms is how to raise revenue while remaining true to creating public goals and achieving charitable purposes. We’ll continue to watch developments in mobile data capture technologies and their use is becoming nearly ubiquitous to JRS grants with field components.