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dc.contributor.authorStevens, B.
dc.contributor.authorJolly, C.
dc.contributor.authorJolliffe, J.
dc.identifier.citationStevens, B., Jolly, C. and Jolliffe, J. (2021) A new era of digitalisation for ocean sustainability?: Prospects, benefits, challenges. Paris, France, OECD Publishing, 55pp. (OECD Science, Technology and Industry Policy Papers, No. 111). DOI:
dc.description.abstractGrowing worldwide acknowledgement of the importance of our ocean and seas for the future of humanity draws ever more attention to the need for sustainable use of the planet’s marine resources. Without a healthy ocean and productive seas, the task of providing oxygen from primary production, and generating food, energy and jobs for the world’s population, while effectively addressing climate change and biodiversity, will prove all the more challenging. Hence the importance of achieving a sustainable balance between the use of ocean resources and their protection and restoration. Reaching and conserving that balance will require a major global effort, as reflected in the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in particular SDG 14, namely conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. Good governance, effective management, smart policies and the engagement of many sectors of society, all have their part to play. But so do science and technology. Indeed, they form a keystone in any global ocean sustainability strategy, as conveyed in the context of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Digital technologies hold great promise for ocean sustainability. Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), processes automation, robotics, high-performance sensors, have been rapidly diffusing throughout the economy and been integrated into a multitude of applications old and new. However, in many areas of the ocean economy their uptake has been markedly slower. That now appears to be changing. There are strong signs that the pace of digital innovation is set to accelerate in the ocean economy. Taking a longer-term view, the widespread diffusion of such technologies holds out the potential to reshape the performance, efficiency and location of many ocean activities, create new ones and contribute significantly to ocean sustainability. This paper explores the potential contribution of digital technologies to ocean sustainability - especially those that apply to the field of ocean observation. As a result, the paper:  explores likely advances in science, technology and innovation over the next 8 to 10 years which should lead to substantial improvements in the collection of data on, and analysis of, the impact of climate change and human activity on marine ecosystems, while also help the monitoring and reduction of the ecological footprint of economic activity in the ocean;  identifies and discusses the steps required to sustain the current innovation momentum in the digital ocean economy, since it cannot be assumed that the considerable potential of such innovations can be fulfilled without considerable additional efforts on multiple fronts;  sets out preliminary reflections on how the Covid-19 pandemic might affect the pace of digital innovation in the ocean economy, and what strategies might be pursued to advance ocean research and innovation during and in the aftermath of the pandemic. Several innovations in ocean-related data collection and analysis are in the pipeline or already coming on stream and have the potential to make a significant impact in the course of the next decade. There are four areas of rapid technological advancement: ocean sensing and imaging instruments benefitting from artificial intelligence and machine to machine commuication; the expanding spatial coverage of float arrays and fixed observation platforms; the increasing autonomy in mobile platforms; and new complex systems integration schemes. Science and technology in all of these areas are able to demonstrate impressive advances in digital innovation in ocean observation. Combining all of these advances into a functioning and effective digital system of ocean data collection, analysis and action holds great promise for the medium- and longer-term future of a sustainable ocean economy. However, many of those innovations will not come to fruition or find widespread use entirely of their own accord. They will require strong supportive, organisational and collaborative action in a wide range of areas. A range of measures are required to sustain over time the current pace of digital innovation in the ocean economy. They comprise measures to reduce the cost of innovating and scaling up production, including the creation of new markets and the testing of new business models for ocean observation systems, introducing new forms of collaboration in ocean technology development, improving ocean literacy for accessing risk capital, and achieving greater standardisation of technology processes and products to push down costs. In addition, actions can be taken to broaden and deepen industry-science collaboration with a view to extending coverage of ocean observation. Opportunities increasingly present themselves for co-operation with various offshore industries, telecommunications cable companies, the fisheries sector and the tourism and leisure industries. Finally, efforts are required to change the ocean data paradigm to reap the benefits of long term investments. This can be achieved through improved access to and sharing of ocean data, greater standardisation of data and interoperability, improved use of best practices as the foundation for standards, accompanied throughout by enhancements in data integrity and security. However, the pursuit of these measures is likely to be significantly challenged by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic strikes at a particularly delicate moment in time. Significant advances in digital technology for ocean-observation are on the verge of widespread implementation, and the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is beginning, which holds out the prospect of a massive boost to ocean science in the next ten years. The threat posed by Covid-19 to future investment in science for the ocean in general, and in ocean observation in particular, is that government and privatesector responses to the pandemic could lead to a diversion of human and financial resources and – perhaps even worse over the longer term – to budget cuts in ocean research. Should such a scenario of tighter budgets and key resource diversion become a reality, policy-makers and the ocean science community needs to stand ready to implement alleviating measures. It is important that the potential sustainability gains to be derived from recent scientific, technological and organisational advances are not seriously compromised and that creative solutions are found to maintain and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ocean research activities. Such measures could include efforts to: - leverage existing infrastructures and ocean observation networks, and expand user engagement; - reduce cost and scaling up production volumes of sensors and other instruments, and focus on low-cost solutions where possible; - strengthen industry-science collaboration to expand ocean observation coverage, especially to address the current highly uneven geographical distribution of knowledge, know-how and technologies. - improve access to and sharing of data via standardisation, interoperability and best practices, especially where they promise considerable cost-savings and efficiency gains - And strengthen horizon scanning for innovations and existing technologies that might be adapted to ocean research purposes.en_US
dc.publisherOECD Publishingen_US
dc.relation.ispartofseriesOECD Science, Technology and Industry Policy Papers;111
dc.rightsAttribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International*
dc.titleA new era of digitalisation for ocean sustainability?: Prospects, benefits, challenges.en_US
dc.publisher.placeParis, Franceen_US
dc.subject.parameterDisciplineAdministration and dimensionsen_US
dc.description.methodologyTypeReports with methodological relevanceen_US

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