Forest data governance as a reflection of forest governance: Institutional change and endurance in Finland and Canada

Paper by Salla Rantala, Brent Swallow, Anu Lähteenmäki-Uutela and Riikka Paloniemi: “The rapid development of new digital technologies for natural resource management has created a need to design and update governance regimes for effective and transparent generation, sharing and use of digital natural resource data. In this paper, we contribute to this novel area of investigation from the perspective of institutional change. We develop a conceptual framework to analyze how emerging natural resource data governance is shaped by related natural resource governance; complex, multilevel systems of actors, institutions and their interplay. We apply this framework to study forest data governance and its roots in forest governance in Finland and Canada. In Finland, an emphasis on open forest data and the associated legal reform represents the instutionalization of a mixed open data-bioeconomy discourse, pushed by higher-level institutional requirements towards greater openness and shaped by changing actor dynamics in relation to diverse forest values. In Canada, a strong institutional lock-in around public-private partnerships in forest management has engendered an approach that is based on voluntary data sharing agreements and fragmented data management, conforming with the entrenched interests of autonomous sub-national actors and thus extending the path-dependence of forest governance to forest data governance. We conclude by proposing how the framework could be further developed and tested to help explain which factors condition the formation of natural resource data institutions and subsequently the (re-)distribution of benefits they govern. Transparent and efficient data approaches can be enabled only if the analysis of data institutions is given equal attention to the technological development of data solutions…(More)”.