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Developing a context of trust in biodiversity data sharing

It is not surprising that developing countries are reluctant to engage in initiatives such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) (see Developing world slow to share biodiversity data). After all, the value of biodiversity information relates to a country's ability to use this information, not only for scientific purposes but also in terms of economic benefit.

Projects such as GBIF therefore greatly favour developed nations. Indeed, scientific considerations are sometimes used as a cover for economic motives, leading some to view GBIF as a form of neo-colonialism. Furthermore, given the lack of access to the Internet in most developing countries, online systems like the GBIF are in danger of further deepening the information gap between the developed and less developed world. And when "their" data is hosted on servers in developed countries, poorer nations feel that they relinquish control over the information and its use.

In order to address these issues, and to ensure that biodiversity information is shared in a truly open and equitable way, a context of trust must be developed, to pave the way for GBIF's technological approach. For example, joint ventures could be undertaken between developed and less developed countries that focus on specific aspects of biodiversity. Such initiatives would need to define unambiguously the costs and benefits to each partner, preferably under the auspices of an international body that could monitor the implementation of the joint ventures and mediate in cases of conflict.