We are witnessing a data revolution. Earth observation satellite images, remote sensing data, measurements from ocean, land and atmospheric stations and all other in situ measurements, can show real time and historic weather, vegetation, water and population patterns. These can help make decisions from disaster recovery to long term urban planning.
Not only are African national programmes using data obtained from space, about the African continent. There is also a trend for other regional or national programmes to share their data and information openly and freely.
The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is promoting access to freely available data and information. Already, 27 GEO Member states from the African continent are improving their countries’ capacity to access the wealth of datasets on offer.
With the release of Landsat from NASA, Copernicus data from ESA and SPOT archives from CNES, the amount of free satellite imagery and data available is increasing a rate we have never experienced before.
Knowledge derived from Earth observations helps to inform plans and monitor the environment; manage the use of natural resources; provide early warning of and facilitate management of natural disasters; and support education and health services in rural areas.
In order to get information into the right hands, we have committed to an Earth observation coordination programme for Africa, called AfriGEOSS. AfriGEOSS is working to mobilise the Earth Observation community to contribute to the implementation of the Africa Space Policy and Strategy, adopted by African Heads of State at the 26th African Union Summit held in January, 2016.
Through the AfriGEOSS initiative, we provide the necessary framework for countries and organisations to access and leverage on-going bilateral and multilateral Earth observation initiatives across Africa, creating synergies and minimising duplication for the benefit of the entire continent.
This coordination initiative has been recognised as essential to enhance Africa’s capacity for producing, managing and using Earth observations, thus also enabling the region’s participation in, and contribution to, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).
AfriGEOSS is committed to apply Earth observation data for societal benefit in the areas of biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability, disaster resilience, energy and mineral resources management, food security and sustainable agriculture, infrastructure and transport management, public health surveillance, sustainable urban development and water resources management.
If we, as the African caucus of the Group on Earth Observations, can fulfill our mission, to strengthen the link between current GEO activities with existing capabilities and initiatives in Africa, we can help to make information available to understand how the Earth’s systems work. Once decision makers have detailed information about their territory, from urban to remote and rural areas, they can identify the impact of change on citizens and the environment.
Through the Victoria Fall AfriGEOSS symposium statement, made on April 29, 2016, in Zimbabwe, experts in environmental and development planning, disaster risk reduction and food security pledged to unlock the power of Earth observation tools to make better decisions.
These areas of knowledge explored by experts at the AfriGEOSS Symposium 2016 through existing tools and governance structures were:
The coordination of this effort requires collaboration in a way that has never been seen before in environmental assessment in Africa. The AfriGEOSS implementation plan outlines six action areas, namely: user needs and applications, data and infrastructure, human capital, resource providers’ coordination and communication and outreach. Progress in these areas will help define Africa’s use and application of data for societal benefit over the next decade and beyond.
Sent your comments to: email@example.com