SA-GEO “Communities of Practice” workshop

March 10th, 2014, Published in Articles: PositionIT


Humbulani Mudau, Chief Director:  Space Science and Technology at the Department of Science and Technology, opened the South African Group on Earth Observation (SA-GEO) Communities of Practice (CoP) Workshop held at the CSIR Convention Centre on 26 and 27 February 2014. The purpose of the workshop was to facilitate the exchange of information and interaction within and between CoPs, to review the objectives of current activities, to conceptualise and initiate new activities as well as to  identify SA-GEO CoPs’ contributions to GEO tasks.

neoss-122-03-14The Department of Science and Technology is South Africa’s GEO Principal and the country is also a co-chair of GEO alongside China, the European Commission and the USA. SA-GEO has been established by the National Earth Observation and Space Secretariat (NEOSS) in response to the South African Earth Observation Strategy (SAEOS). The core mechanism through which SA-GEO operates are its “communities of practice” (CoPs). To date there are eleven earth observation domains that have initiated a “community of practice”. These include agricultural, air quality, natural resources, land cover, water, coastal and marine, training and capacity building, EO infrastructure, policy and legal, radiometry and education CoPs. A number of other domains still need CoPs to be instituted, including climate and weather, health, disasters, energy, and ecology and biodiversity.

Speaking at the workshop, Mudau said that EO has a critical role to play in responding to government policies and strategies. He said that he was in the process of finalising the strategic case for South Africa’s space plan which will detail the role that space science can play in supporting the goals of the National Development Plan.

Terry Newby from NEOSS emphasised the need by the remote sensing community to promote the actual impacts that they are having on society and to share their success stories.  He explained the GEO workplan and  tasks , explaining that South Africa, being a committed participant in the  international Group on Earth Observations (GEO)   and in the building of the Global Earth Observations System of Systems (GEOSS),  needs to continue to increase its involvement in GEO activities, tasks and initiatives in order to gain maximum benefit from  its active involvement.

Newby explained that GEO will be reviewing its annual work plan in April 2014 and member countries have the opportunity to contribute to this review by indicating activities that can contribute to the objectives of the various GEO Tasks. (The GEO work plan can be accessed at: )

Newby added that the recently launched AfriGEOSS initiative will focus on encouraging African participation in GEO and GEOSS, and in realising the benefits of involvement. He then called on the delegates present at the CoP workshop to brainstorm how the South African remote sensing community can gain from strategic contribution to the 26 tasks. Feedback from the delegates was collated and will be used to contribute to the GEO workplan review.

Contact Terry Newby, NEOSS, Tel 012 841-2266,



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