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Peter Rabley tells us how satellite data will empower individuals and improve lives

how satellite data will improve lives
Peter Rabley, Venture Partner at Omidyar Network

The vision is to align and connect imagery assets explains Peter Rabley, Venture Partner at Omidyar Network

It is said that you are one of the visionaries behind the initiative. What inspired you to get involved?

As a long-time user of satellite imagery, its applicability for planning, analysis and policy and advocacy has always been clear to me. This is particularly true in emerging economies where good, up-to-date, and accurate geospatial data is largely non-existent.

We are now seeing an ever-increasing volume and variety of geospatial data, with the recent disruption in the manufacturing and delivery of small satellites — as a result of alternative sources of financing such as venture capital, the management of small satellites as software assets, planned redundancy and obsolescence, and an acceptance of a higher failure rate of the hardware. These image data are not just optical but include radar, non-visible spectra, etc. With this increased volume and variety, comes the potential for it to be harder to discover and use these phenomenal datasets.

If we can truly unlock these datasets by making them easy to use and more accessible, we find that their usage explodes. For example, Landsat moving to Amazon Web Services that made the data easier to access and use, saw a significant increase in monthly traffic as a result. Radiant.Earth’s vision is to align and connect imagery assets — both commercial and public — and make it easy to explore and consume, acting as an ultimate set of connective tissues. In addition, Radiant.Earth can address the need for a community that embraces all types of users — government, commercial, defense, community and humanitarian groups — to openly share their data, knowledge, and tools, as well as act as a convener and a trusted association.

What is Omidyar Network’s involvement in Radiant.Earth?

Omidyar Network can provide capital in two ways: as commercial venture funding through our LLC, or as grant funding through our foundation. Radiant.Earth is being provided with grant funding through our foundation. We also provide assistance to the board and management in the areas of marketing and communications, research, and human capital.

With our partner the Gates Foundation, we believe making these types of data easily available has great use for the work we do in empowering individuals and providing them with an opportunity to improve their lives. Between the two foundations, we have committed to multiple millions of USDs over the initial three years.

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Could you give us an idea about funding involved?

Between Gates Foundation and Omidyar Network, we have committed to multiple millions of USDs over the initial three years.

In your opinion, why is it critical to have open satellite imagery available for non-profits to access across the world?

Satellite imagery is rich in data and can be used for many applications. In areas where access to data is limited, is expensive, and in some cases, dangerous to get, satellite imagery offers a powerful resource for transparency, accountability, and fact-based advocacy.

How do you think Radiant.Earth differs from the Group on Earth Observation (GEO)?

They are very much complementary. GEO has done stellar work and Radiant.Earth is already partnering with GEO to leverage each organization’s strengths.

What are you looking for in the Radiant.Earth platform feature set?

This will be determined by the users and the management of Radiant.Earth. We are comfortable knowing that there is an experienced and dedicated team behind Radiant.Earth that will deliver the features and access all users want and value. We are also confident that they will work with other organizations to provide access and enhancement, and not redo what others have and are doing.

Have you used geospatial data in the Omidyar Network philanthropy projects?

We provide funding to allow partners to use geospatial data for their work. This includes investees like Suyo, Landmapp, Duke University, IIM Bangalore, and IIHS India.

What is your primary focus audience with Omidyar Network? Does this audience cross-over to Radiant? In what capacity?

I run the Property Rights Initiative at Omidyar Network, which is founded on the belief that secure property rights are fundamental to human and global development. Our focus is, therefore, empowering those who have weak or no property rights with a path to accessing and leveraging them.

What are your plans for reaching out into the unconnected communities of the developing world?

Our approach is based on our investees, research, and media and communications.


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