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Integrated Earth Observation and Geospatial Information: Empowering SDGs

The United Nations announced the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015 to reach the ‘furthest behind first’. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the 169 associated targets promise to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions – economic, social and environmental – in a balanced way. Earth observations (EO) and geospatial data undoubtedly play insightful roles in monitoring targets, planning, tracking progress, and helping nations and stakeholders make informed decisions, plans, and on-going adjustments that will contribute toward achieving the SDGs. Combined with demographic and statistical data, these sources enable nations to analyse and model conditions, create maps and other visualizations, evaluate impacts across sectors and regions, monitor change over time in a consistent and standardized manner, and improve accountability.

Geospatial World Forum 2017 hosted an exclusive Panel as part of its opening programme on 23 January, giving avenue to speakers to share their vision, motivation and commitment to achieving SDGs, and how they see Earth observation and geospatial information playing a role in their respective national development programs and masterplans. The Panel was presentation-based and was moderated by Barbara Ryan, Secretariat Director, Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

Stefan Schweinfest, Director of Statistics Division, United Nations was very clear about the outline. “The philosophy of agenda is integrated agenda,” he stated. “The Statistics Division, UN does the advancement of the global statistical system. But, we need geospatial data. With geospatial data we will be able to drill much deeper into SDGs. Mapping SDG related data will improve measuring and monitoring of progress towards the SDGs indicators.”

Reiterating the pledge of SDGs Julio A. Santaella, President Instituto Nacional de Estadisticay Geografia (INEGI), Mexico said, “Leave nobody behind can only be done with geospatial – location. Now is the time for geospatial community to realise that statistics can add value. Official statistics information is not enough, we need your (geospatial community) help – we need collaboration of geospatial industry to achieve SDGs.” He also stressed that policy has to be narrowly targeted to reach the people.Each of the 65 indicators can be geo-tagged. Consumers need both (EO & geospatial) of them. We need to understand the relationship and collaborate,” were his words.

Nigel Clifford, CEO, OS, UK, emphasised that means of achieving SDGs should be cost effective. The means and method to monitor SDGs can be changed. “We have many tools in the armoury to detect the change.” Pinpointing on EO and unprocessed data he said, “EO is fantastic data but if it’s raw then how to make it usable is a challenge. We need to avoid imbalance of data and imbalance of skills.” He also believes that for SDGs we need to focus from what has happened to what will happen.

Jacqueline McGlade, Chief Scientist, Director, Science Division United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Kenya also gave a wider spectrum, “Turning ideas to action will bring success to SDGs. Data should be actionable. We have to bring lot of people into the room while making policies. How to put geodata, Big Data, EO data in a simple way – we have been working on that for some time. Though, dealing with unstructured data is a massive challenge.” Her takeaway was, “Pace of acceleration is accelerating, and we have to change the way how we think about innovation.”

Earth observation and geospatial information is the basis for evidence-based decision-making, monitoring and accountability. The geospatial and Earth observation community recognizes that location and geography are significantly linked to many, if not all, elements of SDGs. The task is to now push the ‘geospatial value proposition’ envelope to the governments and decision-makers at every level.

Watch the full video of the session:

Geospatial World’s August issue was all about SDGs. Get a thorough read

Exclusive interview with Barbara Ryan, Director, Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Secretariat in Geneva https://www.geospatialworld.net/article/open-data-sustainable-development/

Articles: Supporting the Implementation of SDGs https://www.geospatialworld.net/article/supporting-implementation-sdgs/

Geospatial Data: Key to achieve SDGs https://www.geospatialworld.net/article/geospatial-data-sustainable-development-goals/



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Former Assistant Editor | Dreamer | Writer | Avid Reader | Travel Enthusiast | Go Digital | Meenal’s role largely involves content development for Geospatial World website and magazine. Meenal loves to write – be it technology, or applications, or commenting on industry trends. Keeping an eye social media for latest developments in the geospatial domain, churning out value from it and then taking it to the readers is her success formula. She has prior experience of eight years in BTL advertising and publication. A master’s degree in English Literature, Meenal is a complete movie buff and loves to spend her leisure time reading children’s literature.