Words: Effah Amponsah, WACREN
Research and Education Networks (RENs) in Africa and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) are advancing in their collaboration to explore and actualise various opportunities that will maximise the potentials of earth observation for Africa and the world.
Within the framework of the Katowice Declaration the stakeholders – WACREN, ASREN and GEANT on the side of Africa and GEO met at the recent GEO Week 2022 Accra to discuss avenues for collaboration and the action steps needed to foster it. The Katowice Declaration solidifies and commits future collaboration between the three African regional RENs and GEO and enables a blueprint for strategic engagement in the future.
The Accra event themed: ‘Harnessing National Research Education Networks (NREN) infrastructure for research and data-sharing in Earth Observation and Climate Action’, was a good time for the collaborating parties to sit around the table once again and have a conversation to understand the opportunities available and how to leverage on the capabilities and strengths of the RENs to advance earth observation activities to support human life and endeavors especially Africa.
Highlights of the meeting indicate that both RENs and GEO acknowledge the importance of engaging EO research communities to understand their needs in order to develop and deploy infrastructure and solutions needed to enhance the availability, access and use of huge volumes of earth observation data needed to analyse and predict disasters and facilitate plans for disaster management.
The two parties agree to the principles of open data and open access which are in line with UNESCO Recommendations on Open Science, adopted by the rest of the World.
To deal with the knowledge gaps existing between RENs and GEO, the two parties agree on the need to strengthen capacity development and knowledge management in thematic areas in earth observation among the REN community in Africa.
Through this collaboration and its ensuing outcomes, RENs will play a role in the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). GEOSS links Earth observation resources worldwide across multiple societal benefit areas and makes those resources available for informed global and local decision-making. GEOSS focuses on biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability, disaster resilience, energy and mineral resources management, food security, infrastructure & transportation management, public health surveillance, sustainable urban development and water resources management.
The RENs, through this collaboration, will be contributing to achieving some UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The REN-GEO collaboration is in line with the EU-funded AfricaConnect3 project which seeks to, among other things, enhance the development, deployment, awareness creation and expansion of digital infrastructure, advanced service and collaboration to enhance digital transformation in research and learning communities in Africa.