06 Sep 2019

Digital Earth Africa is an ambitious program, but has made significant progress to date. At the Digital Earth Africa side event as part of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Week 2019, we showcased where we are now and welcomed a number of the program’s partners and collaborators to share the work being done to ensure the data products created can be used and will have an impact.

Managing Africa’s water resources

water observations

Adam Lewis, Managing Director for the program’s establishment, demonstrated to the audience our first continental-scale product, which translates satellite imagery of water and turns it into easy to consume information to help African countries improve the management of water resources. 

This information is available across all of Africa, and can be used by anyone to understand the presence, location & recurrence of water within the landscape, delineate water resources & quantify water use. You can now explore this surface water product within the DE Africa Map.

The pathways to impact


To open up discussions we took to a panel facilitated by Aditya Agrawal, Founder of D4DInsights and Senior Advisor to the program, to talk about the value chain of what is necessary in order for the program to have real impact:

Ivan Deloach, US Geological Survey, on the importance of systematic observations:

USGS Landsat satellites provide fundamental data for DE Africa. The provision of systematic observations is key in the development of Open Data Cube technology to allow a range of users to perform analysis.

Ana Pinheiro Privette, Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative, on data storage capability:

Amazon’s commitment to data hosting means that data infrastructure is no longer a challenge, and the focus an instead be on processing data at a scale to address problems facing the continent.

Andiswa Mlisa, South African National Space Agency, on African ownership:

The challenge for nations is to ensure the data produced from DE Africa is easy to understand and can be used to make better decisions, and allow governments to determine how they can allocate resources.

Phoebe Odour, Regional Centre for Mapping for Resource Development (RCMRD), on connecting key products with real users:

DE Africa is a potential solution for issues that affect everyday people, and a solution which importantly, allows capacity for problem solving to remain in Africa. RCMRD works to ensure that member states are able to access DE Africa infrastructure and that training is available to people within the region.

The room directed a range of questions to the panel, which brought up the benefits of centralising data in the cloud, which has the ability to increase use and reduce issues, but that considerations need to be made to ensure the infrastructure doesn’t restrict access in areas where internet connection may not be reliable. 

In their concluding remarks, the panel spoke to the importance of ownership within the continent and that continued engagement with people on the ground is vital in establishing and maintaining the value within Africa.