Last week, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the 21 projects from 17 developing countries that will be awarded $1.5 million USD worth of cloud services, grants, and technical support through the Earth Observation Cloud Credits Programme.

The grant programme allows developing countries to make better use of big data around Earth observations (EO). This data is key to understanding changes, such as in land cover and land use, preparing and planning for disasters, and forecasting shocks due to the climate crisis.

Satellite data and imagery require large amounts of storage and processing, so it is key that developing countries make use of cloud computing and take their algorithms to the data, not the other way around, to effectively and efficiently use this data to drive better decisions.

At the Amazon Public Sector Summit, over 15,000 attendees from around the world demonstrated how cloud computing is integral to the public sector. From issues as diverse as open science, Earth and space, to community organizing, there was a sense that making use of cloud computing for big data is at the heart of many organizations and institutions.

Steven Ramage, Head of External Relations from GEO, attended the AWS Public Sector Summit to announce the awardees of the joint GEO-AWS programme. He noted that all the benefits of ease of access, scalability, and reliability offered by cloud services are now available to a number of developing countries working in GEO across policy areas, such as the UN 2030 Agenda (Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs), the Sendai Framework, and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Big Earth Observations Data for the Sustainable Development Goals 

Cloud services help countries store, process, and analyse big Earth data to inform better decisions and policies. Countries can use Earth observation data to support and complement traditional statistical reporting on the agreed targets of the SDGs.

For example, the Global Surface Water Explorer is using open data from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, UN Environment, and Google to track progress on SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation (Indicator 6.6.1). In addition, the Global Forest Watch is using open Earth data to support countries to track land use and deforestation targets related to SDG 15: Life on Land.

The new GEO-AWS Cloud Credits Programme supports the vision that Earth observation data in the cloud that is open and freely available to countries will help them drive better decisions and outcomes for the SDGs.

Under the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI), this programme will enable Earth observations to support sustainable development across a wide range of applications.

This engagement with the AWS team is one of the approaches that the GEO Secretariat has taken to work with the commercial sector. There is now a membership category available for private sector organisations to become Associate Members of GEO. More information can be found here.

Here are a few examples where developing countries are benefitting from open data:

The recently-launched Africa Regional Data Cube builds on open data cube technology developed by the Government of Australia and supported by the Committee of Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). It enables five countries in Africa to inspect changes to any geographic area over the past 35 years. The technology also provides users with an analysis platform for satellite imagery to address key development challenges, including food security, disaster risk management, coastal erosion, and urban expansion. AWS cloud credits have been provided to the five countries involved for three years to reduce the data storage, processing, and analysis burden.

As one of the GEO-AWS awardees, the ‘Global Mobile Tsunami Warning System’ in Indonesia is benefitting from the GEO-AWS Cloud Credits Programme to develop a comprehensive approach to disaster risk reduction efforts. A joint programme between Indonesia, Chile, Ecuador with Japan’s Tsunami Research Foundation, NASA and others, this project is leveraging local knowledge and data for improved global response to disasters.

Another award-winning project includes a ‘Forest Programme in Peru.’ They are using the cloud credits for a forest monitoring information system that will provide information for the measurement of the SDG 15: Life on Land (Indicator 15.1.1). Building from the GEOBOSQUES online monitoring platform, the project is linked to the monitoring system of the National Service of Protected Natural Areas, with the purpose of contributing to the conservation of these areas.

Stay tuned over the coming months as we announce updates from these exciting projects!

To learn more about this initiative visit the website here.