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  • Aditya Agrawal

2022 Reflections and the Year Ahead

Updated: Jan 8


Happy New Year! I hope you all had a safe, festive, and restful holiday season. 2022 was a busy year for D4DInsights. As I reflect on the past year, and look ahead to what we have planned for 2023, I'm grateful for all our partners who helped drive positive progress in so many areas.


In 2022, D4DInsights worked to address food security, advance Digital Earth Pacific, launch the Global Carbon Removal Partnership, and strengthen data governance for biodiversity.


The year began with the conclusion of two important projects.


First, we finished developing a business case for an innovation facility that would make more ground data available on agriculture, allowing AI and ML models to scale. This work was part of the Enabling Crop Analytics at Scale project with Tetra Tech. The business case identified and assessed different models for sharing these data. It explored how to make the data free and openly accessible and also how to create a revenue stream from the products and services. We continue supporting this program as a member of the Technical Advisory Group.


Second, we finalized our recommendations for a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) digital strategy, which addressed how to best use data and technology, mainly in regards to the World Environment Situation Room (WESR). As part of this exercise, we conducted over 60 interviews, did a situation assessment, created a vision document for the Committee of Permanent Residents (CPR), and the produced the final strategy document that outlined a more demand-driven, country-focused, and user-centered design approach to how technology should be built within UNEP.


This work was done in partnership with Peter Gilruth, who was acting in a related independent consultant role and who is an old friend from previous UNEP days. I'm proud of the approach and strategy we recommended. It's one that will require cultural and institutional change in order to be effective and we look forward to seeing how UNEP incorporates the approach into its business.

An evening of fun after a long day with colleagues from UNEP

D4DInsights also continued our partnership with the Pacific Community (SPC) on the development of Digital Earth Pacific (DEP), a digital infrastructure providing free and open access to operational earth observation data. DEP helps countries in the Pacific strengthen emergency response, strengthen food security, and address climate change. After COVID-19 travel restrictions relaxed, we were able to hold our last national workshop in Fiji.


We continued our partnership with Microsoft, leveraging their Planetary Computer to run the back-end of DEP, where the prototype infrastructure continued to be enhanced. Demonstration products for NDVI, water observations from space, mangroves, and coastline change were further developed. We were able to bring onboard Jesse Anderson as a data scientist and Jodi Delaney for fundraising. The business case for DEP has been completed, and as a result, we focused much of our time on mobilizing the resources needed to properly launch the program and support member countries.

Participants at the DEP National Workshop on Needs Assessment

In 2022, the Global Carbon Removal Partnership (GCRP) made huge strides forward and became fully established. The GCRP is a multi-stakeholder partnership led by the Global South, focused on accelerating the carbon removal market responsibly, inclusively, and equitably. Kenya and Colombia have been foundational partners from the beginning and in 2022, membership increased across governments, private sector, and civil society.


The GCRP created galvanizing events including those at the Leaders on Purpose Summit, Climate Week, and COP27. At the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., we held a side event as part of a Re-imagining Silicon Savannah event hosted by the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Led by Dean Sanjeev Khagram, we very much saw the GCRP take form this year with broad recognition around the importance of including the Global South and creating the right enabling frameworks to move this industry forward responsibly. On that note, we also published a paper on addressing open questions on carbon sequestration standards led by Dr. Stephanie Arcusa.

Dean Sanjeev Khagram, Thunderbird, with President Ruto at the Reimaging Silicon Savanah event

Lastly, we are also working with UNEP on a project aligned with the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) that was negotiated at COP15 in Montreal. The intent of this work is to develop a guidance document for the governance and management of biodiversity data. National governments will be able to use this guidance to support their development of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans. We consulted a number of relevant stakeholders and institutions, conducted in depth research into the principles, standards, policies, and frameworks that do exist, and is exploring how to engage stakeholders in making the right decisions on how these data should be collected, managed, used, and distributed.


2022 was an exciting year for us. It allowed us to work on a range of projects while staying true to our core mission–addressing climate change and advancing sustainable development through demand-driven, inclusive, user-centered approaches to data and technology. Most importantly, we made new friends, had fun with the work we do, and got to travel to some new and interesting places. We thank all of our consultants, partners, and stakeholders for all of your support. None of this would be possible without you.


The Year Ahead


2023 is the year that several of our projects will scale. We expect to bring in additional funding in early 2023 to formally launch the Digital Earth Pacific program. This will provide additional capabilities within SPC, allow for further engagement and capacity development with member countries, and create new products and services for the program.


The Global Carbon Removal Partnership is full steam ahead. We will be convening country and project partners during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which is one part of our overall strategy on the road to COP28. With the commitments made as part of Re-imagining Silicon Savannah event, and our event with Foreign Policy during COP27, we will work towards developing a carbon removal roadmap and action plan for Kenya and support Kenya in its development of a Climate Action Summit for the continent. We will be engaging with more countries in Asia, the Pacific, Latin America and Africa and create a replicable model to scale the roadmap approach in additional countries.


We will also continue our work on the biodiversity data governance approach with UNEP. This is the first step in a broader approach that takes the recommendations and guidelines and puts them into practice. We hope to continue working with UNEP on its implementation to create a model of how data governance in response to the GBF can be developed and scaled across countries, while refining the approach based on lessons learned.


Looking ahead, we will continue to refine and innovate our approach for addressing the world’s problems through digital technology and transformation, multi-stakeholder approaches, governance and user-centered approaches. Data and technology, especially within an international development context, cannot be developed successfully without the right engagement, relationship building, and trust. We look forward to what’s ahead and look forward to working with many of you on these important issues.


We wish everyone a safe and sustainable 2023. We look forward to a productive year that hopefully keeps humanity moving toward a more prosperous, equitable, and healthy future for everyone.

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