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  • Writer's pictureAditya Agrawal

Global Satellites to Boost Access to Relevant Data in the Pacific

D4DInsights is honored to be working with the Pacific Community and Pacific Island Nations on this this important initiative bringing free and open earth observation data to the region to address key challenges including climate change, food security, fisheries management and disaster risk reduction.

Holding the first Interim Steering Committee meeting on 5 May 2021 was an important milestone for the development of this program by demonstrating commitment from four representative countries for the Pacific Region (Republic of Marshall Islands, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu) and ensuring this program will be led and guided by perspective directly from the region. A number of international organizations have also joined the ISG, and together, national, regional and global perspective will connect up perspectives and communities in support of Digital Earth Pacific moving forward.

The next step will be to work with these countries on a national consultation process to better understand needs and priorities that will inform the broader business case for Digital Earth Pacific, as well as identify opportunities for early win products and services.

Pacific Countries are committed to the development of a new Digital Earth Pacific Program that will allow the use of global satellite systems to better understand the changes to our environment and countries in the Pacific.

The Pacific Community (SPC) convened the first interim steering committee meeting with Tonga, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji.

The Digital Earth Pacific Program will now hold region wide consultations with Pacific countries to determine the needs, gaps and benefits to using remote data to develop informed knowledge products that will support better decision-making for and alongside countries.

The system condenses years of freely available data sets to provide real-time understanding on issues such as how disasters have changed coastlines, the impact climate-change and wave energy is having on our countries and to combine weather outlooks for farmers and countries.

Deputy Chief Secretary Mr Catalino Kijiner of RMI said the country is “fully committed to this program”.

“We know that it’s going to help RMI make sound decisions in the management of our small natural resources and provide additional information on things like biodiversity to ensure we have sustainable food security systems and other additional information to determine the impact of climate change on our country,” he said at the interim steering committee held this week.

Director-General of SPC, Dr Stuart Minchin explained the development and use of products as part of Digital Earth Pacific will provide significant economic benefits to the Pacific.

“The technology is there, the data exists and is ready for us to use. Digital Earth Pacific will become an operational public good that will routinely generate products on a regular basis whenever a satellite flies over which will make it reliable and robust and countries will be able to access the information the same way weather reports are accessed on our phones, any day of the week”.

Dr Minchin said this is a huge opportunity for the Pacific in developing a fundamental digital infrastructure that will ensure every nation in the Pacific has access to these tools and technologies to routinely monitor and track challenges such as coastal inundation, coral bleaching events and other ocean related products that provide informed and robust data.

The Interim Steering Committee co-chair Ms Rosamond Bing, Chief Executive Officer of Tonga’s Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources welcomes the development of Digital Earth Pacific.

She said “Tonga is committed to this and the Digital Earth Pacific consultations are a really good opportunity for us to look at some of the practical approaches to existing activities being led by the country”.

The interim steering committee was co-chaired by SPC and Tonga alongside Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The committed adopted the Terms of Reference of Digital Earth Pacific and agreed to national consultation workshops to be held in the coming weeks. The committee also provided consensus on becoming a Community Activity under the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).

The interim steering committee is made up of specialists in the Earth Observation field including teams from GEO, Geoscience Australia, SPC, NASA, NOAA, USP and D4DInsights.

Digital Earth Pacific is supported in partnership with the Australian Government and the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. A needs analysis will be developed by June 2021 and pilot user studies implemented by December 2021.

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