Key step taken for Digital Earth Africa

6 August 2021

Geoscience Australia has reached another milestone in the establishment phase of Digital Earth Africa, with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) appointed to host the Program Management Office going forward.

Digital Earth Africa – funded by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Australian Government – is based on Geoscience Australia’s Digital Earth Australia program.

It draws on more than three decades of satellite imagery to enable decision makers to solve some of the most fundamental challenges facing the continent.

Geoscience Australia’s Place, Space and Communities Division Chief and co-chair of the Digital Earth Africa governing board, Alison Rose, said the appointment of SANSA to host the program management office was a key step towards making the platform fully operational in Africa.

“Geoscience Australia has been proud to provide the foundational support required to get the Digital Earth Africa program off the ground,” Ms Rose said.

“Digital Earth Africa is built on technology that Geoscience Australia created and continues to use through the Digital Earth Australia program to solve problems nationally, from monitoring changes to the Australian coastline to tracking the location and extent of waterbodies across our continent.

“Since March 2019, through the support of The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Australian Government, we’ve provided the knowledge, training and infrastructure to enable people in Africa to start to realise the benefits of free and easily accessible Earth observation data.

“The appointment of SANSA marks a key turning point in Geoscience Australia’s involvement in Digital Earth Africa, and over the next year we will continue to transition this program to be Africa owned and run. This will put Digital Earth Africa in the best possible position to grow and respond to the greatest challenges of the continent.”

Dr Adam Lewis, who leads the work to establish Digital Earth Africa, said the program had already been used by scientists to tackle pressing issues of sustainability and conservation.

“Through Digital Earth Africa, scientists have been able to map the extent of mangroves in the Sabaki Estuary, informing efforts to protect this important ecosystem,” Dr Lewis said.

“Digital Earth Africa was also used to study water quality in the Lake Naivasha basin as part of efforts to address unsustainable agriculture practices in Kenya.

“This satellite imagery was even used to help plan a rescue mission for a family of endangered Rothschild giraffes living on an island that was growing smaller each year due to rising water levels.

“We are excited to see how this data will be used by our colleagues in Africa into the future.”

Geoscience Australia’s Digital Earth Australia program puts insights from satellite data into the hands of more Australians, driving innovation for a more productive and sustainable future.   

Information on its products can be found on the interactive DEA Maps platform.