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Sustainable Development

Recent innovations and new sensors and technology have dramatically changed the nature and structure of space-related development applications in recent years, making space a more versatile tool for the development community. Much has been accomplished in this area, but little is known about these successes. Developing countries cannot afford not to adopt certain space tools, as failure to do so will lead them to fall even further behind in a growing 'digital divide'. Space applications must be a tool for the development community, not an end in themselves. They should only be used when they improve a development project and offer a veritable path to sustainability.

Space-based Earth observation (EO) can play key roles in international development activities - both bilateral and multilateral:

  • providing space-based EO products and services - information outputs - to assist other sectors of development, such as agriculture, energy and water, biodiversity conservation, urban planning, marine resource management, transportation, etc;

  • enhancing the level of space-based EO activities themselves as integral parts of social, economic and environmental development.

Providing and using EO inevitably has policy implications beyond merely efficient use of the technology. It may be used for cooperation, or for competition. For example, EO may be used:

  • To detect ground water resources and support drilling;
  • For crop monitoring, globally;
  • To monitor changes to developing countries climates and ecosystems, particularly desertification and deforestation;
  • To monitor foreign fishing presence in coastal African and Asian waters;
  • To monitor polluting ship traffic to protect coastal environmental resources; and
  • A host of other relevant applications.

Ensuring EO data and product continuity, to match the timescales required for effective development; and establishing common frameworks that allow sharing and exchange of information are important factors to consider in using space-based EO for sustainable development.

Some recent mandates involving the application of space technology to sustainable development questions included: