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The story

Africa is a continent with a rich and diverse environment that faces many challenges such as ready access to drinking water, rapid urban development, active deforestation and food insecurity. Our understanding of these challenges connects directly to how well we understand its natural resources, and the human and climate impact on them.

For decades Africa’s land surface and coastline has been continually imaged by satellites, recording a wide range of information about land and water resources. These images are a rich source of information, but they are difficult to acquire, scale up or down, and compute and analyse – their high-quality means having to deal with many petabytes of data. While this data is freely available, it is difficult to consume and translate into actionable information. Digital Earth Africa (DE Africa) is developing an operational platform to translate this data into decision-ready information.

The challenge: translating data to development

From sustainably managing the environment and mitigating climate change to developing resources and unleashing agricultural potential, Africa must overcome a number of challenges to meet the needs of its fast growing population. This is all in a time of increased climate variability and resilience challenges. DE Africa will support all of Africa to drive progress towards the global challenges outlined in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In particular, it will be directly relevant to Goals 2 (zero hunger), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 9 (industry, innovation and Infrastructure), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 13 (climate action), 14 (life below water) and 15 (life on land).

The solution: a data cube for all of Africa

While a number of these areas are already being addressed through satellite imagery data by the Group on Earth Observations, DE Africa offers another way to tackle major issues by providing access to better information for decisions across the whole continent. DE Africa is made possible by Australian innovation that is internationally recognised as a game-changer for the use of satellite information to address sustainable development challenges.

DE Africa will provide a unique platform that would democratize the capacity to process and analyse satellite data. It will track changes across Africa in unprecedented detail, and provide data on a vast number of issues, including soil and coastal erosion, agriculture, forest and desert development, water quality, and changes to human settlements. It will also provide an integrating functionality to ensure it complements other existing data.

The impact: insight for action

DE Africa will improve understanding of Africa’s changing landscape, providing much needed insights, knowledge and analysis for more informed, strategic and inclusive decision making across the continent. This information will benefit policy makers and public officials, enabling them to make better decisions, and will increase commercial efficiency and economic growth for businesses and entrepreneurs across the continent.

For more information on the assessed benefits of DE Africa, read the Phase I Summary report.