Investments in open Earth observation data set to grow.
A global trend towards open data, i.e. data that anyone can access, use and share without restriction is steadily replacing a previous tendency by governments to charge for Earth observations, especially satellite imagery. The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) was established more than 10 years ago to provide access to and sharing of open Earth observations data; years before the Open Data for a Big Data World movement gained momentum.
Today GEO has more than 100 government Members representing their national governments and in excess of 100 Participating Organizations contributing data, knowledge and expertise to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). The purpose of GEOSS is to put information on the planet’s changing environment into the hands of decision makers where it is most useful. The GEOSS Portal makes measurements from the world’s satellites and atmospheric, land and ocean stations freely available, by connecting and integrating systems using open standards. There are now more than 200 million data resources in GEOSS that span all GEO’s thematic areas, such as food security and sustainable agriculture as well as biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability.
A key strand of the GEO long-term development for the next 10 years is to engage with stakeholders and continue to build global awareness around GEO’s convening power and the availability of open Earth observation data. To this end, Steven Ramage was recently appointed to head stakeholder engagement and external relations.
Steven has worked across a number of the GEO societal benefit areas, including disaster resilience, sustainable urban development and water resource management. As an intergovernmental body GEO is uniquely placed to help with analysis, innovation and Earth observation data exploitation for decision making and Steven will lead a number of activities to raise the profile and engagement activities involving open Earth observations data.
GEO Secretariat Director Barbara Ryan said: “We are really pleased that Steven has joined the team, he brings significant experience working across our community, having worked extensively across both the private and public sectors. His visibility and network in the international arena will help us achieve a number of our goals, he has already chaired our first ever commercial sector panel at our annual Plenary event and it was a great success.”
Government investments in satellite and in situ Earth observations make up around 65 percent of total cost. Companies not only contribute in terms of hardware; they also stimulate provision of services. The EO commercial data market was estimated at $1.6 billion in 2014 and is set to rise, almost in line with the incremental curve of increase of data availability.
A number of countries including Canada, Ghana, Japan, Jamaica, Kenya, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States have invested in open data portals over recent years. Many of these data sets are available on the GEOSS Portal for example more than 20,000 data records from http://data.gov.uk are now live and discoverable. Government engagement in GEO goes beyond data sharing and, alongside Defra and the UK Space Agency, the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) is working to increase visibility of GEO to the UK Earth Observation community so that access to Earth observations can lead to the development of applications and tools for better decision making. The UK represents one of 103 Member governments in GEO, including the European Commission.
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