GEO Ministerial Summit

Minister's Introductory Remarks

Allow me first to thank the government of Switzerland for hosting this important event, not only in the calendar of GEO but also for the sustainability of life on this precious planet of ours.

Honourable members of this distinguished community, ladies and gentlemen, there is abundant evidence that humankind has made a severe impact on the planet upon which sustainable human life depends.

The anthropogenic impact and changes to natural environment are being driven by increasing human demands such as, the need for provision of water, food, energy and shelter at the time when more than seven billion people on inhabit the Earth.

Unfortunately, these human activities impact on biophysical environments, hydrology, biodiversity, climate, socioeconomic stability and food security. The well being of the natural environment which is one of the major factors that contribute to sustainability is therefore becoming severely compromised.

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) offers a unique platform for timely observation, analyses, dissemination and access to comprehensive and appropriate Earth observation data that can be operationally utilised in decision making, planning, guiding policy formulation, and monitoring systems for all nations.

Therefore, we all need to be empowered to generate, and utilise Earth observation data to generate knowledge and smart systems for informed policy formulation and decision making.

Building on the past successes

Back in 2005, this community endorsed the 10-Year Implementation Plan for building a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), a decision that represented an essential step forward for the realisation of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) objectives.

Importantly for GEO, the Earth observation community (both member states and participating organisations) have taken lead and made significant contributions on ensuring full and open access to Earth observation data.

The announcement at the 2007 Cape Town Ministerial that China-Brazil Earth Resource Satellite (CBERS) data will be provided free of charge was particularly a dramatic step towards achieving the strategic goals of GEO.

These significant developments prompted the establishment of a process with the objective to reach a consensus on the implementation of the Data Sharing Principles for GEOSS. In November 2010, the GEOSS Data Sharing Action Plan was accepted by the GEO-VII Plenary and incorporated into the Beijing Declaration and adopted by the Beijing Ministerial Summit. This milestone demonstrated how the framework of GEO could advance solutions to global challenges.

Being a member of GEO, South Africa, has made major strides in the development and implementation of the South African Earth Observation Strategy (SAEOS), which is aimed at promoting an integrated Earth observation system. The strategy, approved in October 2006 and launched during the margins of the GEO IV Plenary in Cape Town, captures the country's response to the 10-year Implementation Plan for a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). The SAEOS Earth Observation Data Centre and the web-based Portal have been developed and are

currently being operationalised and institutionalised. The Portal is integrated to the GCI and contributed resources to the GEOSS Data-CORE.

South Africa – through National Earth Observation and Space Secretariat (NEOSS), has also played a significant support role in launching AfriGEOSS and promoting the initiative within GEO. Further, South Africa is involved in (and will continue to be involved in) initiatives such as the African Working Group on Land Cover Mapping, GEO Global Agriculture Monitoring (GEOGLAM), Blue Planet, GEO Biodiversity Observation Network (GEOBON), African Water Cycle Initiative and GEO Common Infrastructure (GCI). In all these initiatives South Africa has both contributed and benefited from its participation.

The future

Keeping up the momentum gained on data sharing thus far is critical. The GEO community will need to build on the Cape Town and Beijing breakthroughs and advances. We urge the entire GEO community to embrace this spirit and advance the principles of data sharing, full and open access of critical Earth observation and fundamental datasets.

GEO would however be required to go beyond just open access of data. GEO would be required to pay more focus on deriving value, generating knowledge and developing innovative solutions from these datasets for the benefit of mankind and improving our understanding of the Earth systems.

It must be acknowledged that the long term sustainability of GEOSS depend on the member states and participating organisations. More effort and emphasis should be put in strengthening and promoting National GEO and regional coordination mechanisms. The full endorsement of AfriGEOSS initiative by the GEO-IX Plenary in 2012 is the step in the right direction. This initiative will ensure that the African continent actively participate and contribute to the GEO vision. The regional coordination will also ensure that certain aspects of GEOSS are built or tailored to respond to the technological challenges faced by the developing nations. The

regions should make efforts to develop collaborative capabilities to implement system of systems solutions pertinent to their challenges.

Furthermore, significant progress made by the GEO community in implementing the global initiatives and programmes such as GEO Global Agriculture Monitoring (GEOGLAM), Global Forest Observation Initiative (GFOI), Global Land Cover, Advanced Fire Information System, Global Biodiversity Observation Network (GEOBON), GEONETCast among others will ensure that GEO's primary objectives are accomplished.

It is therefore critical that we think about GEO beyond its current mandate and consider its renewal for the next ten years. We need to build on the strong foundation laid so far and make sure that the gains made are consolidated while we work to elevate GEO to its rightful place of influence. GEO occupies a unique position which is demonstrated by its achievements in a short space of time.

The GEO community must be commended for the sterling job done thus far (in implementing GEO vision and GEOSS).

GEO to Keep Unleashing the Power of Open Data

Remarks by the Minister of Science and technology

Press release from the GEO Conference

Geneva, 17 January 2014 – In Geneva today, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) received unanimous endorsement to unleash the power of open data for a second decade. There was agreement to continue building on the organization's first 10 years of pioneering environmental advances, which are designed to improve the quality of life of people everywhere. Fueled by open data, GEO's efforts are now evident in most regions of the world. GEO is comprised of 90 member nations, the European Commission and 77 Participating Organizations.

"GEO is successfully meeting its mandate, which is to make data and other information open, accessible and easy to discover for decision makers around the world," said Mr. Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment. "GEO's vision is now operational, a proven force for putting sound science to work across nine essential areas: agriculture, biodiversity, climate, disasters, ecosystems, energy, health, water and weather."

GEO-X SA STATEMENT

From Department of Science and Technology

 Thank you Chair

 

We would like to highlight some of the advances made by South Africa with respect to Earth Observation and our contributions to GEO vision and GEOSS.

South Africa, through the Department of Science and Technology, has made major strides in the development and implementation of the South African Earth Observation Strategy (SAEOS), which is aimed at promoting an integrated Earth observation system. The strategy, approved in October 2006 and launched during the margins of the GEO IV Plenary in Cape Town, captures the country’s response to the 10-year Implementation Plan for a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). The SAEOS Earth Observation Data Centre and the web-based Portal have been developed and are currently being operationalised and institutionalised. The Portal is integrated to the GCI and contributed resources to the GEOSS Data-CORE. South Africa strongly believes that the SAEOS model could form the basis for other African EO strategies.

Chair

National Communities of Practice have been established and these have been encouraged to contribute to GEO Work Plan and activities. South Africa is now active in 19 GEO tasks and is lead of 4 components. For a country with limited resources and capacity, this is a significant contribution. South Africa – through NEOSS, has also played a significant support role in launching AfriGEOSS and promoting the initiative within the GEO community and in other relevant platforms. Furthermore, South Africa is involved in (and will continue to be involved in) initiatives such as the Africa Working Group on Land Cover Mapping, GEO Global Agriculture Monitoring (GEOGLAM), Blue Planet, GEO Global Biodiversity Network (GEOBON), African Water Cycle Initiative and GEO Common Infrastructure (GCI). In all these initiatives South Africa has both contributed and benefited from its participation.

With further development and enhancement of the SAEOSS Portal, South Africa continues to contribute to data discovery and access of space, aerial and in-situ datasets.

Chair

The Research and Development institutions in South Africa like the CSIR, are actively applying the standards and interoperability philosophy promoted by GEO such that important locally produced datasets can be freely shared and accessed. For example, through Sensor Web Enablement Southern Ocean datasets that were not previous openly available have been incorporated into SAEOSS. GEO-Spatial infrastructure that can be shared and accessed across the continent has been established at the CSIR and is used to host data and operational services accessible to all. Our institutions are also actively working on Earth Observation projects with many of our other African partners and are making use of GEO led innovations like GEONETCAST together with mobile technology to provide access to EO services as a way to deal with infrastructure challenges.

Successful launch of Tshepiso Sat

Congratulations on the successful launch of TshepisoSat (Code name ZA-CUBE1) - South Africa's first cubesat!

SA's first nano-satellite, code named ZACUBE-1, designed and built by Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) postgraduate students to monitor space weather, took off today from the Yasny Launch Base in Russia, on top of a RS-2OB Dnepr rocket. The tiny 1,2kg cube will travel 6-billion kilometres in space before re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere

Funded by the South African Department of Science & Technology, the nano-satellite was designed and built by CPUT postgraduate students participating in the Satellite Systems Engineering Programme at the French South African Institute of Technology (F'SATI) in Bellville, in collaboration with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). ZACUBE-1 has also received its official licence from the South African Council for Space Affairs (SACSA) and will now be included in South Africa's national register of space assets.

ZACUBE-1 will orbit earth up to 15 times a day at an altitude of 600km. "The launch of ZACUBE-1 marks a momentous achievement in the technology landscape of this country through the development of new and necessary skills and knowledge that will play a significant part in moving us toward a sought after knowledge economy," said SANSA CEO, Dr. Sandile Malinga, who was speaking at CPUT's Bellville campus today, where students and guests witnessed the launch (at 9.10am South African time), from the Yasny launch base, located in the Orenburg Region, Russia, via a live audio-feed.

"This new satellite will enable data gathering on space weather for SANSA which is integral to the understanding and monitoring of solar activity during this period of solar maxima," he added. "This is a phenomenon that can have critical implications to the functionality of our technology and electrical power system on Earth as well as the operation of satellites."

Exciting opportunities at the Space Agency

SANSA is embarking on a drive to foster the development and growth of a viable space industry in South Africa. The envisaged space industry should be sufficiently large and diverse
enough to meet national needs and goals on space, and will ultimately be the primary custodian and developer of our space technology base, including capabilities to design, build and where and when appropriate, operate space and ground-based assets.

The agency is offering the following vacancies for taented South Africans who can make a valuable contribution to the space industry of this country.

 - Executive Director: Space Programme (Pretoria) – 5 Year Contract

- Space Industry Development Specialist (Pretoria) - 1 Year Contract

- Software Developer (Contract)

- Engineer (2 year contract in Hermanus)

Should you be interested in applying, please register your detailed CV at http://www.sansa.org.za/careers/vacancies

We wish you the best of luck!

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