Big data from space to be used for disaster prevention in Africa

Big data from space to be used for disaster prevention in Africa

On Monday, outer space and disaster response experts gathered at a United Nations forum to discuss how “big data” including social media, crowd sourcing and satellite imaging, can reduce the risk of natural disasters in Africa and support response efforts when they strike, according to a report by the UN.

Big data are extremely large datasets, which, upon analysis can reveal complex patterns in real-world situations such as the movement of people or humanitarian needs in the aftermath of a disaster.

According to the UN’s Platform for Space-based Information, Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER), this type of data and satellite imagery could be beneficial for both disaster risk and sustainable development.

UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) commented:

“Space and big data technologies are already…important elements in early warning systems, central to effective disaster preparedness, and feature prominently in the Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement.”

In addition, the applications of space technology and newer domains, including big data, are vital for developing countries. The UN office explained:

“[These] countries are particularly susceptible to the impact of natural hazards as societies are more vulnerable and exposed, and less resilient to recover when disasters strike.”

The forum, entitled “Towards Big (Space) Data in Support of Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Response in Africa”, identified ways to strengthen African countries’ capacity in the use of big data and satellite technologies, as well as the technical needs in the continent, and to tailor UN-SPIDER support efforts on the continent, according to the UN report. 

The AIDF Global Summit will return to Washington D.C, in 2019. 

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Image credit: Scott Kelly/NASA

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