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The GEO plenary was held this year in Kyoto. Two days of side-events were followed by the 2 day plenary session. It was the first for Gilberto Câmara, the new director of the secretariat following the term of Barb Ryan who reached the end of her mandate in June.

We organised a side-event on the Value of Earth Observations which became a joint event with GeoCradle. It was very hard to put together this year due to late designation and difficulty of taking contact with potential speakers. Whereas last year in Washington there was a strong participation from the US side encouraged and led by NASA and NOAA, this year there was little connection with the hosts and the GEO secretariat were stretched. Maybe the success in Washington led to an overstretch as there were too many side-events taking place at the same time so spreading the audience very thin.

The workshop was around the importance of regional initiatives to demonstrate value to stakeholders. GeoCradle has been very successful in pulling stakeholders together in the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa. Our workshop had 4 sessions dedicated to the role of regional initiatives, how to pull more research results into business, how to demonstrate the value of EO, and finally how to develop a future approach. We had a good participation and good audience even if we had hoped for more.

The success probably comes from the group which it creates and to maintain momentum around the 2 initiatives. GeoCradle has now been accepted into the GEO work-programme and, even if the core project funding ends in November, various means will be used to sustain the network which has been built up, and this workshop placed some foundations for this. In the future, the goal will be to increase the spread of the network to other countries in the region.

The maturity indicators and its overall methodology has been one success of the project which is being proposed into other projects and to various organisations. It is useful for understanding the gaps which exist in resources and where to place the focus of energy to increase EO uptake.

In terms of the Value of Earth Observation, for us, it is centred on the Sentinel Benefits analysis which we work on. New cases are being developed including short cases which focus on the story rather than analysing benefits in economic terms. The first short case was published on Peatland Management in the UK and further cases will appear at regular intervals.

A workshop is being planned on this very important topic, to take place in the first week of July next year. It will be hosted by ESRIN, Frascati and will include an open review of our project work on value-chain analysis. More information will be posted on our web-site as it becomes available.

During the plenary several topics stood out. The focus on EO to support the UN SDG’s attracted a lot of attention. There are many initiatives going on here and a call was made for the GEO secretariat to make a stronger co-ordination between them. EARSC is following the activities especially that led by UN-GGIM and the project work under ESA with the goal to promote the industrial contribution and seek to increase commercial opportunities.

A new category of membership of GEO is foreseen. At present, only nations and international organisations can be members or participating organisations. For some time, GEO has wished to bring the private sector more into the picture. Hence an Associate member can be a company or national body. The rules are to be worked out with the goal to have many Associate members present at the next plenary which will be in Canberra, Australia next year. EARSC will participate to the working group looking at the rights and obligations of Associate members.

Gilberto sprung a surprise during his presentation launching his vision for GEO. He announced his goal to focus on in-situ data and to make this available through a curated cloud data-centre. He also announced that Amazon had made $1.5m available to start this process and an open call would be launched shortly to attract bids of up to $100k to contribute to this. It is a massive new departure for GEO which will bear watching very closely. It raises many questions on the future direction.

Alongside the plenary, we were able to hold a business event bringing European and Japanese companies together. The theme was on platforms and I’ll write about that next time.


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2 Comments

  1. Geoff Sawyer AUTHOR

    Response by mail from Gilberto asking to publish clarifications:


    Dear Geoff: 

    First of all, we would like to express our appreciation for EARSC for your participation in the GEO Kyoto Plenary. I am also writing to ask for a correction on the information about GEO that has been featured in the EARSC blog, in the link GEO Week 2018:

    "Gilberto sprung a surprise during his presentation launching his vision for GEO. He announced his goal to focus on in-situ data and to make this available through a curated cloud data-centre. He also announced that Amazon had made $1.5m available to start this process and an open call would be launched shortly to attract bids of up to $100k to contribute to this. It is a massive new departure for GEO which will bear watching very closely. It raises many questions on the future direction."

    I would appreciate if you correct the above statement. The truth is as follows:

    1. There is no relation between the in-situ data repository that GEO wants to build and the Amazon grant we have received.

    2. GEO has publicly stated that it intends to build an in-situ repository based on public data clouds and not on private data clouds such as Amazon. In the months to come, we will be looking at potential partners in the public sector to carry out this task. 

    3. The GEO Secretariat is fully convinced that the global outreach of Earth observation data should be based on cloud services. The purpose of the Amazon grant is to reduce the barriers to entry to the use of Earth observation data to countries in the Global South. Currently, there is limited participation of countries of the Global South in GEO. We intend to improve this by providing support for these countries to use cloud services, based on the implementation of a free and open data policy. 

    4. The Amazon grant is not, as you state, "a massive new departure for GEO". In fact, the grant is based on the policy of engagement with the private sector that has been approved by the GEO Plenary. The agreement with Amazon was fully conducted according to the GEO Rules of Procedure. There has been no departure from the Rules and Principles that govern GEO. 

    We value strongly the participation of EARSC in GEO, since we welcome the engagement of the private sector in GEO.  The GEO Secretariat remains at full disposal of EARSC for further discussion. In the meantime, we would appreciate of you could publish our response (this email) in your blog, on the interest of full transparency to the EARSC community. 

    Finally, please also correct my name in your blog. My name is "Gilberto Câmara"(with a circumflex accent) and not "Gilberto Camaro", as stated. 

    Many thanks,

    Gilberto.

    1. Geoff Sawyer AUTHOR

      Dear Gilberto,

      Many thanks for your mail and my apologies for giving you cause to write it. I was careless in publishing as is evidenced by the error in your name which I had not picked up.

      However, it has a positive side and I really appreciate your illumination on the points raised and, as requested, I am very happy to publish your mail alongside my blog as clarification. As an aside, we had to turn off the open comments feature in the blog due to machine spamming. I would dearly like to reopen this as a forum for public exchange.

      Maybe I am wrong, but I believe this is the first time a private company - or maybe even any non-member organisation - has made funds available directly through GEO – certainly of the scale which you announced. This is a great achievement; but it also seems like quite a large new departure to me. I am not at all against this, quite the contrary, I am just concerned that this is managed in a way that does not tilt the playing field to the detriment of smaller companies. If Amazon can help increase the uptake of EO then this should be to the benefit of all – and especially the “Global South”.

      EARSC fully supports the goal of engagement with the private sector. We shall continue to work with you to ensure that companies are able to support the GEO goals. We fully understand the attraction of bringing large players with consequent investment, but we also wish to ensure that the smaller companies, which constitute the large majority of our constituency, are able to participate in complete transparency.

      The changes which you bring to GEO are significant and bring many challenges. If I can contribute further in any way, then please do not hesitate to let me know.

      My best wishes

      Geoff