i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Africa the Beautiful

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 30, 2011

Yes it is, just check it out yourself and do come visit. Africa is so beautifully diverse and enchantingly alluring it draws you- a free people, so real.

Suguta Valley, Kenya
Suguta Valley, Kenya.

Nyamuragira Volcano Democratic Republic of Congo
Nyamuragira Volcano Democratic Republic of Congo.

Great Dyke, Zimbabwe.
Great Dyke, Zimbabwe.

Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Great Bitter Lake, Suez canal, Egypt.
Great Bitter Lake, Suez canal, Egypt.

Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, Tanzania.
Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, Tanzania.

Namib Desert, Namibia
Namib Desert, Namibia

All images are from the NASA Earth Observatory.

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Keeping a Hand on the Pulse of Agriculture on the Continent

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 30, 2011

This post shows the use of satellite imagery to chronicle how natural and man-made events (floods, fires, and wasting droughts) contribute to the success and failure of the agricultural economy responsible for shaping and sustaining the livelihoods of millions of Africans. All images are from the NASA Earth Observatory.

Southern Africa flooding February 2011
Southern Africa flooding February 2011

Zambezi river flooding, Zambia and Namibia, February 2011
Zambezi river flooding, Zambia and Namibia, February 2011

Drought in East Africa, Image taken in January 2010,
Vegetation Anomaly (percent)
Drought in East Africa, Image taken in January 2010,

Fires in Okavango delta, Botswana, October 2010.
Fires in Okavango delta, Botswana, October 2010.

Flooded Oueme river, Benin, October 2010.
Flooded Oueme river, Benin, October 2010.

Revived and Flooded Boteti River, Botswana., September 2010.
Revived and Flooded Boteti River, Botswana., September 2010.

Bush burning, Angola and DRC, June 2010.
Bush burning, Angola and DRC, June 2010.

Flooded Pungue river, Mozambique, March 2010
Flooded Pungue river, Mozambique, March 2010

Flooding in North-central Tanzania, January 2010.
Flooding in North-central Tanzania, January 2010.

Agricultural fires across West Africa, December 2009.
Agricultural fires across West Africa, December 2009.

Fires in and around Mozambique, September 2009.
Fires in and around Mozambique, September 2009.

Flooding in West Africa, September 2009.
Flooding in West Africa, September 2009.

Posted in Africa, Drought, Earth observation, Flooding, Humanitarian emergencies, NASA, Satellites, Southern Africa, Space science and technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Use of Technology for Elections and Civil Empowerment

Posted by Simon Adebola on March 6, 2011

There was much anxiety and anger in Nigeria recently concerning the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it was not going to be using the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines, that it invested about 35 billion Naira in purchasing, for the upcoming April 2011 elections. The anger stems from the fact that it is believed that the use of electronic registration and voting could help minimize the risk of a fraudulent conduct of the upcoming elections. In addition, so much had been invested in these machines that it struck many as simply horrendous that the last voters registration exercise (with its faults) was the last that was going to be seen of these machines, or at least so it seemed. Well without seeking to speak in defence of the INEC, it is true that unless there is a firm legal basis for the use of these machines in the elections, it would be preposterous to assume that their use would be appropriate. Moreso, recent international experience has shown that e-voting is not without its challenges. Legal actions have been known to push for the overturning of extensive civil investments if there is a fault in their conduct or execution that suggests that they were not legal or constitutional in the first place. No institution would go ahead and use these machines to conduct elections and then be told that the voting should be annuled because it is not legal. About the continued use of the machines, there is no assurance that the current INEC leadership would be in power beyond this round of elections, so it is appropriate for them to comment about the upcoming elections and not any of the further potential uses of the machines. I believe they have not ruled out any of these potential future uses, but have only spoken on that which is immediate and pertinent to the country at this time.

This short piece is however aimed at picking on a few ideas to which the machines could be used. Some have suggested that they should be used for the voting process. They could also come in useful in the next national census exercise. There are also elections that would keep holding in different states and local governments, these machines would definitely be of use. In about 4 years, a new generation of voters would be eligible to exercise this civic responsibility and having such machines available would make their assimilation easy. Then what about the National ID card or was it not this same types of machines that were used the last time the ID registration took place in Nigeria? Then there is also the need to have accurate civil registration, vital statistics, and a comprehensive national demographic database. The lack of good quality data on demographic indices is a curse, I repeat, a curse. This condoned level of ignorance is sin. Okay, I rant so please bear with me.

First and foremost Nigerian engineers are capable of networking these machines and compiling a single secure database with all the data from these machines. Access to this database can be properly regulated and every action on the data fully recorded and logged for tracking purposes. This would ensure that they are not easily tampered with. Physical security of the machines and the data they are used in generating can be ensured through the building in of geotracking capability, backing up of the data, and other necessary physical measures to prevent their theft or misuse. When there is a single database for the collected data, it can be made accessible to the machines anywhere in the country for correlation and confirmation during voting. The kind of telecommunications infrastructure needed to do that may not exist all over Nigeria now, but it is hoped that by the next round of voter registration and elections such infrastructure would exist to permit the remote linking of these machines to a central database. Any government that cannot make broadband (be it fibre or wireless), 4G, or at least 3G available all over the country in four years should not have been voted-in in the first place. These uses would require a mix of hardware and software modifications, but it is clear that all it would take, having invested so much, is to take apart one of these machines, tinker with it, add the needed hardware, reprogram it with software as necessary, re-assemble the thing, and make it work to serve whatever purpose for which it is then intended for. This can then be duplicated for the other units. I hope that is legal. Whichever way, having invested 35 billon naira this time, the nation’s engineers should rise up to the challenge and build its own DDC machines.

Value needs to be placed on information as a source of empowerment, and as a social and civil vanguard. The use of technologies has become the cornerstone of the information age. Right before our eyes, the ability to generate, transmit, and share information is actively shaping social discourse. It is also giving room for a new social order and political determinism particularly among the younger generation, even where it was previously least expected. Information and access to it has bred a generation that can no longer be underestimated. What once amazed their parents was their versatility with fancy gadgets, but that has now steadily being transformed to raw power in calling for change, demanding for their rights, and reverting the socio-political order. The role of science and technology in shaping this rise of knowledge and power, is an indication for African engineers to take up the challenge to design and develop better software and hardware to enable the rapid uptake of technologies and information in this age. This is their unique role and charge. Educational systems have a major part to play in this needed technological revolution. All hands must be on deck!

Posted in Africa, Development, Innovation, Technology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Investing in Space is Profitable for Africa

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 21, 2010

Any close follower of international space programs would have noticed the difference between British space sector activities and those of other countries like the United States, Russia, and China. The major difference has been that the British do not have a human space programme. This was abandoned some decades ago and efforts have been focused on space science, non human space exploration, and space engineering. Although the discussion is ongoing, including the discussion about the tardiness of the British in establishing a space agency, it is clear that the British government is not willing to commit billions in taxpayers’ money towards a human space exploration program. All well and good.

As mentioned earlier, the country has however distinguished itself in astronomy, the manufacture of space payloads and scientific instruments for straightforward and complex missions, and in the manufacture of small satellites at relatively low costs. This has seen the success of private bodies such as the Surrey Space Technologies Limited, Guildford headed by Sir Martin Sweeting and now part of the EADS Astrium NV. It has also witnessed the cross-fertilisation of skills between astronomers, particle physicists, and space engineers and scientists. The rise of Britain as a force in Earth Observation, and even geo-navigation, is also linked to this emphasis on non human space exploration. Then of course one has to mention the growth of space-based telecommunications including broadband internet. Britain exported space tourism to the United States, but further regulations may yet enable the growth of the space tourism industry in the UK. The space industry in the UK keeps growing, according to a recent study, and has proven resistant to economic recession over the last 3 years. The Oxford Economics Consultancy study puts the value at a turnover of 7.5 billion pounds with a 15% employment growth rate.

The success of the British model which up till recently was driven by the innovativeness and commitment of disparate entities from the academia, private sector, professional associations, and interest groups, demonstrates that the ‘bread debate’ is a hapless distraction that has limited growth in the space sector in many developing countries. The ‘bread debate’ suggests that investment in space activities may not be worthwhile if there are other challenges such as poverty, health, and basic infrastructure. There is no doubt, however, that any venture that grows the economy, creates jobs, and drives innovation would ultimately bear on these stated challenges of poverty, health, infrastructure etc. This shows why investment in space activities rather than limit growth in the countries that choose it, has actually boosted economic growth, and generated spin-offs that are enhancing livelihoods. The UK has proven that investment in space need not be solely capital-intensive ventures like human space flight, but that there are many other aspects that hold huge promise for economic prosperity. There is a need for developing countries to change their attitudes and catch up on lost developments. The world is not waiting.

There has been much talk about an African Space Agency, externally driven by ‘Sinophobia’ and European interests. The game is going to be long-drawn. There is however something to be learned from the example of the UK Space Agency. It has commissioned this study that has benchmarked the terrain and adjudged the economic value and potential for growth of the space sector in the UK. It has also clearly laid out a 20 year vision and strategy for growth as shown here. This is intended to be profitable, high tech, and environmentally friendly. It is by no means an inferiority complex-driven pursuit of fleeting national prestige, or an excuse for corrupt governments to enrich themselves, or a basis to trash out lame issues about geographical balance in international representations. Clarity, openness, transparency, foresight, and the common good should be some of the values that should drive a visionary policy that would pave the way for a successful African space program.

Posted in Africa, Development, Space science and technology | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Remote Sensing and Desertification

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 21, 2010

“Satellite imaging technology has been recognized as playing an important role in achieving this objective by using these methods for monitoring the areas most at risk to support land and water management decisions.

Earth observation (EO) satellite technologies allow land degradation processes to be monitored over time. Monitoring desertification, land degradation and droughts requires continuous evaluation, some of which can be retrieved with earth observation technologies and state-of-the-art geo-spatial applications.

High-spectral resolution satellite imagery can dramatically increase the accuracy of dryland monitoring. Hyperspectral imagery incorporated with field and laboratory data for analysis can be used to derive more quantitative and specific soil properties directly linked to soil degradation status, such as soil chemical properties, organic matter, mineralogical content, infiltration capacity, aggregation capacity, and runoff coefficient.

Combining satellite image data with weather data, numeric models and geographical information systems (GIS) are used to create standardized geo-information products.”

Full article here

Posted in Climate change, Drought, Satellites, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

African Space Round-Up

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 2, 2010

The African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) held its 8th International meeting last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The week long event held from the 25-29 October 2010. It explored themes around the applications of Earth Observation for Africa’s development agenda. More info here

The Group on Earth Observation would commence its seventh plenary session immediately followed by its ministerial summit, this week in Beijing, China. The events would hold respectively on the 3rd-4th and on the 5th of November 2010. Key issues about the GEO tasks and workplan would be discussed among others. GEO membership is currently made up of 84 member states and the European Commission. There are 21 African member states with Gabon being the most recent addition. The plenary and summit programme is available here

NASA sends terrabytes of data to African environmental scientists. Read more here

Posted in Africa, NASA, News, Space, Space science and technology | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Nigeria’s Climate Change Bill

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 2, 2010

A bill establishing a Climate Change Commission for Nigeria is said to be ready for Presidential assent. When in force, Nigeria would be the first African country with such legislation. The commission would be responsible for developing a national strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gas emission. This is important considering the risks of rising coastal waters, desert encroachment, and environmental pollution due to oil exploration and gas flaring.

“Other opportunities, as embedded in the bill, include undertaking the implementation and operation of the rules, institutions and procedures governing the national and international climate change regime as outlined in the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto protocol and the Marrakesh Accords, all of which Nigeria is a signatory to and has ratified.” (Alex Emeje: 234next.com)

It is hoped that the bill and the commission would lead to the development of appropriate policies that would serve the people and not just enrich a few. Emphasis should be placed on ensuring that the expected inflow of funding through the various facilities being deployed for climate adaptation, is not taken advantage of by corrupt individuals of which the nation is extremely sick and would love to eschew once and for all. It is also important that the various government arms and parastatals support the implementation of contained provisions. Further research needs to be conducted by local institutions to adequately assess climate risk on a local scale, and guide the institution of appropriate mitigation and adaptation measures. There is a major role for communication and advocacy here in enlightening the public to actual threats, and the need for the actions being taken by the government to protect its lands and peoples.

A link to the bill is here

Posted in Africa, Climate change | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Case File: MDG 3- Gender Equality

Posted by Simon Adebola on September 14, 2010

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Target 3A: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
o Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
o Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
o Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament

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Case File: MDG 1- End Poverty and Hunger

Posted by Simon Adebola on September 14, 2010

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Target 1A: Halve the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day
o Proportion of population below $1 per day (PPP values)
o Poverty gap ratio [incidence x depth of poverty]
o Share of poorest quintile in national consumption

Target 1B: Achieve Decent Employment for Women, Men, and Young People
o GDP Growth per Employed Person
o Employment Rate
o Proportion of employed population below $1 per day (PPP values)
o Proportion of family-based workers in employed population

Target 1C: Halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
o Prevalence of underweight children under five years of age
o Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption

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Case File: MDG 2- Universal Education

Posted by Simon Adebola on September 14, 2010

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

Target 2A: By 2015, all children can complete a full course of primary schooling, girls and boys
o Enrollment in primary education
o Completion of primary education
o Literacy of 15-24 year olds, female and male

Integrated Satellite Applications

    Rural Broadcasting

“The lack of adequate rural educational infrastructure and non-availability of good teachers in sufficient numbers adversely affect the efforts made in education. Satellites can establish the connectivity between urban educational institutions with adequate infrastructure imparting quality education and the large number of rural and semi-urban educational institutions that lack the necessary infrastructure. Besides supporting formal education, a satellite system can facilitate the dissemination of knowledge to the rural and remote population about important aspects like health, hygiene and personality development and allow professionals to update their knowledge base as well. Thus, in spite of limited trained and skilled teachers, the aspirations of the growing student population at all levels can be met through the concept of tele-education….. EDUSAT is the first exclusive satellite for serving the educational sector. It is specially configured to meet the growing demand for an interactive satellite-based distance education system for the country through audio-visual medium, employing Direct to Home (DTH) quality broadcast”. Indian Space Research Organisation on EDUSAT

A similar program in Mexico utilizes satellite technology to beam educational programs to 35,000 set top boxes in Mexico and even other parts of the continent.

Posted in Education, Millennium Development Goals, Satellites | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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