i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Archive for the ‘India’ Category

GRACE abounds!

Posted by Simon Adebola on July 1, 2010

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are to continue their collaboration on the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission on till 2015. Full story here

Data from NASA's GRACE satellites helps gauge groundwater fluctuations in northwestern India and elsewhere. (National Geographic Society Website)

Image courtesy Trent Schindler and Matt Rodell, NASA

Results from this mission have proven invaluable in tracking the amount of underground water, ice, and global sea levels. This is of key essence in preparing for hazards related to water shortages, rising sea levels, and ocean currents. It is also important that scienctists and researchers on the African continent take advantage of such data to develop intelligent systems that would help guide the development of climate adaptation, disaster preparedness, and mitigation efforts. The role of international cooperation, capacity building, and financial support is very crucial here. Efforts should also be made to engage communities proactively, and empower them to cope with these foreseeable challenges.

More on GRACE here


Posted in Africa, Climate change, Disaster management, Drought, Earth observation, Global Security, India, NASA, Satellites, Science, Space science and technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dust and Droughts in Africa

Posted by Simon Adebola on August 20, 2009

The plight of African farming and the need to develop adaptive systems to cope with the changes that may be forced on African populations due to environmental change has been touched on in an earlier post. The role that early warning systems can play in shaping this adaptive response has also been discussed in another post. This post has as its focus an examination of the interactions, as often abound in nature, between factors in the African environment, and how these interactions could contribute to the challenges being faced with precipitation, drought and food security. The role of space science and technology in arming researchers, scientists and government policy makers with the right information and predictive tools to evolve appropriate and evidence-based responses to these challenges is highlighted.

The flow of dust on the African continent is abundant. It has some of the world’s largest sandy deserts- the Sahara (the world’s largest hot desert), the Kalahari and the Namib. The Arabian desert extending from Egypt to Iran is also close by. These supply a stream of dust propelled by the trade winds and which blow huge amounts of dust over the continent towards the equator and the oceans. The effect of these dusty winds on rainfall is by acting as aerosols and interfering with the coalescing of water droplets in rain clouds. This leads to a dispersion effect on the water droplets, preventing rain drop formation and hence precipitation. The scourge of reducing annual rainfall on many parts of the African continent is as shown in the picture below. The socio-economic impact of this is better avoided. Food and water shortages in Kenya this year left about a third of the population in need of aid.

Drought in Africa 2009 (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Another effect of dust clouds is on Sea Surface Temperature (SST) and its ensuing effect on tropical storms. Although not a major problem for the continent on its Atlantic end, the propagation of El Niño-La Niña events has been linked to droughts, tropical rainfall, storms, floods, malaria and even cholera incidence in some parts of Africa. The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) also bears links to other diseases. Space technologies play a crucial part in defining and predicting the occurence of these events and may also aid the mitigation process.
Atlantic Ocean Temperatures at End of June 2009 (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Aerosol Optical and Dynamic Propoerties (Source: NASA Goddard)

Amongst other uses of space technologies in keeping track of these environmental variables, their use in monitoring groundwater has also been demonstrated. Using results from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) a joint NASA and DLR mission, a team of NASA researchers demonstrated receeding groundwater stores in India, most likely due to irrigation that has relied on these groundwater sources. Thus using satellite technology it is now possible to generate a comprehensive monitoring system that keeps track of not only the environmental variables affecting precipitation and drought, but also the effectiveness and effect of countermeasures developed as part of the anti-drought response.

More info here

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Drought, Earth observation, Epidemiology, Flooding, Health, India, NASA, Satellites, Science, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | 2 Comments »

A Boost for Tele-Education In Africa

Posted by Simon Adebola on April 24, 2009

A major use of satellites is in providing educational instruction to remote locations. This is especially important for rural community dwellers. The same satellite-based connections can also support telemedicine and other e-Commerce and e-Government activities. This has been recently provided for African students and communities by the Indian Government’s initiatives in supporting African education, government and healthcare delivery through the Pan-African e Network.


This network would connect 5 regional universities, 53 learning centers, 5 regional Super Specialist Hospital (SSHs) and 53 remote hospitals in all countries of Africa. The Indian contribution includes 7 Universities and 12 Super Speciality Hospitals providing expert domain services through Tele-education and Tele-medicine. This is a major boost and pilot projects are already under way in Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. According to the website, “This network will cover 53 Member States in African Union and provides VSAT based star network with 116 + 53 VSAT terminals equally distributed over all the Members States and a Hub located in one of the African Union Member States.”
You can learn more from, Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL), Pan-African e-Network Project Website

Posted in Africa, Development, Education, Healthcare, India, Satellites, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Educational initiatives from space

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 10, 2007

“There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight”
“But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society.”
-Vikram Sarabhai, father of the Indian space program

In 2004 the Indian space research organization (ISRO) launched a communications satellite designated for the sole purpose of providing communications services for educational purposes. EDUSAT as the satellite was called was built in India and launched using locally developed launch technology.
A few months before the launch of the EDUSAT satellite ISRO organized a conference for educationists and administrators in the educational sector on the capabilities of the satellite and how it could serve the educational institutions. The conference laid out the background for the program.
In their words, “The pivotal role of education as an instrument of social change by altering the human perspective and transforming the traditional mindset of society is well recognised. The universalisation of education has become the top priority, especially for the developing countries. But the extension of quality education to remote and rural regions becomes a Herculean task for a large country like India with multi-lingual and multi-cultural population separated by vast geographical distances and in many instances, inaccessible terrain. Since independence, India has seen substantial increase in the number of educational institutions at primary, secondary and higher levels as well as the student enrolment. But 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”. 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.
This utilization of satellite technology in enhancing educational activity is critical in overcoming the challenge of providing good quality education for all, especially rural and semi-urban dwellers. This would help to bridge the wide literacy gap between Africa and the educationally advanced nations. It would also help to conserve the quality of the educational material while assisting in broadening the horizons of the budding minds of our children and youth. Our governments should be encouraged to focus their attention on measures like this that would phenomenally impact socio-economic development.

Posted in Africa, Education, India, Space, Technology | 1 Comment »