The 8th African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment Conference opened at UN-ECA in Addis Ababa gathering distinguished geoscientists, educators, researchers, decision makers, practitioners and allied service providers from over 100 countries endorsing the truly international character of the AARSE Conference.
The Conference, which is being held from 25 to 30 October 2010, is organized by the ICT and Science & Technology Division (ISTD) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment in cooperation with the Ethiopian Mapping Agency and in partnership with the Network for the Co-operative Management of Environmental Information in Africa (EIS-Africa) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (IEEE-GRSS). The Conference is sponsored by the Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI), Astrium, GIS Development and the European Space Agency (ESA).
The primary objective of the Conference is to increase the awareness of African decision makers, scientists and institutions, the private sector and the society at large, on the benefits of developing, applying and utilizing the products and services of geo-information and space technology in the sustainable management of Africa’s natural resources and environment, as well as potential applications of these technologies for poverty alleviation. This objective also addresses the continent’s needs for national geo-information systems for monitoring its ecosystems on a sustainable basis.
In her welcoming remarks, Ms. Jennifer Kargbo, Acting Deputy Executive Secretary of ECA, on behalf of the Executive Secretary, Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, indicated that the African continent was struggling with major pressing issues, in addition to challenges such as climate change, water, and other environmental stresses. She advised that a major imperative would be “to master the production, management and dissemination of information and knowledge that could promote and sustain social and economic development, whilst mitigating the effects of disasters”. She also stressed that “value-added information can and should be represented spatially in order to facilitate informed-decisions, hence providing the right services at the right time at the right place”. In light of this, she alluded to the fact ECA not only continued to champion the use of space technology and information services to make Africa spatially enabled but also implemented and supported member States in activities to improve the understanding and use of space-based information technologies for decision-making in the various sectors of development.
The Conference was officially opened by His Excellency Mr. Mahamouda Gass, State Minister, Ministry of Science and Technology of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. In his opening remarks he indicated that the agenda of AARSE 2010, “Earth Observation for Africa’s Development corresponded to the current concerted efforts to gear of Africa’s natural resource towards enhancing its development. He noted that the Conference “will address Africa’s development and the needs and the potential of space science and technology to meet some of the key challenges of the continent’s social and economic growth endeavor”. He also noted the various areas of the economy where application of geospatial products was central in policy making such as, good governance, security, population census, land administration, environmental monitoring, public utilities, boundaries, conflict resolution, culture, tourism, communication, health, transport, etc. He also stressed that “to leverage the potential of Earth Observation, the continent needed readily available skilled manpower and an enabling infrastructure”.
In the several messages good-will delivered during the opening ceremony and the ensuing two keynote addresses, it was noted that space exploration capacity was improving in Africa with many countries participating in a variety of notable space technology initiatives. However, the continent needed to strengthen institutions of higher learning and national and regional institutions to enable countries to acquire the desired capacity for research and development. Speakers also advocated for an African Space Agency sustained by an appropriate space policy taking into account existing initiatives and governance fora such as the Committee on Development Information, Science & Technology (CODIST).
An Exhibition of space based technology products and services was also opened with 30 exhibitors showcasing their offerings. During the week, several papers will be presented and participants will deliberate on the various issues emanating from the conference themes. The conference will end on Friday 29 October 2010.