Global Dialogues on Emerging Science and Technology (GDEST): Geospatial Sciences for Sustainable Development in Africa
In March 2008, the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary (STAS) and Office of the Geographer and Global Issues led a group of fifteen government, non-government, and university experts to Africa to explore opportunities for establishing and deepening linkages and cooperation on geospatial sciences for sustainable development. The objective was to build upon existing capacity in this area and to foster collaboration between U.S. and African institutions and individuals, as well as among African organizations themselves. This effort, which is under the STAS-led Global Dialogues on Emerging Science and Technology (GDEST) program, involved visits to institutions in nine African countries (Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Botswana, and South Africa) followed by a conference in South Africa sponsored jointly by the University of Cape Town and the U.S. Department of State.
The U.S. delegation was divided into two teams, East and West, and included members from the State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit and its Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science, as well as representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Census Bureau, Purdue University, the University of Kansas, the University of Virginia, the American Geographical Society, the Association of American Geographers, and the Universities Space Research Association. The teams conducted over 50 site visits and met with dozens of African experts in the fields of remote sensing interpretation and modeling, GIS cartography and analysis, surveying, mining, climate, hydrology, agriculture, education, population, satellite systems, and information and communication technology (ICT). The U.S. delegation will, both in coordination with U.S. Embassies in the countries visited and individually, follow up on linkages and acquaintances made during their site visits and continue discussions on specific projects for which there are opportunities for partnerships and collaboration.
The GDEST conference, held in Cape Town, South Africa, from March 14-17, 2008 was organized based on three themes: observing Africa, analysis of regional challenges, and the African data stream. Nearly 100 practitioners of geospatial sciences from government, universities, and NGOs in 15 countries attended to present papers and discuss their current research and activities. In addition, conference participants sought to re-invigorate and sustain U.S.-African scientific collaboration by identifying areas for joint engagement.
The picture which emerged at the conference was one of significant progress since the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in terms of the number and reach of geospatial technologies, applications, and coordination, both regionally and in individual countries. Despite progress, optimal use of geo-information and associated technologies is constrained by a lack of coordination among users and data producers, a lack of resources, and a lack of access to suitable data. The vision promoted at the conference was to make better use of the critical mass of U.S. and African scientists and practitioners to create a sustainable, critical mass of African expertise, undergirded by the indigenous educational infrastructure and utilizing appropriate tools for the full utilization of geospatial information. A full conference report will be made available in the near future, and plans are also being considered to publish selected papers delivered at the conference.
GDEST Africa 2008