2020 Global geospatial initiatives during the times of pandemic
Remarkably, the year 2020 set in motion facing a pandemic that was instigated by the novel coronavirus disease-COVID-19. This left the world off guard during the preliminary months, and it triggered the dependence of every country to geospatial data archives to contain the virus spread while developing a vaccine solution. On the brighter aspect, the pandemic has been undoubtingly accelerating the rate our technology and researches progress. This provided the local communities protection and an adaptive environment to support our new lifestyle, work setup and public health security whereas assisted governments and decision makers in drafting guidelines and protocols.
A view of the global geospatial initiatives against COVID-19 full story has been prepared by several agencies like the report by the Thematic Research Network on Data Statistics (TReNDS) of the United Nations (UN). Highlights of the COVID-19 timeline introduce us to global geospatial capabilities, which present usability of space-based data and geospatial analysis. Every country has its unique approach that works based on its community structures and government policies.
- In Greece, The Centre of Earth Observation Research and Satellite Remote Sensing Project BEYOND, launched a platform, during the early month of March, for COVID-19 monitoring. Its vision is to provide guidelines on risk assessment and early warning device using APIs. These APIs contain several information such as air quality (in-situ and through EO Data-Sentinel satellite imagery), environmental parameters, country statistics and analytics on normalized data. These APIs are also linked to official portals of the World Health Organization (WHO), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and other agencies to ensure applicability of data at several scale and at different value chain.
- There are a number of initiatives in Africa separately prepared by the government and private sector. To mention, a partnership, which involved the ESRI, Graphtech and the African Association for Geospatial Development (AGEOS) introduced GIS to Tunisia Ministry of Health. They developed a georeferenced database of medical-related resources such as apparatuses, facilities and available staffs, which are associated with essential services accessible to each community. Meanwhile, its South African National Space Agency (SANSA), publicly shares its space-based geospatial data to help decision makers on implementing national response guidelines. Its geospatial data provides information on vehicle movement during lockdowns, community density maps for resources distribution and periodic air quality resulting from temporary community quarantine.
- In China, the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research (IGSNRR) released its COVID-19 Knowledge & Data Hub. This platform, aside from the typical global and national COVID-19 statistics, offers links to up-to-date researches and briefings about the virus and periodic announcements being released by the WHO.
- In Canada, a centralized geospatial hub, which focused on agricultural food security, food transportation and distribution was introduced by the Statistics Canada on early July of the year. Whereas the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation (CCMEO) created a cloud-based platform that presents COVID-19 case statistics. This platform leveraging from machine learning and artificial intelligence is in partnership with ESRI Canada and Amazon Web Services.
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States, aside from collaborations with established space agencies like the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and European Space Agency (ESA), hosted a hackathon last October 2020. This event made a huge collection of ideas about COVID-19 facts, economic opportunities and impacts and local solutions using the agency’s space-based data.
These are just some of the featured efforts by our geospatial sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we have read about it, geospatial technology plays an important function in influencing present and future government policies, which direct the implementation of on-the-ground solutions. We will be expecting more about this technology as we move forward on the succeeding years.