Science & Technology

Geospatial tech can fast-track sustainable development beyond COVID-19: UNESCAP

But re-skilling youth and investments to strengthen their technological skills will be essential  

 
By Kiran Pandey
Published: Wednesday 25 November 2020
Geospatial tech can fast-track sustainable development beyond COVID-19: UNESCAP. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Asian and Pacific nations are increasingly leveraging space technology and geospatial information to respond to challenges on the ground, including efforts to contain the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a new report.

‘Geospatial data’ means data that has a geographic component to it. This means that the records in a dataset have locational information tied to them such as geographic data in the form of coordinates, address, city and PIN code.

Geospatial Practices for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific 2020 was released virtually November 18, 2020, by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

Geospatial data, along with the existing statistics, were providing Asia-Pacific countries, with an additional layer of information to monitor the progress of the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

However, despite advances in the availability and quality of geospatial information, several gaps and challenges remained for its effective use at the regional and national levels, the report said.

Beyond COVID-19

The report noted that the world had faced the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which had put further strain on already fragile development efforts.

None of the UNESCAP member nations were on track to fully achieve the SDGs in the next decade.

“It is vital, now more than ever, that countries are leveraging past, present and emerging technologies, including geospatial technologies, for achieving the SDGs and ensuring that no one is left behind,” the report said.

To elaborate on this, the UN report included 100 best practices from over 25 countries in the Asia-Pacific region including India.

These underline the importance of using space technology and the geospatial information to support the SDGs.  

Praise for India

The report cited the role being played by ‘BHUVAN’, India’s national geo-portal developed and hosted by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in combating COVID-19. It also appreciated the water resource information system led by ISRO.

It also showed how some other Asian countries — Thailand, Indonesia, China — had rapidly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, leveraging geospatial information to aid in contract tracing, hotspot mapping and policy impact analysis, among others.

India was also been appreciated for making significant progress in responding to the demands of today’s cities by incorporating robust space technologies and Geographic Information System into the urban planning, transport management and traffic navigation techniques.

The report also flagged the role of the UN-led ‘Space+’ initiative that focuses on strengthening implementation through enhanced partnership with global and regional stakeholders.

Despite the progress, re-skilling of young workers and investments to strengthen their technological skills will be essential to support sustainable development and resilience in the Asia-Pacific region, the UNESCAP report said.

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