Open Data Cube technology utilises satellite data to improve water management in developing countries

The Australian Water Partnership (AWP) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) hosted a workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, on 12-14 November, focusing on the application of Open Data Cube (ODC) technology and other key water tools in international development.

The ODC forms part of the Australian WaterTools package, which AWP helps to apply in developing countries.

The recent workshop assisted participants to build an understanding of the ODC, an open source framework in which satellite imagery datasets help to provide innovative solutions to the problem of storing, analysing and using the ever-increasing amounts of data being produced.

During the workshop, participants were able to identify tools and applications already in use that could be linked with ODC, identify countries, regions and programs where this platform could be applied to support development activities, and discuss future development activities – including potential pilot programs – in Africa.

Australia’s own implementation of the ODC, through Digital Earth Australia, has put earth observation data into the hands of government and business decision makers for more targeted and efficient natural resource management. It is also driving economic growth by providing reliable, analysis-ready earth observation data for use by Australia’s farmers, miners and environmental service providers.

The IWMI Water Secure Africa Initiative (WASA), part of a larger “big data” effort at IWMI, is designed to help Africa confront and manage the growing challenges of water scarcity in an environment of inadequate on-ground data by using rapid technological advances to support innovation, provide new insights and drive action.

During the workshop, there was a consensus that the combination of Digital Earth Australia and WASA present an invaluable opportunity to fundamentally change how water management issues are handled across the African continent. This collaboration has the potential to combine operational, continental-scale earth observation data from Digital Earth Africa with the on-ground networks and water management expertise of IWMI, providing solutions to some of Africa’s “wicked” water resource management challenges.

A current process initiated by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data has already established a partnership to deliver a regional ODC pilot – the African Regional Data Cube (ARDC). Africa’s first regional ODC – covering Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Senegal – is a pioneering project designed to demonstrate the value of ODC technologies on-the-ground while also understanding key technical, institutional and capacity challenges.

Many potential applications that could be built using the ODC were discussed during the workshop, including basin water accounting, catchment modelling, the development of flood and drought risk maps and rangeland management and ecosystem service maps and products.

Feature photo: opendatacube.org

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