Contribution of space-based technologies to existing and proposed Early Warning Systems

Moderator:       Douglas PATTIE (UNISDR-PPEW)


The development and usability of early warning systems contributes to the socio-economic development by reducing the impact of hazards and increasing the resilience of its people and structures. This session examined how public-private partnerships (PPP) centered on space-based technologies can enable the development, establishment and embedding of early warning systems. The speakers and participants highlighted efforts to gather, analyze and evaluate the demand for EWS and how PPP could propose and initiate projects and provide solutions.

Key questions and topics discussed:

  • How do space-based technologies play a connection role between donors and recipients, between national and international organizations?
  • Are space-based technologies transforming the growing involvement of the private sector into sustainable public partnerships that could initiate projects and provide solutions?
  • What appropriate and efficient instruments communicate with the demand side (typically governments in need of EW systems) so that the demand language is received by the private supply sector without distortion?
  • Do the UN systems establish the right interfaces to address the public and private sector on national and international level to promote and place the demand side in a form and language which is understood from the public and private sectors?

Recommendations and Perspectives

The session focused on the experiences of a number of multinational companies and NGOs dealing with space-based data and highlighted the possible linkages between disaster risk reduction, technology, data dissemination and public-private partnerships (PPP). As the flagship UN document for disaster reduction, the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005) in its priority action 4 “Reduce the underlying risk factors” is requesting the promotion and establishment of public–private partnerships in order to better engage the private sector in disaster risk reduction activities. Along with the UN Global Compact it encourages the private sector to foster a culture of disaster prevention, putting greater emphasis on, and allocating resources to disaster preparedness activities such as risk assessments and early warning systems. 

This partnership perspective was noted by InfoTerra which has focused on their core business, space data provision, from which opportunities and partnerships that contribute to both profit and the planet are a key feature. The Global Runoff Data Centre (GRDC), Koblenz, Germany continues to play a role as a facilitator between data providers and data users. GDRC immediate goals in partnership building include:

  • Approaching participating countries to inform on status and request additional metadata, time series data and access to near realtime data;
  • Re-approaching not participating countries to reconsider their position and to participate in future projects;
  • Finalising river discharge station selection together with participating countries;
  • Adopting real-time data collection software; and
  • Investigating funding options together with related programmes.

The Sri Lanka-based NGO, LIRNEasia, provided an effective last mile solution within its proposed national warning system. In this type of advocacy and awareness raising partnership, the private sector partners (ICT–oriented companies) work with other stakeholders to take a leadership role in broadly disseminating information and training opportunities on the various type of hazard information in the warning chain. WorldSpace satellite radios can play a significant role given proper funding and implementation strategies that incorporate appropriate training and the participation of communities.

Recommendations from the National Disaster Reduction Center of China noted that international and domestic cooperation is essential for disaster reduction and should be expanded in greater scope and depth. 

Actively developing case studies for capacity building from the aspects of cooperation mechanism, scientific research and technical improvement is greatly needed. For the Ukraine Space Research Institute data integration for natural disaster monitoring requires a partnership that can deliver freely accessible, available and standardized data. Lack of in-situ measurements, especially for developing countries remains an important issue where the need is for more than a portal. A distributed information infrastructure is desirable where specific methods for data fusion and data assimilation should be developed.

In social investment and philanthropy partnerships, the private sector provides financial support, contribute volunteers or expertise, or make in-kind contributions, including product donations. Regarding these types of partnership ESRI, a global GIS developer, noted that the lack of standard data sets across state and county boundaries were a problem following the Katrina hurricane in the USA. In the Katrina disaster there was no central capability to integrate dynamic data for a single view of damage, status, situational awareness. It was noted that certain applications for GIS developed in one area would not work in another area with different data. As a result, ESRI now builds partnerships based on fusing all types of physical and temporal geo databases into fusion centers.

Overall, this session explored how successful reduction of disaster risks requires the involvement and sustained commitment of both public and private parties. Multi-stakeholder national institutes, companies and other forums can encourage dialogue and develop common interests. When common threats from natural hazards and mutual benefits of reducing risks are well understood, private-public community partnerships with space-based industries can emerge as a tool for disaster reduction.

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