The UN-SPIDER programme of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the Centre for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) of the University of Bonn successfully concluded the UN-SPIDER Bonn International Conference: “Space-based Solutions for Disaster Management in Africa: Networks and Information Technologies in times of crisis”. The virtual conference brought together more than 130 experts and participants from African, Asian, and European institutions to take note of novel applications developed by the space community to contribute to disaster management efforts, and advances by African and European institutions on the use of satellite technologies in their activities.
The conference, held from 16 to 18 November, was opened by the Director of UNOOSA, Ms. Simonetta Di Pippo, who noted the need to address the challenges posed by hydrometeorological hazards using space technologies. Opening remarks were also provided by senior officers of the Africa and GMES programme of the African Union Commission (AUC) and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), and by representatives of the Rwanda Space Agency (RSA) and the National Disaster Management Centre of South Africa NDMC).
The conference included 29 presentations and a panel on capacity building efforts. Presentations were made by space agencies from Algeria, Germany and Rwanda. Additional presentations were made by disaster management agencies from Gambia and South Africa, and other government agencies from Mozambique and Nigeria. Other presentations were made by experts from several organizations of the United Nations, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), and the Fraunhofer Institute for Technological Trend Analysis. The conference also included presentations by the private companies Airbus Defence and Space, Microsoft Corporation and Maydai AI. The academic sector was represented by experts from the African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in English Language (ARCSSTE-E), DimTEC of the University of the Free State of South Africa, EO College of the University of Gena, the Ruhr Bochum University of Germany and the Institute for Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University (UNU-EHS). Presentations were also made by three UN-SPIDER Regional Support Offices: the Beyond Centre of Excellence of the National Observatory of Athens, the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).
During the discussion sessions, participants recognized the needs to continue awareness raising efforts regarding novel technologies, to carry out capacity building efforts recognizing different target audiences and using the modality of training or trainers, to enhance synergies between academia and government agencies engaged in disaster management activities, and to carry out simulations and table top exercises to explore how best to use novel technologies developed by the space community and the private sector.