A satellite network that literally spans the globe is being created around the world. More than 80 countries around the world have already put satellites into orbit – for commercial applications as well as for research projects. More and more institutions are using space data and services for scientific, commercial or non-profit purposes. It is estimated that the global space sector will grow from the current $380 billion to more than $2.7 trillion over the next 30 years.
But the focus is not only on the commercial benefits of near-Earth spaceflight. It is equally important, says the UN, to use the potential of space travel for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To this end, the UN has, among other things, launched the “Space4SDGs” platform, on which the organisation illustrates the potential of space travel for each of the 17 SDGs.
Due to its diverse applications, space holds great potential for addressing major societal challenges such as combating the threat of climate change, disaster management, ensuring global food security and organising sustainable economic growth. To mobilise this potential, greater awareness of the benefits of space applications and better access to space data, services and tailored applications for all are needed.
The key to this, besides facilitating access to existing space applications and data, is to build up their own competencies and capacities, especially in the field of satellite technology. In the long term, each country should be able to define for itself the economic and societal benefits of space and make the best possible use of space technologies and satellite services to improve the quality of life of its population.
Then, space and geo-information systems can play a crucial role in achieving the UN’s SDG goals by providing the information and data that can be used to plan, monitor and implement development projects and programmes.
Hedia Chakroun is an Associate Professor in geomatics and hydraulic engineering at the University of Tunis El Manar (UTM, Tunisia) since 2006. She holds a Master and a Ph.D. degree in “Remote Sensing” from Sherbrooke University (Canada, 1998). She has been “Geomatics Projects Manager” at the Ministry of Natural Resources of Quebec (1998-2001). Her field of expertise is spatial technologies applied to natural resources management in Mediterranean and West African regions. She was the coordinator of the Master program “Water and Environment Modeling” at the National Engineering School for two years. She is a founding member of the “African Association of Geospatial Development (AGEOS)” since 2016, an NGO working to raise awareness of the importance of geospatial technologies in sustainable development at national and regional levels. She is member of the “National Outer space Commission” in Tunisia since 2013.