EO at the heart of the World Bank Geospatial Day 2017

The World Bank organised the second edition of the Geospatial Day event at the World Bank premises in Washington DC from 6 to 7 December, 2017. An event that aims at further raising awareness amongst Bank consultants and staff of the enabling power of geospatial information and technology and of how it can be applied to their day to day operational work. Geospatial (meaning location-based data) has existed for hundreds of years already – for example, in street and topographical maps. What’s different nowadays is how quickly new information is being gathered and the more sophisticated technology is used – which creates great opportunities as well as complex logistical challenges in a big data setting.

The Geospatial Operations Support Team (GOST) helps the World Bank Group to carry out the development operations using geospatial and big data analysis. Therefore, GOST prepared an appealing programme for the Geospatial Day 2017, with a wide spectrum of topics of relevance. For instance, how Geospatial technologies are revolutionising the economy and impacting citizens’ lives and the global footprint. Or how governments, industries and citizens are working together to reverse the geospatial digital divide, among many other topics.

Being the 2017 Geospatial day leitmotiv “from Pilot to Mainstream”, the programme on the one hand displayed what is already ongoing at the World Bank in terms of geospatial work, but it also offered opportunity to third parties to display and present their capabilities in this field. As part of this programme of presentations, representatives from the EO4SD – Agriculture and Rural development project introduced the services of this ESA’s initiative which aims at increasing the use of Earth Observation-based information and data in regular development operations at Multilateral Development Banks.

Two-day ‘Geospatial Day’ event

On day one, a plenary, a booth exhibition and a range of parallel training sessions were organised.  The plenary was kicked off by the Bank’s President Jim Yong Kim, who provided an inspiring speech on the potential of spatial information and his excitement to make it work in the World Bank’s understanding of global economy, and in its monitoring and evaluation ambitions for running projects.  This set the stage for a number of ignited talks that showcased geospatial success stories by GOST and other World Bank staff.

The representatives of the EO4SD – Agriculture and Water clusters, from ITC-University of Twente , conducted a training session that revolved around the European Earth Observation capabilities.  The session drew in about 30 highly interested staff who were willing to discuss the possibilities of use for their operations.

The presentation provided an overview of EO technology and methodology, discussing ESA’s missions and the Copernicus programme, the hardware (rockets, satellites, sensors), the data products and access (with focus on Sentinels), tool support and applications (SNAP, WOIS, Sen2Agri) cloud-based solutions and the thematic application platforms.

During the training, special attention was devoted to services offered by the EO4SD-Agriculture and Rural development cluster, as well as to those of the EO4SD project dedicated to water resources management. EO4SD main objective is to demonstrate that the effectiveness of the Multilateral Development Bank’s technical assistance interventions and financial investments in sectors such as the agriculture can be measurably enhanced by using EO-derived information to support, for instance, irrigation systems management, agriculture productivity assessment, rural infrastructure investments, among many other things. Therefore, the training on the EO4SD initiative had a focus on the potential integration of EO-data and products in the workflow of World Bank staff.

On day two, the morning was devoted to the vendors’ fair in the Atrium. ITC representatives took again the opportunity to discuss with Bank staff throughout the morning on the potential further use of Sentinel products in relevant projects of the Bank, as well as the upcoming InfoSession event that will take place at the World Bank in 2018 in the context of the EO4SD initiative.

All in all, the Geospatial Day(s) were a highly successful event that well deserves to become a tradition.  The philosophy that industry and knowledge institutes meet with Bank staff to discuss and showcase emerging potentials is highly valuable, certainly so in the rapidly developing domain of Earth Observation.