Digital Earth Africa Collaborates with the International Data Community to Optimize the Availability and Accessibility of Satellite Data in Africa

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With the opening of Amazon Web Services’s (AWS) Cape Town region, countries across Africa now have access to locally stored analysis-ready satellite data, freely available through the Digital Earth Africa (DE Africa) platform. The movement of Sentinel-2 data to the AWS facility in Cape Town allows DE Africa to store data closer to our users, enabling them to access and analyse information more quickly. The movement of the data to the African continent marks an important milestone for the DE Africa project which aims to achieve operationally, technically, and financially sustainable services delivered by Africans, for the benefit of Africans. 

By leveraging AWS, DE Africa can store, process and make available petabytes of data for all of Africa in an environment that is reliable and scalable. AWS is supporting DE Africa to improve the lives of Africans through access to tailored information for decision making as part of the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative, which aims to accelerate sustainability research and innovation. The availability of the analysis-ready Sentinel-2 data is made possible through international collaborations with Sinergise, Element 84 and the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). 

“These collaborations have enabled us to pioneer the CEOS Analysis Ready Data (CARD) model, meaning we can provide African governments, businesses and researchers with the tools to access satellite data to inform day-to-day decisions,” said Dr Adam Lewis, Managing Director of DE Africa. 

Sinergise, a leader in the European EO industry, was supported by DE Africa to process data to the CARD specifications over Africa using the European Space Agency’s Sen2Cor software. This backprocessing has unlocked the archive of Sentinel-2 data and proved the concept for global processing, so now millions of Sentinel-2 scenes are available as part of the AWS Public Dataset program. 

“It is our aim to support the demonstration of operationally available analysis ready satellite data for all continents. DE Africa now provides one of the deepest in time-series of CARD Sentinel-2 data across the world,” said Grega Milcinski, General Manager of Sinergise. 

Element 84 have converted the Sentinel-2 data from JPEG2000 to cloud-optimised GeoTIFFs (COGs), and include spatio-temporal asset catalog (STAC) metadata conducive, which enables the Earth observation community to interoperate with the data easily. To work with so much data, high performing file formats and standards-based metadata are essential. 

“Using a cloud-ready image format and STAC metadata increases ease of use of ARD and provide a common language to describe geospatial information, which ultimately enables greater accessibility of EO information and insights for DE Africa users,” said Matthew Hanson, Senior Software Engineer at Element 84. 

Now that the analysis-ready data is available in Cape Town it can be accessed through multiple pathways. One particularly exciting option is through our partner ESRI, who have established the Geoportal that directly accesses the data for GIS users. 

The DE Africa Establishment team continues to work with the global Earth Observation community to make new analysis-ready data sets available across Africa. This international collaboration is supported by the Group of Earth Observations (GEO), which is helping unlock massive amounts of geospatial data, to improve the availability, access and use of open Earth observations, including satellite imagery, remote sensing and in situ data, to impact policy and decision making. 

More information about DE Africa is available at