GMES & Africa – An Analysis of the Earth Observation Training Program

Source: GMES & Africa e-Learning Homepage

GMES & Africa is an Earth observation programme of the African Union jointly implemented with the European Union. The program is designed to strengthen capacities in Africa for the optimal exploitation and utilization of Earth Observation systems, data, and technologies towards the continent’s sustainable development. The AU Agenda 2063 identifies African Outer Space as one of the programs positioned to enable Africa to harness space sciences, technologies, infrastructure, and applications for the continent’s growth, among whose pillars include Earth Observation (EO).  As such, Agenda 2063 prioritizes skills revolution and human capital development, fortified by Science & Technology as the basis for a viable and robust African Space Program.

Through a grant scheme, the program supports 12 African Consortia; at least 2 in each of Africa’s 5 regions, for developing Earth Observation-based applications on natural resources management, including marine and coastal areas management.

In September 2019, the GMES & Africa program published a training strategy that would form the basis for EO and applications training. The plan lay a framework on how to utilize EO products and services for informed decision making. The AUC coordinates training and capacity development at the continental, regional, and national levels. By focusing on coordination and monitoring at these levels, the strategy serves as a tool to ensure that Africa consolidates relevant skills and knowledge needed in terms of capacities and ground infrastructure, before deploying full EO capabilities.

The EO Digital Learning Platform:

GMES & Africa has launched its digital training platform focused on the development of skills and expertise in Earth Observation (EO) applications in Africa. The training platform, which currently has a total of 103 courses, is divided into four-course categories: Data & Infrastructure (46 courses), Service Design, Development & Delivery (39 courses), Earth Observation Services Communication (18 courses) and Management.

Each category is further classified into continental, consortia, and other training courses, with an option for French, as the language of instruction.

The platform is focused on the continental level. Consortia are developing independent Learning Management Systems to deliver training. However, they are expected to mirror and be linked to the continental platform.

Guiding Principles

The training platform has been implemented in conjunction with AUC policy and the GMES and Africa Training Strategy.

  1. The training platform is among the identified methods, which include Online, Classroom and On-the-job training.
  2. Training is to be conducted through academic institutions except for On-the-job training, to create an avenue for long term capacity building.
  3. The Training of Trainers (ToT) model will train trainers who support the Consortia. Consortia will be responsible for training at the national and regional levels.
  4. The program emphasizes utilizing existing capabilities and expertise.
  5. The program also emphasizes the intensive use of Information Technology, particularly the integration of ICT in Earth Observation training.
  6. The use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is encouraged, over the purchase of other expensive licenses.
  7. Private sector capacity development is encouraged, along with awareness-raising.

The Training Approach

The overall training development and implementation approach is built on several steps. This is to ensure that no limiting factor hampers the EO information flow, understanding, and analysis, as well as going beyond curriculum development to service competence.

Needs Assessment

For curriculum development, an extensive training needs assessment was conducted in each of the implementing consortia. The review leveraged on the due diligence and outcomes carried out under the auspices of the African Space Policy and Strategy.

The needs assessment identifies for each application at each of the three levels, the targeted clients, to determine their information needs as well as their capacity and the resources they can mobilize to understand and deploy EO information. Furthermore, the training program is structured along the project’s life cycle.

Before implementation, the AUC undertook a due diligence exercise which analyzed selected Consortia’s capacity in EO, Finance and Procurement as well as their readiness to implement the GMES and Africa projects. The exercise served as an opportunity to assess the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of the training activities within the Consortia.

However, a second capacity assessment exercise is expected to be carried out at the end of year one, or middle of year 2 of implementation to assess the real situation in continental EO mapping exercises. The outcome of this exercise will lead to further improvements of the capacity development and utilization component while the program is still running.

Course Identification & Curriculum Development

The courses are categorized into:

  1. Infrastructure & Data (Tools, systems, and platforms)
  2. Service Development & Delivery (Generic & Advanced)
  3. Communication & Engagement ( Interaction of services with Users)
  4. Management ( Grants, Implementation, Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting) – yet to be featured

The courses run in parallel or as stand-alone, as further elaborated in the training schedule in each program. Across the tiers targeted (decision-makers, technical actors, and end-users), curricula development is a consultative process involving different stakeholders and a deeper involvement of academic institutions. The consortia, who are responsible for implementation at the regional and national levels, are creating working relationships with educational institutions and research centres with the intent to consolidate courses into the academic institutions’ curricula. The consolidation serves as the basis to ensure sustainability through long-term training as opposed to offering a project approach.

Training Plan Execution

The overall training execution plan of GMES and Africa employs three delivery methods, including distance learning, classroom training, and on-the-job-training.

Distance Learning represents a greater percentage of curriculum delivery. It is on this platform that the recently launched continental training platform is based. The method uses an online platform based on the Learning Management System, inherited from the predecessor MESA project. The platform is tailored to accommodate more plugins that promote better navigation and management of activities. Trainers are implementing cloud computing capabilities, which further allow free download of bulky data from the platform. The platform also utilizes the use of Webinars and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to deliver the training.

Other training methods include:

Classroom training – The method utilizes a blended approach where training involves convening trainees from different institutions and locations to conduct courses relevant to all members.  Potential trainers are identified and undergo a Training of Trainers (ToT) Exercise.

On the job training – The method trains stakeholders and end-users in addressing concrete work-related issues in a real work environment. Only the trainers are obliged to meet with the staff at their work stations.

Key Performance Indicators of the EO Training Program:

  1. The AUC ensures that consortia establish cooperation frameworks with universities and work with the Pan African University (PAU)

The GMES & Africa Program Management Unit (PMU), together with PAU, has established a cooperation framework with universities with existing specialized regional centres for Space Science & Technology Education affiliated to the UN. The capacity development effort ensures sustained training and the overall contribution to the EO goals. The Program Management Unit also identifies the needs of training equipment, including computer & software from a network of universities. In collaboration with PAU and the universities, the Unit coordinates the development of training modules in the curricula, and the procurement of equipment, followed by an MoU that includes standard guidelines and deliverables with the participating universities.

2. The AUC will conduct capacity development on Earth Observation for Integrated decision making.

AUC will develop a strategy to transfer the Monitoring of Environment and Security (MESA) in Africa to GMES and Africa. The Commission identifies cross-cutting needs in the continent and develops the implementation of the continental training strategy and plan. The AUC also coordinates with Consortia and RECs stakeholder training workshops and ensures that the network of universities and other stakeholders deliver on the content. The Consortia are also provided with technical support to update and develop course material, where needed.

3. Establish Virtual networking platforms

The AUC is mandated with the responsibility to procure the designing and development of systems, purchase of hardware equipment and maintenance while organizing validation workshops with potential end-users and stakeholders.

4. Facilitate continental and regional policy and priorities alignment

The services proposed by the Consortia are supposed to address regional and national issues. Therefore, the AUC monitors training activities and ensures that these activities are empowering and strengthening the Consortia, stakeholders, and end-uses to provide relevant EO information that supports policy decision making process as well as various operational and application issues.

Monitoring & Evaluation:

The above four outputs will guide the Monitoring and Evaluation of the GMES & Africa Training activities as agreed in the description of the action in the agreement between the AUC and the EU. Training progress reports will be available semi-annually. The reporting arrangement is set to allow enough time for remedies and corrections. The semi-annual progress reports, both narrative & financial, will serve as the first basis for monitoring and evaluation of the performance of the program.

Link to DLP: http://gmestraining.africa-union.org/

© Space in Africa 2020

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