Space technologies provide a huge amount of spatial data for various applications within a large coverage in a time effective manner. It is certain that spatial big data is available, following the speed of space technology development in Africa and across the world.
Spatial data facilitates the best utilization of resources which can be applied in policy making, planning and managing the earth.
The unique characteristic of spatial data is location intelligence which is very crucial in dealing with the environment in every aspect for socio-economic and political developments. However, there lies a question of how to access those data. Here are some big spatial data portals where data for the African region can be obtained.
One such portal is the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), managed by Group on Earth Observation (GEO). GEOSS offers free access to spatial data around the world, including the African region. It has a portal that receives spatial data from observing systems of organizations and member nations of the Group on Earth Observation. The data is in technical standards that can be combined into a coherent dataset.
The GEO Geonetcast data is provided under the category of thematic, geographic and temporal data. The available products are data, imagery and analytical software. Data providers include; CAFF, Data.gov, Data.uk, EEA, GBIF, Iris, JRC Open Data catalogue, NASA, NCAR, NOAA, OCHA HDX, RCMRD, UNEP, UNOSAT, USGS, Web Energy Services, WMO WIS. For more information visit GEO.
The Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) also has a portal that offers open access to spatial data to copy, share, modify or produce work from the database. The platform houses datasets that can be used to visualize maps and charts, download data, access story maps and web map application. The datasets are thematic which includes the following categories; agriculture, biodiversity, climate, disasters, ecosystems, weather and water.
RCMRD also provides data to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) platform. Visit the RCMRD geoportal
The Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) a global market leader in GIS, offers open geospatial data across Africa through a portal known as Africa-geoportal. The Africa-geoportal offers access to geospatial data together with tools that allow manipulation of these data. Access is free to those residing in Africa or working on projects within Africa.
The geoportal is powered by ESRI using ArcGIS online – a spatial data visualization, analytics and dissemination tool. Sources for the available dataset include ESRI, Africa-focused organizations and users. The data can be filtered either by geographical area, type or theme. The thematic datasets include health, weather and demographics.
To foster sustainable development, African universities and researchers covering space science studies should take full advantage of these open data portals to improve their practical studies and research to solve real-world problems facing the continent. Also, they should facilitate knowledge expansion by participating in advancing the datasets and other tools on the platforms.