The importance of the space ecosystem and its functionality to the attaining of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be over-emphasised. Over the decades there have been significant strides in space technology, as the world evolves and astronomers continue to make giant leaps. Some of these strides have been witnessed in Africa, but little has been published about the embedding of space into African societies in support of the SDGs. It is in a bid to bridge this gap that the Southern Space Studies series kicked off, to see to the proper documentation of space-related events within the African continent as well as other developing nations around the world.
The Southern Space Studies series presents analyses of space trends, market evolutions, policies, strategies and regulations, as well as the related social, economic and political challenges of space-related activities in the Global South with a particular focus on developing countries in Africa and Latin America. Obtaining inside information from emerging space-faring countries in these regions is pivotal to establish and strengthen efficient and beneficial cooperation mechanisms in the space arena and to gain a deeper understanding of their rapidly evolving space activities. To this end, the series provides trans-disciplinary information for a fruitful development of space activities in relevant countries and cooperation with established space-faring nations. It is, therefore, a reference compilation for space activities in these areas.
Under the Springer Nature publishing imprint, the Southern Space Studies series has released a new publication titled “Embedding Space in African Society”. Edited by Annette Froehlich of the University of Cape Town’s Department of Electrical Engineering, this book provides a detailed insight into how space and its applications are embedded, and can be further embedded, into African society in support of the SDGs, while taking into account the specific features, needs, and diversity of that society. The chapters cover a wide array of relevant and timely topics including basic needs like water quality, education, and capacity building, as well as financial, security, and legal aspects, together with facets of space technologies and infrastructure in Africa.
Comprising 15 chapters, this publication includes contributions drawn from across the continent and further afield, which provide analyses of the particular social situations in a variety of different African countries and regions, and highlight areas where space applications support the SDGs, and where they can further do so. Contributors to this book include: Val Munsami, Samuel Anih, Christoffel Kotze, Thomas Heege, Karin Schenk, Marie-Luise Wilhelm, David Lindgren, Tivere Hugbo, Christine Muller, André Siebrits, Valentino van de Heyde, Anton de Waal Alberts, Thorben Konemann, Isabelle Duvaux-Bechon, Jörg Rapp, Melanie Platz, Engelbert Niehaus, Gerard Hainzl and Annette Froehlich, among others.
Below is an excerpt from the publication, drawn from Chapter 7, “The Importance of Internet Access and Smart City in Sub-Sahara African Region Through Space Technology”, as written by Tivere Hugbo.
“Smart cities can be the bridge with which Africa can leapfrog her technological and innovative drag. A smart city is an “innovative city that uses information and communication technology (ICT) and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operations and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social environmental aspects”, as defined in a paper released by the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 2016. There have been numerous definitions of a smart city over time but in this context, we will define a smart city as one that uses Information and Communication Technology (ICT), such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, sensors, etc to improve the lives and well-being of her people and its environment. Examples of components that can be labelled “smart” include but are but not limited to: roads & traffic monitoring, police alert systems in case of a robbery, waste management through sensors and the IoT, well organized and planned urbanisation development through satellite imaging and drones, weather monitoring in real time, Block-chain technology for security and transparency, e.t.c.
Space technology can support the accessibility of the internet, which in turn enhances the growth of technology innovation through the smart city concept. The wide adaptation of the mobile broadband internet connectivity in the region indicates a high demand for internet access. With the proposed innovative project being carried out by the space industry pioneers such as OneWeb, SpaceX and other tech powerhouses, we can expect a broader penetration of the internet, hence promoting sustainable development through technology innovation. OneWeb is initiating a fleet of satellites that will deliver affordable internet access globally, with these small and cheaper satellites (CubeSats) roving around the Low Earth Orbit with a peak speed of 500 Mbps as their initial roll-out, and then increase to 2.5 Gbps on their second constellation phase, and being in the lower earth orbit will support with the high latency problems as well as affordable self-installed terminals. OneWeb which partners with Airbus, one of the leaders in the space industry, will be able to provide cheaper and easily accessible internet usage. They have a planned launch of 900 satellites in the low earth orbit; they proposed that by 2027 they will bridge the world’s digital divide and by 2022 connect all unconnected schools. Africa can benefit from the OneWeb constellation plans by piggybacking and taking advantage of the provided services of such projects, which will be cost effective.
Since the adaptation of mobile broadband is already widely spread and has created a wide range of opportunities, the OneWeb constellation project will provide even wider coverage to remote areas that have never been introduced to or had access to the internet before. What this brings is a revolution that we are already experiencing in Kenya and other parts of Africa, this can be compared to the mobile phone revolution in Africa during the early 2000s. The mobile phone technology bridged the gap between telecommunication accessibility in Africa by bypassing the traditional fixed-line networks that were not evenly distributed across the region. With the provision of accessible internet, the smart city concept can easily come to fruition. Since the Internet is one of the major bedrocks of a smart city and technology innovation, there is no doubt that these constellations proposed by Oneweb, SpaceX and Google will transform the innovative space across different industries in Africa.”
“Embedding Space in African Society” is a publication that would be of great interest to students and professionals in sustainable development, governance, and space studies.
Jerry Chiemeke is an editor, writer and mental health advocate. His works have appeared in Bellanaija, True Nollywood Stories, Music In Africa and The Guardian, among others. Jerry is the winner of the 2017 Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Reviews. He is a Senior Editor at Space in Africa.