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Space sector works to keep societies and economies on track during COVID-19

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A satellite, as seen from space, tracks over South America. Photo: NASA

Decades of developments in the space sector are being utilized during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping countries to keep their citizens safe and economies on track, the head of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) said on Wednesday, in a speech to a virtual conference held by the world’s richest nations. 

UNOOSA chief Simonetta Di Pippo delivered the keynote address to the G20 meeting focussed on the global space sector, where she outlined the various ways it has been supporting pandemic response and recovery. 

“The current pandemic is a crisis unlike any we have ever seen. It has taught us that decisive action matters. It has also shown that when called upon, the space sector can deliver”, she said

The G20 virtual conference, known as Space20, was the first of its kind, and Ms. Di Pippo was invited to deliver the keynote address by Saudi Arabia, the organization’s current president.  

 Since 1999, the period from 4-10 October has been celebrated as World Space Week, in line with a UN General Assembly resolution.  The dates were chosen in recognition of the 4 October 1957 launch of Sputnik 1, the first Earth satellite, and the 10 October 1967 signing of the Outer Space treaty.   This year’s theme is ‘Satellites improve lives.’  UNOOSA has organized a series of related webinars, with the latest scheduled for Friday.

Space in action 

The top UN official told participants that since the start of the pandemic, UNOOSA had launched a Space and COVID-19 Knowledge Portal to capture and share examples of “space in action”, with nearly 100 specific contributions documented. 

Ms. Di Pippo explained that there are three key space technologies: Earth Observation, Global Navigation Satellite Systems and satellite communications. 

When integrated with space-enabled mobile applications, they have helped to get essential goods across borders and assisted the observation of physical distancing rules.  Governments have also rolled out national coronavirus “track and trace” programmes on time, and at scale – with a little help from above. 

“Simply put, space has limited disruption and helped keep our societies and the economies on track”, she said. 

The contributions do not stop there.  With lockdowns imposed across the world, people are staying connected thanks to space technologies. Telehealth practitioners in developing countries are now using eHealth platforms, and countless children are continuing their education through digital learning programmes.  

Furthermore, space agencies have also asked the commercial space sector to join the fight against COVID-19, which has resulted in a vast quantity of ground-breaking technology and space application solutions, mainly in healthcare and education, she continued. 

“Many space agencies have looked to their considerable in-house development expertise to leverage spin-off space exploration technologies”, said Ms. Di Pippo. “This has seen a wide range of new open source technologies being brought to market, including handheld ventilators, 3-D printed respirator masks and cheap but effective sterilisation kits.” 

Space essential for development 

UNOOSA launched a platform in June to engage directly with the private sector during the pandemic.  Ms. Di Pippo reported that the Space Economy Initiative began with a webinar series which gathered success stories of economic growth from across the global space sector. 

“Through such proactive approaches, we are not just combating this pandemic but also sowing the seeds for the longer-term economic recovery as we build back better”, she stated. 

As Ms. Di Pippo told participants, the value of space technology and data for socio-economic development is “beyond doubt”. 

Research from UNOOSA and the European Union reveals that nearly 40 per cent of the targets underpinning the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) rely on Earth Observation and Global Navigation Satellite Systems. 

COVID-19 and beyond 

In highlighting the vital contributions and new technologies, Ms. Di Pippo warned that COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic where the space sector will have a role. She urged participants to reflect on two things: “what has worked well, and how can we do even better next time?” 

The UNOOSA Director proposed three recommendations for stepping up collaboration, beginning with enhancing ways for exchanging best practices. 

Throughout the pandemic, space agencies have drawn from the sector’s long-standing tradition of providing open data, which has been crucial for policymakers, the media, academia, international organizations and the general public.  

 “Where feasible directly link open-source space data with capacity-building activities; increase access and utility for all users, especially those in developing countries,” she said.  

For her final point, Ms. Di Pippo called for the space sector to leverage its “unique qualities” to monitor the global economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, and to set up indicators and solutions to further develop space assets for stronger economic recovery.

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Modernizing data collection enhances resilience of statistical offices in times of crisis

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A virtual UNECE workshop concludes today in which experts on surveys, censuses and alternative data collection methods have revealed their brand-new learning about the best ways to maintain core data collection, and collect newly-demanded data, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The need for statistics isn’t put on hold during a national or international crisis—in fact demand increases, as decision-makers rely on numbers to guide their next moves. National statistical offices (NSOs) are experienced in maintaining business continuity in the face of adversity, be it hurricanes, earthquakes, civil unrest or political upheaval. But never before have so many NSOs had to deal with a situation that has placed such enormous and wide-ranging restrictions on their ability to collect data. The businesses that provide economic and labour force data have been closed; the staff that conduct surveys and analyze data have been locked-down in their homes, with new staff hired and trained online; survey-takers and respondents have had to observe new and changing health protection rules such as social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment; and supply chains have been disrupted for the basic items needed to gather data, such as paper for printed questionnaires or tablets for electronic data gathering.

Maintaining essential data collection

From the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the official statistics community has recognized how crucial it is to maintain data collection. Users of official statistics, from banks to businesses and from politicians to school pupils, still expect to be able to look up basic figures such as GDP, population, migration, unemployment. They expect these figures to be reliable and comparable with those they used before the pandemic. And they expect them to reflect the new realities of the current situation, such as current unemployment and earnings figures.

Presenters in this week’s UNECE workshop outlined the lengths they have gone to to keep gathering data. In Mexico, the pandemic struck as the country’s census was underway. New social distancing rules meant some census enumerators had to call out questions to respondents through their windows. In the Netherlands, an online portal was developed and tested at speed to gather data from businesses without traditional surveys. Ireland, Italy and Poland have employed a variety of techniques to communicate with respondents to secure their vital responses to surveys, from sending postcards and handwritten notes to increased use of telephone calls. Discussions revealed that the more advanced an NSO was before the pandemic in their move towards modern modes of data collection (electronic devices, Internet responses, video interviewing and so on), the easier it was for them to make the changes required by the Covid restrictions.

Collecting new data to measure new phenomena

The world has changed in countless ways since the onset of the pandemic. Responding to these changes requires information about things that previously were not measured—or at least not by national statistical offices. NSOs have found themselves at the centre of nationwide efforts to collect, coordinate and disseminate statistics on the virus itself—cases, tests, hospital admissions, mortality rates. And new survey questions or whole new surveys have sprung up across UNECE countries to gather data about the impacts of working from home and school closures on mental health, gender-based violence and unpaid care work; the economic fallout of business closures and furloughs; and the envionmental impacts of reduced mobility and industrial activity.

Examples showcased in this week’s event included new questions on covid impacts in Finland’s Consumer Confidence Survey; and new modules in a plethora of surveys in Poland on science, technology, culture, tourism and civil society. In the United Kingdom, a Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey was developed and conducted every two weeks starting in early March.  

Long-term impacts on data collection

The UNECE programme on modernizing official statistics has for close to a decade supported countries in making a transition to using new modes of data collection, new data sources and new methods for integrating data from multiple sources. For many NSOs the pandemic has accelerated this transition, forcing the hands of cautious offices where the alternative may have been to stop collecting data altogether. The pace of change has been rapid, with one participant stating “we have had a greater impact in six months than in our whole careers so far”. While the panoply of new tools, techniques and statistical products may in time settle as the pandemic runs its course, the steps taken across the UNECE region in the direction of statistical modernization are undoubtedly permanent.

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World Bank Supports Digital Connectivity in Haiti to Build Resilience

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved today a US$60 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA) for the Haiti Digital Acceleration Project. This financing aims to increase access to broadband services in Haiti and establish the foundations of digital resilience to respond to health, climate and economic shocks.

“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the essential role that digital technologies play both during and after crisis. More widespread and affordable internet access could make Haiti more resilient to future shocks,” said Anabela Abreu, World Bank Country Director for Haiti. “The World Bank is supporting Haiti to increase access and affordability of digital services, while building the necessary skills for digital literacy. Increased broadband connectivity can help drive innovations and new industries that create jobs.”

The lack of affordable and reliable internet connectivity is a key constraint to inclusive growth in Haiti, as only 35 percent of the population has access to broadband internet. The Haiti Digital Acceleration Project will address key bottlenecks to digital development, and help develop the digital economy as a driver of growth, a stronger recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, and the ability to more effectively respond to future shocks. Given the potential for the project to enable better connectivity and digital services, it is expected to benefit the entire population of Haiti.

One of the key project activities will include technical assistance to help develop strategies and regulatory tools to promote competition in the digital infrastructure and services market. The project will also better prepare individuals and businesses for the jobs and economy of the future through the development of their digital skills. This includes opportunities particularly for women, girls, at-risk youth, and the rural population to access skills training. The project will also provide equipment, broadband, and software for the public administration to improve the efficiency of service delivery and the modernization of the Haitian Government.

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What Cloud Business Solutions Will Enhance Your Enterprise?

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Running a business can be a challenging process, especially when you are looking to grow your business in the near future. But with cloud storage improving, this could be the next big step for your business at this time. In this article, we will be providing you with insight into how a cloud-based storage solution can benefit your business.

Enhanced Collaboration

When looking at cloud business solutions it is important to look at how investing in this form of technology for your business can provide both short term and long-term benefits. One of the biggest benefits that can come from this is the enhanced collaboration with everyone in the business. Whether this is a secure phone system or a collaborative workspace for teams to work on and store files to the cloud, this is a huge benefit that can aid in the growth of a company.

Reduced Costs For Your Business Regular Upgrades For Free

Another benefit that comes from cloud-based storage is the reduction in costs for your business. By paying just one payment per year or several monthly fees, you are gaining access to your own part of the cloud for all your business storage. This can be either public-facing, private or a hybrid of both, this is the perfect way of reducing costs for your business as you are not paying for multiple servers or even storage space within the office to keep paper versions of your files. This is ideal as this can provide you room in the office whilst ensuring that all your files are safe.

Easy Levels Of Scalability

Another aspect you want to consider when doing anything for your business is the scalability is can provide to your business. With several different packages out there, you can ensure that your cloud storage solutions grow with your growth as a company. This can be done by upgrading the package and ensuring you have the storage space that you need. This can be changed multiple times to accommodate your business as a whole regardless of whether you are a large or small corporation.

Reduction Of Carbon Footprint

As shoppers are becoming more eco-conscious than ever before there has been a huge surge in the number of businesses looking to bring down their carbon footprint and cloud storage can help them do exactly that. By using storage online, you are not only reducing the amount of energy being used from servers, but you are reducing the amount of paper you are using to print off and file important information. This is great for your business in the long term and can make you more appealing to potential customers in the future as you bring down your carbon footprint.

With this in mind, there are several ways that you can continue to use cloud-based business solutions to grow your business over time and create a profitable storage solution for your growing company. Will you be using this in the long term?

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