Earth Observation Support Tools for Socio-economic Needs During the National Lockdown

The current COVID-19 crisis facing the world, and the measures taken by governments to lockdown its citizens, means we are more reliant on Government to inform and direct the population in order to protect and sustain them. This has created the need for innovativeness in the use of technologies to limit the spread of the virus and to ensure the health and safety of its citizens.

In South Africa, the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) has rallied the local Earth Observation (EO) industry to evaluate the needs of Government and citizens whilst attempting to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections in the country.

SANSA is engaging with representatives of many local EO industry players to establish what is currently being done by these players and to leverage these competencies to address any gaps that may exist in comprehensively responding to the current crisis. The intention of such an engagement is to identify how SANSA could provide effective leadership by partnering with industry on any existing EO products and to offer support/funding to industry to fast track further development of products into usable support tools by government.

Interested organizations can provide information on their Earth observation tools, products and services that could be used in the fight against COVID-19 by using the following link:

SANSA has since begun working with the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), National Department of Human Settlements (NDHS) and the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) to provide tools that these institutions could use to verify on the ground data and make faster and more impactful decisions to address challenges faced on the ground during this period.
















Mapping of spaza shops in local settlements

The use of land cover maps overlaid with the locations of spaza shops, as an example, is being used by the DSBD to identify the extent of financial support that is required in areas that are serviced by spaza shops. The department will, at a glance, be able to identify the number of spaza shops serving a local community, and given the local population, work out how much stock of essential food items they would need, the cost and the closest wholesaler to support deliveries to these spaza shops. Other products currently being developed by SANSA and its industry partners include monitoring of air quality, traffic movement and human settlement mapping.

SANSA CEO, Dr Val Munsami highlighted that SANSA was primarily established to provide a space based tools and services to government in their attempts to craft evidence based responses to the socio-economic needs of the country, and it is during times like these where the value of the organisation, in providing geospatial information, to the state can be demonstrated. Dr Munsami reiterated, “The Agency remains committed to providing Government and stakeholders with access to big data applications and tools to enable rapid and effective decision making to manage nation-wide interventions.”

SANSA is therefore, supporting efforts by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) by using its scientific capabilities and coordinating the South African Earth observation industry to provide critical support tools that Government can utilise in managing the response to the COVID-19 pandemic more efficiently.

Vaneshree Maharaj