Asian countries tap satellite data to fight COVID-19

By: Fatima Arkin

[MANILA] Asia Pacific nations are leveraging geospatial data, digital options and artificial intelligence to reinforce their response to the continued COVID-19 pandemic and to help meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a new report.

“Information is now a strategic asset,” Tiziana Bonapace, director of the ICT and catastrophe risk reduction division of UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), tells SciDev.Net. “With more use, extra worth is added.”

The report, which is the primary in a collection of UNESCAP publications to evaluate progress in direction of implementing the  Asia-Pacific Plan of Action on Space Applications for Sustainable Development (2018–2030), highlights a number of initiatives all through the area.

Thailand, for instance, used area applications to observe the local COVID-19  situation and visualize the affect of progress policies. The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency analyzed reduced night-light images to observe the impact of lockdown measures.

It additionally used satellite tv for pc information to observe nitrogen dioxide emissions and located that because the starting of the 12 months, most provinces in Thailand had fewer actions that triggered emissions. All this information was built-in right into a newly created dashboard that enables policymakers and others to observe the pandemic, medical capability, provides, consumer items and preventive and precautionary measures.

Final March, the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) solicited proposals for tasks that use geospatial info in response to COVID-19.

One of the proposals was from the University of the Philippines Diliman for an online geographic system to track data on medical resources in local health services. Dubbed ‘Tracking for Allocation of Medical Provides’, the system uses volunteered and crowdsourced information to supply obligatory help to ensure proper allocation of medical resources.

Now that the world is on the threshold of vaccine availability, the need for artificial intelligence geospatial data persists as countries plan for a shift in the direction of a “new regular,” Enrico Paringit, govt director of DOST-PCIEERD, tells SciDev.Net.

“This could imply the necessity to develop instruments to make sure security of public transport methods and places of work as the economic system is steadily being opened for enterprise. We additionally need to develop intelligent methods to watch locations of commerce — methods that detect and report compliance to social distancing guidelines,” he adds.

Yet, despite notable advances, significant challenges remain that prevent Asia Pacific countries from taking full benefit of digital options of their COVID-19 responses.

Bonapace highlights main issues: persistent and vital capability gaps and limitations concerning the technology applications and a scarcity of pointers and tools for integrating geospatial, statistical and other kinds of knowledge and information.

For Paringit, openness of data and sustainability are the 2 main challenges he sees in scaling up digital solutions.

“There are considerations over sustainability of platforms developed by way of the pandemic since it could die down after the preliminary requirements and desires have been met and the enterprise case had not been.

The report calls for key elements to combine geospatial data applications into every nation’s planning and actions towards attaining the SDGs. But Bonapace highlights two elements specifically. One is investing in cultivating nationwide specialists and the opposite is encouraging local and international collaborations.