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GEOSS Capacity Building: Lessons learnt

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Dear GEO colleagues,

The ID-02 Task "Developing Institutional and Individual Capacity" must support the strengthening of capability of all countries, in particular developing countries, to use Earth observation and information in a sustainable manner and to contribute data and systems to GEOSS.

After almost a decade of efforts, we think it is the right time to start capturing lessons learnt (positive and negative) from GEO’s experiences that will help develop requirements for capacity development for the next Implementation Work Plan.

We would like to invite you to share your perspective from your experiences in capacity development activities in the frame of GEO/GEOSS by answering these seven questions:

 1. What are (or were) your expectations of CB in GEO?
 2. Do you agree with the currently developed CB strategy, do you think its principles are still valid?
 3. What is your assessment of the practical actions carried forward by GEO/within the GEO coordination framework? 
 4. What have been the major successes in your view?
 5. What have been the major gaps in your view ?
 6. General comments?
 7. What measures do you think will be necessary to improve the relevance of GEO as a global player in the CB domain?




1. Better access to high resolution satellite data for mapping and charting of tenure
Access monitoring systems climatological parameters
Provide tools for monitoring terrestrial ecosystems to improve services to benefit communities
Strengthen institutional capacity for environmental and ecological monitoring helping early warning

2. Yes I agree with the strategy of CB provided that allows developing countries to benefit from satellite observation data for the benefit of Earth observation for decision support

3. The Niger benefited from the services of the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" with permi him to quickly evaluate damage associated with fairly frequent flooding

4. The greatest success achieved by GEO is the sharing of knowledges and big data scientists between producing internationnal institutions and developing countries at low cost

5.Non-participation in many of the developing countries especially in Africa

6. Development Afrigeos will make better address the problems affecting Earth Observation

7. A necessary building material and personal capacity of institutions in developing countries



1. My expectations have been low since there are not funds to do real CB for the HF radar task.

2. Yes

3. Have not seen any thus far

4. None thus far

5. Funding

6. -

7. Funding.  We are trying to build "intellectual" capacity by information sharing but since our task is observational, funds are required to acquire, deploy and operate sensors in nations where none exist.



1. Low expectations given the technological gaps that exist.

2. no comment ; I have not been closely involved with CB activities

3. no comment

4. no comment

5. no comment

6. the aims of capacity building must be realistic

7. The model for capacity building via GEO cannot be to ‘make developing countries like us’. This is not achievable in the short term given that developed countries enjoy robust social and technical infrastructures on which GEO capabilities are built.
Rather, the model will need to be one of sustained enablement , in which internationally accessible infrastructures (the cloud, google, amazon etc) are used to provide enabling services - in the form of relevant and timely information – that can be used to inform decisions and actions through existing, and supported (eg. either in-country or UN) institutions and mechanisms.



1. We would expect that GEO CB activities contribute to raising awareness of the importance of geospatial information as a fundamental infrastructure in the support of informed decision-making and governance.

2. Based on our own experience and knowledge of the situation in developing coastal and island States, we believe that the strategy does not take in account pre-existing programmes and initiatives related to the promotion, development and sustainability of geospatial data infrastructures and that GEO should act more in synergy with its participating organizations.

3. No opinion. The outcome of GEO actions is not obvious from the IHO perspective.

4. No opinion.

5.See question 2.

6. See questions 1 and 2.

7. See question 2.



1. To provide guidelines on CB

2. Yes

3. I have not interacted with GEO CB other than providing them with a description of GFOI and SilvaCarbon contributions to GEO CB.

4. GFOI and SilvaCarbon Capacity Building

5. None that I know of.

6. As a GEO Task, GFOI (and SilvaCarbon) Capacity Building are voluntary contributions to the GEO Work Plan.
Data provision should be seen as an enabling CB accomplishment. Especially in GFOI's case, providing data for national MRVs.

7. Overall coordination of CB materials and activities.



1. Establishment of communities engaged in capacity building for earth observation
Establishment of a resource facility on capacity building
Development of promotion /capacity building material for decision makers
Development of business/marketing support capacity building material for entrepreneurs (start-ups, developing countries)
Implementation of and reporting on capacity building activities in all GEO tasks
Certification or at least categorizing the many, often ad-hoc, capacity building activities in the framework of GEO

2. Yes

3. Great progress has been made, both in terms of activities and analysis, as in terms of information gathering

4. Establishment of informal / formal communities that work together on promotion of capacity building activities
Level of capacity building activities has increased

5. More capacity building material/activities is needed for interested professionals that are not at home in earth observation, but interested in using its applications
The resource facility should be expanded
Tasks should give more attention on capacity building and improve reporting

6. None

7. See above + increasing visibility (this is related to GEOSS as a whole)



1. Expectations of capacity building in GEO were cross-training of the various groups when data use crossed; team work on specialized projects; consensus on data sources and format; interpretation of data through cross-referencing and coordination; work fielded from government, university, and private sectors; outreach to the business community; cultural-use programming within specific projects; and, outreach to universities and student groups for individuals to gain an interest in GEO.

2. The currently developed capacity building strategy still has good, basic principles; however, there still is a demand for funding that could allow the implementation of specific projects which have across-agency input and coordination and would pull in existing organizations as well as have an outreach aspect to universities and student groups.  The problem continues to remain that GEO is not a funding source that simply hands out money for projects but the countries each on their own need to see a need for these projects and information, develop their own funded projects, and work back up into GEO for added data, methodology, and resource items to help within the country’s own conceived programs and improvements when using satellite imagery.  The disconnect seems to continue to be a lack of grassroots funding from the country itself and the growth of projects from the ground up, rather than from GEO down.  You need the desired project implementation from the ground up in order to ultimately have complete buy-in from each country and to allow them to own their own projects and information.

3. The actions have shown examples, given resources and data, and provided meetings for connections to be made.  Unfortunately, there is still the need for each country to recognize they need to develop home-grown projects and build the infrastructure up so others can learn what data and resources are really needed and how others can learn and develop a process that works within each country.  People change so frequently within the GEO working groups a lack of continuity is difficult to grasp.  Again, the projects and data needs have to be home-grown in each country and bloom up allowing the right resources across countries to then be assessable, able to be retrofitted, and usable in a wider, global context.  Just collecting data at the GEO level has limited new project thinking and ownership and pride and capacity building at the individual country level.  This global collection is the ultimate endpoint to have free and accessible information, but missing or guess work data at the base, country level is still the problem and this capacity base has to be build up and gain ownership at the country level.

4. The major successes are the format and data input resources determined by the initiatives within GEO.  It has resulted in improved cross-country work, although still at the fledgling stages.  It has sourced available satellite data across countries, allowing even some of the poorest countries to have some access to the data and a footprint in developing their own satellite data use offices.  It has allowed others more access to improved data-use processes.  It has brought together scientists, researchers, and analysts to discover improved measurement and forecast means to help across disasters, crop production estimations, water-soil-weather-species-population-sustainability demands that may not have been possible before the creation of the framework and resources from GEO.

5. The major gaps have been the slow adoption of the idea of developing projects from the country-level up into GEO.  Resource limitation at the ground level has slowed the process.  Poor countries are reacting to programs that are in-demand on a daily basis, limiting the resources going into forecasts of disasters or food production or land resource sustainability.  GEO is a working project to help forecast future needs, limitations, and demands.  While it is grounded in satellite imagery now, it seeks to project an improved future.  A country has to have the luxury of being able to take the time to see how future forecasts, in the long-run, help the stability of the country.  It is difficult to see this vision when a country has starving people, limited resources, war, unstable governments, changing politics within government ranks and workers, and very limited money or trained workers.

6. Working toward better stability of the GEO framework, data, resources, training, cross-education while slowly implementing the idea of ground up transitions of projects would improve the success of GEO

7. Individualized projects with countries that allow visiting scientists, researchers and analysts to help build home-grown ideas for projects within countries who see the validity in long-range forecasts toward stability in the use of natural resources within the country are necessary.  Bringing in more of the universities and private sector groups is also necessary as both of these see more in the long-range view of improvements in information for a country.



1. We expect for activity directed to opening access to data, models, products, more possibilities for education and training opportunities in areas of Earth observations application for Climate, Water,
Agriculture, Disaster Management, Ecosystems, and Health.

2. Generally speaking a currently developed CB strategy is still valid, because its principles are quite general. May be these principles could be precised?

3. Unfortunately we have no enough experience to estimate “practical actions”, because our national segment is insufficiently involved into such activity. So, implementation of our national policy framework needs to be essentially improved.

4. Among successes we could mention first of all positive transformations in data access policy. Many agencies and companies changed their policy and open for researchers satellite data. Also few important projects were developed: EnviroGRIDS, GEONETCAB and OBSERVE. Supported by GEO discussions on Climate change and Natural Hazards & Disaster Risk Reduction are also very important successes.

5. Many important projects and initiatives should be extended and expanded onto other areas. For example ICOS, COCOS and probably EDGAR projects should be extended with available data and models in future.
Of course, issues of societal benefits from Earth observations require more attention in future.

6. No comments

7. More active involvement of students and young scientists, as well as development of communication tools inside an expert community can advantage to increase a role of GEO as a global player in the CB domain.



1. I am perfectly comfortable with the 2015 Objectives and implementation approach.

2. The principle are still valid, but a better linkage and mutual understanding with other major players are needed about sharing ownership of initiatives.

3. GEONETCast is a major success story, but other things (e.g. dissemination of CBERS data in Africa) seem inconsistent with GEO ambitions on CB.

4. Promoting CB initiatives relating to GEO goals and SBA-s had a clear impact on CB worldwide. GEONETCast is an excellent examples.

5. Somehow there is a problem with sharing ownership of very relevant CB initiatives implemented by GEO Members (Countries and Organizations). The ESA TIGER initiative for example clearly falls in the GEO CB Strategy  and GEO is acknowledged at events like the bi-annual TIGER workshops, but there is a clear resistance to bring TIGER fully under the GEO flag.
GEO could actually be instrumental in replicating TIGER in other parts of the world, taking in due account differences in the EO communities.

6. There seems to be a gap between goals, principles and practical actions. In my view this is due to a somewhat ambiguous relation between GEO, GEOSS and CB "field-actors" (the ones really making things happen).

7. Promote the preparation of training kits (teaching materials for short courses) mirroring the high level structure of GEO (SBA-s or else).
Promote a system of MSc fellowships to create a generation of GEO - knowledgeable specialists, EU programs could be used for this.



1. GEO shall have coordinating role in making various individuals CB project initiative known by other GEO members, and ease coordination among existing initiative. GEO might also provide “background information / lesson learnt / best practices / success stories” that could be used by each GEO individual member and participating organising to approach  donors that funds CB initiative to convince them to invest in EO applications/services and their benefits for sustainable development (e.g RIO+2015 objectives).

2. If you refer to GEO III, yes.

3. The creation of AfriGEOSS is a good example (regional focuses framework, involving regional/national actors from the region) that will allow better “customised” and “african owned” capacity building activities in the african continent.

4. Training channel on GEONETCast - with all three GEONETCast network centres (NOAA, CMA, EUMETSAT) operating their own version of the training channel adapted to the need of their community.

5. The GEO CB activities is perceived as unfocused (lot of good “small” initiative projects but without a coherent framework, and lack of visibility of what has been achieved). Lack of interaction between individual tasks.

6. n/a

7. As indicated previously:
-          GEO should be able to provide “background information / lesson learnt / best practices / success stories” that could be used by each GEO individual member and participating organising to approach  donors
-          Create GEO CB approaches that answer to higher level objectives (e.g. RIO+2015, or any other global initiative).


1. A closer coordination with other ongoing efforts first of all, and especially with mandated organizations such as UNOOSA in the UN system. As the CB strategy stated, no new EO CB projects should be created, but rather an alignment and coordination with existing ones. In that sense, I was expecting more effort to coordinate and work closely together among all institutions, and especially with the United Nations. 
It would have helped also to better inventorize all past efforts or ongoing CB projects, resources available from donors etc, to clearly identify duplication and try to avoid it in the future.

2. Yes. Principles are valid, but the means of implementation and stated approach should be more closely followed. See above comments too. 
However, some of the points require sustained funding too, and that aspect is not addressed as a lot of the GEO efforts are still voluntary in nature. Here, encouraging GEO member states to provide dedicated funding to EO awareness raising and CB, as well as subsidising data costs for developing nations could be emphasised. This could also strengthen ongoing UN programmes with a global (UN General Assembly) mandate, such as the ones implemented by UNOOSA. 

3. Hard to assess, as our Office rarely attended GEO plenaries, or other coordination meetings in the past years. 
At the 2008 GEO Plenary, the statements of UN agencies present as observers were not coordinated, with no consultation in advance. I believe we should improve on that, and GEO in its coordination efforts should more actively engage through inter-agency coordination bodies too, such as UNGIWG and the UN-Space mechanism within the UN system. 
I would expect in general a more regular consultation between all involved parties and major actors, telecon/videocon-based if needed or if travel costs are an issue.

4. GeoNetcast is definitely one, but still work to do, as users need to know better where such stations exists, what can they access/transfer through those stations etc. 
As a member of the DSWG, I can also say that important work was done there, and continues to be done. Data sharing and more open if not free access to EO amd geospatial data are crucial in disaster management and other domains, and in maximizing the limited resources available to all. 
In that sense, the Data Sharing Principles developed are a major achievement as well. 
The EO Community strengthening and evolution in general after the creation of GEO, and the work through the societal benefit areas are all important progress. Communities established around the societal benefit areas and their specific work are also to be praised. 
Even though I personally was reluctant in the beginning as to the need for a GEO, when we had a CEOS that could have been more empowered and widened maybe with associates, I do recognize the importance of political process and its effect on technical areas such as EO. GEO can play a major role in the future, in this sense.

5. Para 4.2.2 in the GEO Strategy Document.refers to a Portal that would indeed be important. Is that established? It is important to follow through on main objectives of the strategy. 
Also, more awareness raising for GEO is needed, and concrete funding for various capacity building and data sharing efforts that would make a difference. 
Voluntary nature is often not enough to make progress, and resources/funding for GEO actions are still lacking, I believe. 
VHR EO data access, given that it is mainly commercial domain, still problematic, GEO could make efforts to rally commercial vendors as well as major purchasers (UN, EU, WB, bilateral donors) to pool resources and efforts for easing licensing and data sharing conditions. 

6. None

7. Above-mentioned coordination with other entities, working together more as One, as a "team", not favouring individual approaches...


1. For the next 10 years, CB shall effectively broaden the capacity of the user community to make use, in an efficient and creative way, of satellite data and products. The focus should be on making data useful and usable. There should be a shift from data access to capacity to use the data.

2. Yes, we agree with the currently developed CB strategies which focus on networking activities and, mainly, coordination of national and international capacity-building efforts to produce and use Earth observation and information. It is important to keep developing synergies and encouraging cross-fertilization and addressing common challenges across capacity building initiatives. Looking at the current list of GEO members and participating organizations we can affirm that the target "Enhanced participation of developing countries in GEO/GEOSS" is almost accomplished. Regarding the African continent, we believe that with AFRIGEOSS project, it will be possible to congregate more African countries and coordinate better CB initiatives, by interconnecting their needs, capabilities and resources for Africa.

3. GEO has been providing the necessary cooperation framework, strengthening the linkages among all the key actors for a better exploitation of synergies and a broader access to best practices, both constituting key elements for the consolidation of an effective framework for coordinated capacity building actions. This work seems endless since new initiatives and needs keep showing up, especially in different regions, countries and continents… For the next decade we need to keep up the good work!

4. All over the world, innumerous efforts have been carried out regarding training courses, workshops and availability of GIS open source solutions targeting at various SBAs. INPE, through a partnership with WMO-VLAB and projects such as DevCoCast and Agricab (EU sponsored), has reached a great number of users of meteorological satellite images, providing them with decision-support tools. The data and products availability through GEONETCast has certainly benefited several users. Clearly, this is a measure of GEO success.

5. Overall coordination of CB materials and activities which will be hopefully reached through the launch GEOCAB Portal and improvement of CB portal inside GEO website.

6. No comments

7. Although EC has provided millions of euros for successful projects aiming CB, we need to keep looking for resources. The private sector involvement in GEO can help on this.


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