Information about the world around us – e.g., collected via sensors or obtained through satellites – allows us to more efficiently protect the environment and manage the economy.

Panellists of the UNEP/GRID and EO4GEO joint session, which took place at the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw on November 26 2019, discussed aspects of their acquisition, processing and their practical use.

Today, data is sometimes called "the new oil". They drive a modern, information-based, innovative economy of the future. When information relates to the natural environment, it can also contribute to broadening public awareness of its condition, inspiring effective work of public and private institutions.

United Nations Data

A key to their effective use is coordination of both data collection and activities carried out on their basis, e.g., within the United Nations system – as underlined by Alexandre Caldas (Chief Big Data Branch in the UNEP Science Division) in his speech. This coordination is necessary to achieve the ambitious strategy of guiding people, places and the whole planet toward a safe and fair future.

Pascal Peduzzi, director of the UNEP/GRID-Geneva Centre, talked about one of the practical tools for the common good – UNEP's World Environment Situation Room. For its use, the UNEP/GRID-Warsaw Centre has prepared a set of four story-maps, visual data presentations which aimed at raising public awareness in regard to concerns such as freshwater or sustainable production & consumption.

During his presentation, Peduzzi made a point about a significant challenge of transferring knowledge from the data, in a way that could move social imagination. – Preparing a report cannot be the end of the process. We must use psychological knowledge and show the tangibility of facts such as the floods in Venice or tropical forest fires – he said.

From knowledge to action

Monica Miguel-Lago from the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies [EARSC] demonstrated in turn, how satellite data can also serve the economy. In her example, she discussed Greenland – a region of the world largely dependent on the ocean and the number of ice floats at any given time. Frequently refreshed relevant data would allow for more efficient transportation in the region.

Representatives of the digitisation office of the Capital City of Warsaw presented municipal initiatives, such as the project of urban digital transformation strategy and the website Data in Warsaw.

Milva Carbonaro from the Geographical Information Systems International Group (GISIG), presented the assumptions of the EO4GO project. These included mapping the skills in the fields of smart city building, adaptation to climate change and integrated implementations of geoinformation apps.

UNEP/GRID-Warsaw Centre is part of the EO4GEO project, consisting of 26 partners from 16 countries – representatives of science centres, the private and public sector, organisations specializing in education in the field of spatial information applications and satellite data.

During the summary of the meeting, the director of UNEP/GRID-Warsaw Centre, Maria Andrzejewska noticed, that the subject of data and their use is also widely present in another project in which organisation is involved – international conferences Innovative Eco-City.