AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Announcing Cloud Grants to Improve Understanding of Our Planet

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) announced the 21 projects from 17 developing countries that will be awarded $1.5 million USD worth of cloud services, grants, and technical support through the Earth Observation Cloud Credits Programme.

Under the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI), this programme will enable Earth observations and applications to support sustainable environmental development including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Last December, GEO and Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the Earth Observation Cloud Credits Programme, a joint collaboration to offer GEO members and research organizations access to AWS Cloud services to help countries realize the potential of Earth observations for sustainable development.

Facilitating Access to Data for Development

National governments are exploring ways to better respond to environmental challenges, ranging from food insecurity and water resources management to planning sustainable, secure cities and managing the impacts of climate change. Earth observations, such as satellite imagery or data from environmental monitoring networks, offer a way for governments to measure, monitor, and manage their efforts.

Still, access to and analysis of large volumes of Earth observation data is challenging for many of GEO’s members, particularly in developing countries where resources are limited and Internet connectivity is poor or unreliable. To help address some of these challenges, the GEO-AWS Earth Observation Cloud Credits Programme offers developing countries access to complimentary cloud services that help with hosting, processing, and analysis of big data in the field of Earth observations.

Through this programme, GEO encouraged agencies and research organizations from GEO members categorized as Developing Countries by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to apply for cloud grants. Agencies and organizations from a single country could apply for up to $60,000 of AWS Promotional Credits over a three-year period, while multinational projects could apply for up to $100,000 in AWS Promotional Credits over the same period. Submissions were accepted from December 2018 through April 2019.

Announcing the Successful Projects

Through this request for proposals, GEO has received and approved support for 21 projects (see complete list here). These projects will receive access to AWS Promotional Credits to offset the cost of developing cloud-based sustainability applications using Earth observations. Recipients of cloud credits through this initiative are also receiving support from the GEO community and AWS experts to refine and implement their projects for the best possible results.

Awardees span a broad range of applications including monitoring wildfires, managing ground water resources, improving agricultural yield, and mapping and monitoring of forested areas. All of the awarded projects are contributing to activities of the GEO Work Programme, in particular GEO’s three engagement priorities: the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement for Climate and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They will leverage Earth observation data from open, free, and fully accessible sources and are encouraged to use the GEOSS Platform and the Registry of Open Data on AWS. The GEO Secretariat is also facilitating access to analysis-ready data from the Copernicus and Landsat programmes for projects seeking to make use of this data.

Selection criteria considered opportunities for co-design, co-production, and joint implementation with local stakeholders. Projects will demonstrate an intention to transition from research to practical application and show impact that is translatable to other contexts and the wider community. All data, software, and best practices  used and developed in the course of the selected projects will be made fully accessible to the wider GEO community, in compliance with Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) Data Sharing Principles.

GEO supports more than 100 UN Member States to advance access to open Earth observations. GEO offers all countries the opportunity to benefit from its community’s collective knowledge, expertise and skills to develop national Earth observations programmes. Through this collaboration, GEO is lowering barriers for developing countries to use cloud services and extending its reach beyond its current members to additional countries.

This is one of the approaches that the GEO Secretariat has taken to work with the commercial sector. There is also now a membership category available for private sector organisations to become Associate Members of GEO. More information can be found here.