Group on Earth Observations (GEO)

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) are collaborating around their shared visions of openness. For GEO this means open data, open standards, and open science; for OSGeo this means free and open source software.

As such, GEO is pleased to be a key supporter of the largest community gathering of the open source geospatial community, which will take place online as part of FOSS4G 2021 from 27 September to 2 October; the local organizing committee is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. GEO is supporting FOSS4G with a 3-day dedicated track on “Open EO”.

FOSS4G is the flagship event of OSGeo and serves annually as the best scenario to discover the state of the art in Open Geospatial Technologies. With an annual international gathering, this conference brings together experts and users with interest in Open Geospatial.

GEO represents more than 110 countries and the European Commission, working together to advocate, engage and deliver on the value and usefulness of open Earth observations data and information. It recognizes that the societal benefits of Earth observations can only be fully achieved through the sharing of data, information, knowledge, products and services. To achieve this, GEO operates an international work programme with more than 65 activities, many with more than 100 partners per activity.

These activities cut across agriculture, biodiversity, climate action, disaster risk reduction, forestry, freshwater, land, ocean, urbanisation and other key global areas of interest. Only by working together can we fully unlock the transformative insights of data and help address some of the world’s most pressing societal challenges.

Gilberto Camara, the GEO Secretariat Director states:

“As someone who has developed open source projects for decades I am very pleased that GEO is able to bring together our open Earth observation community together with the open source geospatial community during FOSS4G 2021. There are so many common areas for collaboration in academia, research, policy making and commerce. We are honored to be able to share our ideas and expertise with this community and learn from them as well.”

María Arias de Reyna, the co-chair of FOSS4G 2021 states:

“The collaboration with GEO is a natural and organic relationship that merges the best of our worlds: our software needs good data sources to run and data needs good software to be useful. I am confident this is just another step forward in a beautiful friendship."

What is GEO?

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is a global intergovernmental partnership connecting government institutions, academic and research institutions, businesses, civil society, non-governmental organisations and other practitioners to create innovative Earth observation (EO) solutions to global environmental and societal challenges. The GEO community works collaboratively in the areas of climate action, disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and urban resilience.

What does GEO do?

GEO works with hundreds of national government agencies from the 100+ countries that are members of GEO. The goal is to highlight the value and usefulness of open Earth observations data and information for research, policy, decisions and action. Results are delivered through the GEO work programme, the key implementation mechanism for the GEO community to collaborate. There are also currently 55 projects ongoing with major technology providers relating to lowering the barriers for entry to cloud services.

Ministers from GEO members meet periodically to provide the political mandate and overall strategic direction for GEO. The last Ministerial Summit in 2019 produced the Canberra Declaration which complements and supports the GEO Strategic Plan. GEO believes that full and open access to Earth observation data, information and knowledge is critical for humanity as it faces unprecedented social, economic and environmental challenges.

What are GEO’s priorities?

GEO’s global engagement priorities include supporting international policy instruments, including the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. A fourth engagement priority is under development relating to sustainable cities and human settlements, this links to the New Urban Agenda.

What does GEO have to offer?

There are 65+ work programme activities being implemented under GEO, these cut across agriculture, biodiversity, climate, disasters, energy, forestry, land, ocean, urban and other areas. The work programme community is a mix of technical experts, practitioners and policy makers all looking to use Earth observations to make a difference. It is a large global community with domain expertise, practitioner experience and provides inputs for countries.

The GEO community has been building a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) to better integrate observing systems and share data by connecting existing infrastructures using common standards. The GEOSS Infrastructure brokers 400+ million open Earth observation data and information resources. The GEO Knowledge Hub is also being developed as part of the GEOSS Infrastructure, this is a cloud-based digital library (repository) providing access to knowledge required to reuse applications of Earth observations. The purpose of the Knowledge Hub is to reveal all components of a given application using EO data, whether stored in the Knowledge Hub or other repositories.

How does GEO work?

The GEO Plenary is the annual meeting of the GEO community, held each year at GEO Week. It represents the highest decision making body of GEO, composed of GEO principals (nominate officials) at senior levels of government, representing GEO members, participating organizations (partners) and associates (private sector). All decisions are made by consensus and the GEO Secretariat is the coordinator of GEO Week with the host country and the organising committee, which includes countries from around the world.

What has GEO accomplished so far?

Open data policy has gone from the exception to the global norm since the creation of GEO and the work of organizations, such as G20 and OECD. This is reinforced by the fact that a growing number of GEO members are adopting and following broad open data sharing practices. For example, the agreement to announce Landsat as open EO data was signed at a GEO Plenary more than a decade ago, the European Copernicus programme has since followed this path and there were recent announcements from China and Japan. With the corresponding increase in available open Earth observations data, end-user driven initiatives developed under the GEO work programme are creating real impact for a wide range of global environmental and societal challenges.

The GEO Report on Impact 2016-2019 and the most recent Highlights Report 2020 provide some examples of successful activities from the GEO work programme.

How is GEO supporting open science?

The GEO Knowledge Hub (GKH) is a digital repository providing access to knowledge required to build applications of Earth observations.  The purpose of the GKH is to reveal all components of the application, including: (a) research papers and reports describing methods and results; (b) software algorithms and cloud computing resources used for processing; (c) in situ and satellite imagery data used; and (d) results for verification.

How is GEO supporting marginalized communities?

The GEO Indigenous Alliance is a network of Indigenous peoples from around the world working with the GEO community to advance culturally appropriate and inclusive Earth observation applications. These support the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples. The Indigenous Alliance was founded at GEO Week 2019 in Canberra, Australia. In December 2020 a GEO Indigenous Summit was held online with 1000+ attendees.

GEO in numbers

Formed in 2005, hundreds of national government agencies from 112 countries and the European Commission working across 7 continents with 130+ partner organizations, 65+ work programme activities, 55 projects with global technology players, 15 associates from the private sector and 400+ million open Earth observations data and information resources.

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