Digital Earth Summit steps into Africa



Digital Earth Summit steps into Africa

The 7th Digital Earth Summit 2018, on the theme of ‘Digital Earth for Sustainable Development in Africa’ was held in El Jadida, Morocco, at the Faculty of Science, Chouaib Douakkali University from April 17-19, 2018. The series of the summit, hosted by the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE), came to Africa for the first time. The summit was organized under the high patronage of the Majesty the King Mohammed VI, and in partnership with the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) and the Moroccan Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (MARSE).

The objective of the summit is to bring together scientists and professionals from the African and international community to present latest achievements, discuss challenges and share experiences on Digital Earth related technologies and their applications for the sustainable development of Africa. The summit tries to facilitate the African in witnessing the Digital Earth challenge and offering possible scientific solutions, to accelerate the digital transformation of the continent. The conference featured 8 keynote speeches delivered by leading scholars, technical sessions with reports of the latest research outcomes. Many around 200 experts from five continents leaned to discuss research issues on Digital Earth in line with the expectations of international and national stakeholders working on Earth observation and geospatial information. The 3 plenaries, 15 sessions, plus panel discussions and side meetings, have covered the topics of Digital Earth capacity building, Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI), big data, space policy, programmes and projects, as well as commercial exhibitions showing latest products and services in Digital Earth and geospatial information technologies. Among the activities programmed during this conference is the official launching of the International Center of Excellence on the Applications of Earth Observation Science and Technology in the Management of Water Resources, and the framework of the International Digital Belt and Road (DBAR) program initiated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

The  opening ceremony


The opening ceremony was chaired by Prof. Kamal Labbassi on the day 17th. Prof. Guo Huadong (President of the International Society for Digital Earth), Mr. Mohammed El Guerrouj (Governor of El Jadida), Mr. Yahia Boughaleb (President of Chouaïb Doukkali University), Mr. Mohamed KHALFAOUI (Director of the National Center for Scientific and Technical Research), the representative of the Secretary of State of the Minister of Equipment, Transport, Logistics and Water, and the Dean of the Faculty of Sciences, were invited to be guest and gave the opening remarks. Two keynote presentations including ‘DBAR for sustainable development in Africa’ by Prof. Guo Huadong from CAS, and ‘Radio Science investigation as an effective tool for monitoring Earth’s freshwater’ by Dr. Kamal Ouadrhiri from NASA, were given afterwards. ISDE secretariat General Dr. Mario Hernandez chaired the following panel discussion on the topic of the ‘How can African Nations benefit from Earth data to improve resource and decision management’, with 7 speakers from CAS, NASA, Africa union, AARSE, CODATA, UNOSSA, and GEO.


ISDE president Prof. Guo Huadong  giving the keynote speech

The panel discussion


The panel discussion


During the day 18th and 19th,another 6 keynote presentations were given as:

  • Enabling Digital Earth inAfrica for Sustainable Development: AARSE Perspective
    Prof Olajide Kufoniyi, Professor, Obafemi AwolowoUniversity; President of the the African Association of Remote Sensing of theEnvironment.
  • FAIR data and the vision ofDigital Earth for global challenges
    Dr. Simon Hodson, Executive Director of CODATA
  • GRSS capacity building forAfrica
    Prof. Paolo Gamba, Professor, Head the Telecommunicationsand Remote Sensing Laboratory, University of Pavia, Italy
  • Global Monitoring forEnvironment and Security, and Africa (GMES & Africa): The First Pan AfricanEarth Observation Programme for the Sustainable Development of Africa
    Dr. Tidiane Ouattara, Space Expert and GMES & AfricaCoordinator, AUC.
  • The Secure WorldFoundation's handbook for new actors in space: Best practices, capacitytransfer, and challenges to integrating new actors
    Ms. Krystal Wilson, Director for Space ApplicationsPrograms.
  • Geo-computation for SocialScience - Experiences in Wuhan University
    Prof. Dr. LI Deren, Chair of the Academic Committee ofWuhan University


At the closing ceremony of the summit, Mr. Mohammed Sahabi, the Vice-President of the Chouaïb Doukkali University, read the letter from the University President to the Morocco King to report the success of the Summit, in which the importance of the Digital Belt and Road Initiative (DBAR) and its International Centre for Excellence (DBAR ICoE–El Jadida) was referred with the hope of future collaborations to help the research on water resource management and sustainable development in Africa. The organizer of the 11th International Symposium on Digital Earth being held in Florence, Italy in September 2019 presented the historic city of Italy and invited all participants to attend this symposium. The next Digital Earth Summit host was also announced, Russia got the opportunity in 2020, and a flag handover ceremony was held.



ISDE  best paper award of the young scientists


Flag  hand over to the next summit host at the closing ceremony


On the day 16th, the ISDE secretariat organized the 13th ISDE council meeting where 20 people attended including the ISDE council member and the invited experts. The topics such as ISDE development, secretariat updates, committee reports, national committee and chapter reports and strategic discussions were covered, and 15 people represented as reporters. The meeting brought discussions on the key topics like the Russia chapter, Africa chapter, ISDE working group, and approved the results of the ISDE best paper competition award for young scientists and decided the place of the 2020 Digital Earth Summit.


ISDE Council meeting


The 7th International Digital Earth Summit is one of the important academic conferences for Africa in the field of Digital Earth and spatial data and geo-Information in the year 2018, which brings together experts and scholars from the field of Digital Earth in Africa and the world, and discusses the theme of sustainable development in Africa. The successful convening of this conference is of great significance for promoting the development of Digital Earth Science research, global data and spatial information technology in Africa, and offering the Africa a sustainable development efforts guided by the Digital Earth concept. At the same time, the summit has a catalytic role in promoting and expanding the concept of Digital Earth in Africa.



The International Society for Digital Earth was founded in 2006 and is headquartered in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Its objective is to promote and disseminate the ‘Digital Earth’ vision together with international research institutions, academic scholars and science organizations. ISDE have established a international platform for academic exchanges and international collaborations using digital earth technologies for serving global sustainable development. ISDE has hosted 10 International Symposia on Digital Earth and 7 Digital Earth Summits worldwide, in 11 counties since 1999. The successful convening of these international conferences has laid a solid foundation for the continuous improvement and enrichment of Digital Earth concept, advancing of the development of Digital Earth technology, efforts to strengthen international collaborations, and practices from Digital Earth applications. The first Digital Earth Summit was held in Auckland (New Zealand) in 2006, followed by 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 in Potsdam (Germany), Nessebar (Bulgaria), Wellington (New Zealand), Nagoya (Japan) and Beijing (China). This 7th Digital Earth Summit, held in 2018 in the El Jadida (Morocco), is the first time that the series of summits had been held in Africa and will play an important role for disseminating the vision of Digital Earth and strengthening the collaboration of ISDE with Africa’s partners for sustainable development of this continent.