19 February 2013. On 13 February ESPI and the Secure World Foundation (SWF) invited to an evening event dedicated to looking at the role of industry in ensuring that space provides sustainable benefits to all of Mankind. A keynote was given by Ray Williamson of SWF and a scene-setting presentation by Cenan Al-Ekabi of ESPI. Thereafter the co-chairmen of the Expert Group B of the Scientific and Technical Sub-committee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), Enrique Pacheco and Filipe Duarte Santos, introduced the mandate and work of this Expert Group – a mandate which is focused on how space can assist sustainable development on Earth. This was followed by a very lively discussion with the audience.
The keynote speech by Ray Williamson of SWF presented the work done by a group of students of the International Space University in this field and the ensuing White Paper. This was followed by a presentation by Cenan Al-Ekabi of ESPI, in which the topic of spreading around the benefits of space was put into the broader context of the development and sustainability agendas. Then the mandate of the Expert Group B was presented by the co-chairmen, Enrique Pacheco and Filipe Duarte Santos, it being noted that the meetings of the Sub-committee coincided with the ESPI/SWF event, and that the mandate of the Expert Group was particularly topical.
The largest part of the event was, however, set aside for a discussion of the audience on the topic. This debate was very engaging and yielded many concrete ideas and proposals. One main conclusion was that what is at stake is the position of developing countries in the knowledge society. Will the tools for participating in the knowledge society be available and be used in order to tap the rich talents of populations in developing countries and emerging economies in the future? The objective must be not just to catch up with the industrialised world in terms of manufacturing capabilities – the imperative is to become fully-fledged participants in the knowledge society and for this good access to, for instance, the internet is crucial. Another main conclusion, related to the first, is that the challenge presented is not a technology problem – it is a people problem. Africa, for example, is not poorly served in terms of telecoms capacity or access to Earth observation data, so the challenge is to convert all the capacity and information into something useable and useful on the ground, and relevant for the local context. Space industry has both a supporting and independent role in terms of meeting these challenges!
Peter Hulsroj, ESPI
Ray Williamson, SWF
Cenan Al-Ekabi, ESPIHenrique Pacheco, Expert Group A