Humanitarian Future - Satellite and Mapping
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Humanitarian Future – Satellite and Mapping

Technology has already changed the way we interact with the world. And it will continue to do so. For humanitarian aid, tech means being able to save more lives. Robots, biometrics, artificial intelligence, mobile, drones, blockchain, and other emerging technologies are changing the humanitarian future.

The use of satellites and GIS mapping is also making its contribution to global development. This humanitarian tech is vital for relief and rescue, environmental protection, working in conflict zones, and more.

The ultimate humanitarian traveling list

Satellite imaging

The outer space is closer than we think and more accessible than ever. It’s also much cheaper than before. So the aid sector has claimed satellite imaging as a key humanitarian tech for global development. If you are wondering how satellite images can save lives, there is a surprisingly varied number of ways.

One of the first uses that come to mind is in humanitarian relief and coordination. Satellite images help to assess disaster-stricken areas with more precision. They also help map needs, areas of intervention, and zones that are too dangerous to access.

UNOSAT is one of the most significant projects in this area. The United Nations-backed project provides high-quality geospatial information to UN decision-makers. Plus, they make it available for use by various aid and global development organizations. This helps with humanitarian relief and coordination, security and humanitarian law, and regional planning and monitoring.

However, there are also some less obvious uses for satellite imaging. For example, satellite images can provide information on areas that are difficult to access due to conflict. In the past, this has meant that these images were able to corroborate eyewitness reports of human rights violations. This can help to persecute the perpetrators and help the victims.

Climate change activists can also use satellite data for conservation. The Amazon Conservation Association used images of illegal gold mining in Pero to bring the activities to a halt. Meanwhile, Descartes Labs used data from Planet Labs to predict crop yields.

Satellite Communications

Besides imaging, satellites can also provide better communication. When working in very remote places, satellites become an essential humanitarian tech. The same thing happens after a disaster, when telecommunications lines may be down.

Companies like Iridium and EutelSat provide aid workers with satellite communications. This means that workers in the field have a reliable connection with headquarters, co-workers, and their families. It makes coordination more manageable and ensures better safety while in the area.

Mapping humanitarian needs

Geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) are also essential humanitarian tech. They allow organizations to map a variety of relevant information and analyze geographic location data.

For example, when working with displaced populations, the International Organization for Migration can document specific needs. They then pin them on the map and share this information for better coordination among agencies. And, of course, better aid delivery.

Mapping can also help to analyze trends. This includes the movement of people, aid supplies, epidemics, disaster-affected areas, and so on. Once this information is available, it’s easier to make informed decisions. Open source platforms, such as Open Street Map are particularly useful in this. They provide crowdsourced and free information to everyone who needs it.

Are there drawbacks to satellite use and mapping in the aid sector?

Just like with any other technology, there are some issues to consider when it comes to using satellites and mapping. For example, satellite technology looks and is expensive. When in the field, workers may be too exposed to use satellite communications devices. Or, being seen with one might put them at risk. Mainly, this is true for conflict zones or areas with high levels of violence.

Also, some organizations may not have access to these expensive gadgets. This puts them at a disadvantage and their staff at risk. There are also questions such as cost, the availability of skilled workers, long-term training, and resource investments to consider. Organizations need to evaluate the pros and cons of such significant investments for their work.

Finally, technology can help, but it cannot replace human relationships, evaluation, and intuition. Just because a map shows clusters of need, it may not reflect the reality if needs are dispersed across an area. Similarly, it cannot talk to the people on the ground and get their point of view. So organizations should always use caution when making decisions based on hard data.

Here is What the Humanitarian Future Might Look Like

New technologies have been changing the world for centuries. Today, technology is changing at a faster pace than ever. And that means a lot of new trends for the humanitarian future. We’ve covered some of the top trends in humanitarian tech on this website. Together, they will undoubtedly alter the global development and aid sectors. So here is an overview of what the humanitarian future might look like.

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