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Supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

By Mark Hampson, Chief Innovation Officer, Satellite Applications Catapult

On 1 January 2016, the United Nation’s 17 ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) officially came into force, having been adopted by world leaders in September 2015. The SDGs are designed to “transform our world through ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all.”

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals

The Goals, which must be achieved by 2030, include: eradicating poverty and hunger; promoting good health, quality education and gender equality; clean water and affordable energy; decent work and economic growth; building industry, innovation and infrastructure; sustainable cities and economies; climate action; ocean and land sustainability; peace, justice and strong institutions; and revitalising the global partnership for sustainable development.

These objectives were adopted by all UN members. However, the infrastructure, facilities and spending power of certain countries give them greater responsibility in tackling the issues and helping develop solutions for emerging economies.

With this in mind, space and development organisations from the United Nations Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), to the European Space Agency, World Bank and UK Space Agency, to name a few, are adopting a proactive approach to addressing the goals through some major initiatives.

Managed by the Satellite Applications Catapult, STARHub aims to share information about activities, providing an online facility for the space community to share the latest research and their learnings from working on international projects. It also intends to connect the community with international organisations looking for information and advice on the potential of satellite applications, and to encourage them to connect with experts to deliver new satellite-based services and infrastructure in their own country.

With the likes of Google and Facebook working on major programmes to provide internet connectivity to billions of as yet unconnected people around the globe, awareness of satellite technology is undoubtedly growing. However, we believe that it’s the local knowledge, people networks and experience combined with the expertise provided by the rapidly growing satellite applications sector that can deliver maximum value for end-users.

This is already being proven through African projects relating to banking, health services and international collaboration on humanitarian disaster response. In Kenya, Equity Bank Group is working with satellite communications provider Inmarsat to deliver connectivity that enables financial services, welfare and other content access to over 200 locations. Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Inmarsat and the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action are delivering maternal and child health services to 50 remote and rural communities.

It’s important to emphasise that such programmes are not the exclusive domain of leading industry players; by registering on STARHub, SMEs will gain access to a host of new business opportunities that could make a genuine impact in emerging economies and help the UN achieve its SDG targets.