Digital Earth Africa leans on AWS as it looks to scale

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Adam Lewis, MD of Digital Earth Africa.
Adam Lewis, MD of Digital Earth Africa.

The opening of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Africa will boost Digital Earth Africa’s (DE Africa’s) efforts to deliver satellite imagery to African governments, businesses and researchers, to name a few.

This is according to Adam Lewis, MD of DE Africa, lauding the AWS regional data centres.

In April, AWS announced the opening of its AWS Africa (Cape Town) Region, and with this launch, AWS now spans 73 Availability Zones within 23 geographic regions around the world.

With the launch of the AWS Africa region, Lewis says access to data and information will happen at accelerated speeds and at more affordable storage costs.

“The cloud is indispensable to DE Africa because we need to be able to store, process and provide access to data for all of Africa, and we need that to be in an environment that is reliable, scalable and operational.

“We can leverage AWS’s advanced technologies to drive innovation while our data sits in local data centres. There is a growing trend of cloud adoption on the African continent, which will be accelerated by providers’ presence locally.”

Introduced last year February, DE Africa is an Earth observation organisation that takes satellite imagery specific to the continent’s land and seas, and translates it into easy to consume information for anyone to use.

The information, says DE Africa, can provide unique insights into a range of issues, including flooding, droughts, soils, coastal erosion, agriculture, forests and land use, water availability and quality, and changes to human settlements – all of which can be leveraged to monitor and manage Africa’s resources to address sustainability challenges that impact African societies.

However, there are challenges in this increasing role of data from satellites, according to Lewis.

“While Africa’s land surface has been well documented by satellites providing a rich source of high-quality data about the land and sea surface, the challenge is the ability to scale up or down, and compute and analyse this kind of data.

“We need to make the data easier to digest and translate into meaningful information, ultimately for sustainable decision-making.

“DE Africa needs to store petabytes of satellite data, operationally updated as the satellites capture new images. And have to operationally process the data to produce new information such as our water observations from space, and keep it up to date.”

According to Lewis, working with AWS will enable DE Africa to deliver a continental-scale platform that democratises the capacity to process and analyse satellite data in real-time.

“Through the use of a range of AWS’s services across computing power, storage and artificial intelligence, we’re able to extrapolate, analyse and store up to two petabytes of satellite data.

“This is all in ultra-high-definition within minutes of it being available – 800% faster than before, enabling prompt government environmental policy changes.

“Through the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative, we are provided storage of large data for mission-critical workloads, including Copernicus Sentinel-2 and USGS Landsat satellite imagery in the new AWS Africa (Cape Town) Region,” he concludes.

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