ceos   eesa
Perspectives on EO for the SDGs
  The Role of Geospatial Information and Earth Observations in the SDGs: A Policy Perspective  
  Earth Observation for Ecosystem Accounting  
  Forging Close Collaboration Between EO Scientists and Official Statisticians – An Australian Case Study  
  Monitoring the 2030 Agenda in Mexico: Institutional Coordination and the Integration of Information  
  Perspectives from a Custodian Agency for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries  
  The ‘Urban’ SDG and the Role for Satellite Earth Observations  
  EO4SDG: Earth Observations in Service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  
  Pan-European Space Data Providers and Industry Working in Support of the SDGs  
  The Rise of Data Philanthropy and Open Data in Support of the 2030 Agenda  
  Building a Demand-Driven Approach to the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development  
  Environmental Information from Satellites in Support of Development Aid  
spacer The Rise of Data Philanthropy and Open Data in Support of the 2030 Agenda

Open data – specifically geospatial open data about our changing planet – plays an essential role by connecting ideas for global stewardship and guiding positive human impact. Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of global development, where more and more governments, non-governmental organizations and businesses are exploring ways to deliver much-needed imagery, data and related geospatial tools to a diverse and expanding community of users to ensure a sustainable future. Whether for food security, humanitarian response, property rights or global health, open data is essential for decision-making and enables the most impactful response to today’s critical challenges.

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Omidyar Network, Radiant.Earth provides users of all levels of sophistication with improved capabilities to discover, obtain, analyse and integrate imagery and data, geospatial tools and knowledge. Topical areas of focus include agriculture, food security, forestry, conservation, environment, global development, global health, humanitarian response, property rights, government transparency and journalism.

9.1 Introduction

Because of the essential nature of data for decision-making, a rise in data philanthropy and open data is taking place on a global scale. Data philanthropy – where for-profit businesses provide commercial data to the global development community free or at reduced cost – is not a new concept, but a proven one that is playing a greater role in global development activities. Perhaps one of the first examples of this is the DigitalGlobe Foundation that, as noted in a recent BusinessWire article, is celebrating 10 years of providing commercial high-resolution data for researchers to solve “issues that impact the Earth and all its inhabitants.” According to the Foundation (underwritten by DigitalGlobe, Inc.), “More than 3,000 imagery grants and services delivering hundreds of millions of square kilometers of the Earth valued at more than $14 million have been awarded over 10 years.”

Similarly, Planet has an open call for college students, researchers and professors to apply for access to their “one-of-a-kind” datasets for non-commercial purposes.

Using a different model entirely, Airbus Defence and Space makes information available through their Global Earth Observation Challenge, where entrepreneurs are asked to pitch business solutions in areas such as forest management, agriculture, smart cities and maritime. Selected projects are provided coaching and data vouchers worth €20,000-50,000.

Although implemented differently, the DigitalGlobe, Planet and Airbus efforts demonstrate how commercial providers are further evolving this relatively new area of philanthropy by providing highly valuable imagery and data at no or little cost, all for the benefit of advancing its use and applications to meet today’s most pressing challenges. While these commercial businesses cannot be expected to always deliver data for free or at reduced cost, it is through many of these efforts that use cases are proven and advances are happening on the ground, benefiting the industry as well as the broader development community. As efforts increase to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, one can readily see the connection and importance of data philanthropy to this endeavour.

spacer Traditional philanthropy is fuelling the rise in open data, supporting game-changing initiatives to expand and accelerate its use in the global development community.

As reported in Reuters earlier this year, “Some of the world’s most influential billionaire philanthropists plan to launch a powerful digital platform to harness the avalanche of data sent from satellites each day – and make it freely available for humanitarian and environmental causes.” The digital platform to which the article refers is Radiant.Earth.

9.2 Radiant.Earth

The Radiant.Earth customer base is diverse and not only recognizes end users and researchers, but also the equally important outreach to and engagement of data providers (public and commercial), value-added companies and cutting-edge developers that enable efficiencies, advancements and the opportunity to reach greater scale. Two foundational principles guide Radiant.Earth: open and neutral. Open refers to freely available imagery, data, geospatial tools and educational resources. Neutral refers to advocating for all of the growing sources of data, whether it be public or private, satellite, airborne or drone, or from any geographic area.

Through its open-technology platform and robust, proactive community development effort, Radiant.Earth intends to accelerate and expand the use of geospatial resources to improve decision-making by:

- aggregating the world’s open Earth imagery;

- connecting users with the best tools, expertise, and solutions;

- improving discovery and analysis of the vast resources of Earth imagery with improved tools (cloud computing, plug-ins, and APIs);

- providing education on the use of the resources;

- serving as a new source for contributing, storing and accessing growing amounts of drone data;

- providing non-profit organizations with services to develop requests for proposals, to conduct technical review of commercial proposals, and to develop proof of concept applications;

- building a community of innovators by creating new opportunities for developers to fuel solutions as a result of better access, more data and a better understanding of the community’s needs; and

- providing highly-valuable insights into the commercial marketplace and related policies such as licensing issues.

In short, Radiant.Earth will amplify other’s good work – the excellent products, research, contributions and advancements of the numerous and diverse government, business and non-governmental organisations that comprise the broad global development community.

It intends to strengthen and compliment on-going efforts, all within a context that is more responsive to global development.

As the old adage states, “A rising tide lifts all boats”. Radiant.Earth hopes to be that tide by leveraging today’s technology to take what now is a disparate and competitive marketplace filled with many successes, but with several high barriers to entry, and transforming it to one that is more cohesive, collaborative, informed, equipped and responsive to the global development community.
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Figure 1: Here’s how it works

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9.3 Partnerships for the future

Strong collaborations with groups such as the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which have been at the forefront of open data policy for societal benefit, are key to realizing Radiant.Earth. To that end, Radiant.Earth has established formal working relationships with numerous CEOS Members, including ESA and CSIRO, and has engaged GEO and NASA in planning efforts. In addition, it has established agreements with private sector firms such as Amazon Web Services.

As Radiant.Earth bridges public, private and non-governmental sectors, it is uniquely situated to help deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which will require even greater cooperation and communication and will need to address a myriad of fast-paced changes occurring in the marketplace. Many of these changes are happening outside the CEOS community. From new privately-funded satellite constellations to an abundance of drone data, new actors and data sources in the sky and on the ground are rapidly advancing open data strategies and impacts. Cloud computing and machine learning are changing and accelerating analytic capabilities, taking data access and research to new levels. To this end, we have formed partnerships with new actors such as Code for Africa, a membership group with the largest civic technology laboratories and open data activists. All of these capabilities should be harnessed to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.


ESA and Radiant.Earth recently entered into an agreement to facilitate monitoring progress towards the SDGs and enhancing geospatial literacy across the global development community.

Radiant.Earth looks forward to contributing to the 2030 Agenda and leveraging the successes of data philanthropy and open data. Along with the work of groups such as CEOS, Radiant.Earth hopes to provide a new and effective resource for the global development community.

Figure 2: Food distribution in Kenya (Anes Sabitovic,, Creative Commons)
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spacer spacer Article Contributors

Anne Hale Miglarese (Chief Executive Officer, Radiant.Earth)

Anthony Burn (Chief Engagement Officer, Radiant.Earth)

Further Information

Radiant.Earth website: or email

Specific inquiries regarding cooperation or contributions should be directed to Anthony Burn, Chief Engagement Officer at

General communications or press inquiries should be Louisa Nakanuku-Diggs at

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