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African-European Georesources Observation System

Periodic Report Summary - AEGOS (African-European georesources observation system)

The AEGOS project aimed to design the pan African spatial data infrastructure (SDI) of public and interoperable geology related data as well as user oriented products and services to foster and strengthen the sustainable use of georesources in Africa, i.e. metallic and industrial minerals, groundwater and geothermal energy. Collectively, European and African geological surveys as well as authorities in charge of the natural resources management have a unique archive of public Africa-related georesources' data that needs to be shared and valorised. Providing access represents a major stake for sustainable development, policy making and capacity building in geosciences in Africa.

AEGOS consisted in designing the SDI for African georesources as a continental observation system to support a wide range of end users, such as policy-makers, development agencies, private sector actors, research and education geoscientific communities and civil society. When operational, this new SDI would produce the required added value documents and services for well informed decision making as part of improved governance processes when addressing the critical issues of the sustainable use of georesources for the socioeconomic development in Africa.

With respect to the above mentioned objective and expected results, the tasks executed during the first 18 months of the project were the following:

1. SDI reference model, metadata and data specifications, as part of the first work package (WP1).
2. architecture specifications (WP2).
3. identification of data themes, user-oriented products and services (WP3).
4. preparation of innovative projects based on AEGOS.
5. interoperability and interdisciplinarity in support of the global Earth observation system of systems (GEOSS), as part of WP5.
6. definition of common strategies for capacity building and training (WP6).
7. the AEGOS project as a geoscience contribution to GEOSS, in the context of the 'Inspire' Directive (WP7).
8. evaluating the 'sustainability of the georesources observation system'. A couple of internal meetings were conducted with the team members in order to specify the final structure of the AEGOS operational system and the path to reach this target.
9. information and dissemination system of the Support Action (WP9).

The main results of the project for each of the tasks related to the first period were the following:

1. Existing SDI reference models, metadata and data specifications were analysed. This analysis was carried out using the answers to a designed questionnaire. Although it was sent to the AEGOS partners and a wide panel of data producers over 34 countries, the collected information needed to be complemented about the existing metadata standard and reference data models. Websites of relevant African and European infrastructures and initiatives were surveyed. In addition, a study was conducted about the integration of bibliographic information and reports in a geo-referenced system. A standard based reference model was proposed in order to describe all the components and the implementation rules of the future AEGOS SDI. The recommendations included metadata standards, the Inspire profile and methodology as well as the GeoSciML and EarthResourceML data models.
2. The functionality and infrastructure of existing systems were analysed. The first stage of work was focussed on an assessment of existing facilities and a critical evaluation of their operation. It covered the technical infrastructure, the operation, the involved personnel and the potential for development. The main difficulties were caused by inadequate technical equipment, out-dated software, missing standards and metadata, problems in obtaining access and downloading data. Data delivery was often restricted by technical problems and access rights not being defined. Incompatible data structures and non-uniform terminology meant that the interoperability of data was poor. Problems were identified in staffing and with the allocation of responsibility for the maintenance of the information technology (IT) systems. The existing IT systems for geoscientific data and associated human resources needed to be improved to meet the requirements of the future AEGOS distributed infrastructure.
3. Data themes and their relevant attributes for a sustainable use and monitoring of georesources and innovative, user oriented products and services were identified. The assessment covering governmental, non-governmental and private sectors in 34 African countries gave a good overview of the existing situation regarding the type and availability of data, databases and information frameworks in Africa and on the needs of potential future end users of AEGOS. The results of this assessment were also analysed for data models and standards in use, status of the metadata, access rights and intellectual property rights (IPR). In many countries, work to develop a national data and service infrastructure was already underway. The major problems were related to limited coverage of digital data, lack of common data models and missing standards for metadata, service interfaces and data transfer. Digital data for many African countries could be found on web sites, but it was generalised, whereas higher resolution data was usually not publicly available. The end users would need easy access to reliable and interoperable digital data, products and web enabled services. A guideline for the future AEGOS was therefore to develop a system that made good quality georesources data available publicly or charged at a nominal fee, and which enabled an end user to produce value added data products and to carry out customised data processing services.
4. A generic approach for the generation of user oriented products and services was formalised. The collected information was analysed to initiate the definition of user oriented products and services and spin off projects. On the basis of the results of the follow up questionnaire, end users' preliminary priority research themes and choice of themes for preparing future spin off projects were obtained. The process of creating end user committee was initiated and the national and regional end user committees under leadership of AEGOS partners would be implemented. The flowchart for the generic approach to project generation and the general scheme for project selection were prepared. Analysis of information and some preliminary offer of innovative spin off projects were carried out based on the database with information from the questionnaires. Preliminary proposals of future innovative spin off projects based on the definition of products and services were formulated. They covered several themes, such as mineral resources, groundwater and environmental issues.
5. A test-case area and relevant data sources and services for interoperability and interdisciplinarity in support of GEOSS were identified. Since mineral extraction has important consequences on ecosystems and biodiversity, the focus was put to the impacts of mining sites located close or inside protected areas with high ecological value. This analysis built on the established 'protected areas vulnerability assessment' developed within the project. A first test case was selected in Tanzania for developing combinations with the TANRIS database which was set up by one of the project partners. In parallel, the evaluation of a second test case area was under consideration. It focussed on the prediction of water erosion at the regional scale in Africa. Soil erosion by water was regarded as one of the most widespread forms of soil degradation in Africa and, as such, posed potentially severe limitations to sustainable development.
6. Existing curricula and infrastructures in Africa and Europe dedicated to capacity building and training for the sustainable use of georesources were analysed. An organisation for building capacities and training was also proposed. The first set of requirements for capacity building was identified using mind maps on professional profiles covering the skills and specialisations in the fields of project management, information technology, data management, information management and user management. These were based on the future needs to implement and operate the AEGOS SDI as well as on the gap analysis concerning the present skills and knowledge level at various African organisations dealing with georesources. A guideline to be used for generating information on adequate educational institutions in Africa and Europe was developed. The activities and necessary professional profiles for implementing and running the AEGOS-SDI were initially described and required further input, planned to be provided during the upcoming project stages.
7. A geoscience targets working group was built and data testing, information upload and download issues were analysed. The GEO geoscience targets working group began life in the bi-lateral meetings held in Cape Town and evolved through correspondence and an AEGOS-GEO mapping exercise undertaken by the project consortium. The aim was to have a mature analysis by the end of this reporting period. This was successfully achieved and, as a result, presentations were identified to populate a workshop agenda. These covered a range of georesources topics from mapping and three-dimensional modelling, through mineral resources and associated environmental issues to geothermal energy and palaeo-climate. The outcome was a strong, well-prepared agenda. Furthermore, the team members prepared the contract with Eumetstat for the GeonetCast trial, made the local links in Burkina Faso for the reception of the data and developed the necessary datasets to be broadcasted during it. The result was well advanced preparations, with almost everything needed in place by the end of this reporting period.
8. The 'sustainability of the georesources observation system' was evaluated. This consisted in designing a plan for sustainable operation (PSO) of the future AEGOS system. This PSO had a wider scope than the business plan that was initially identified. It was extended from the system to the overall AEGOS organisation and included the links and support from existing organisations such as the African Union, the Organisation of African Geological Surveys and the Geological Society of Africa. The first design of the PSO was documented and discussed within the AEGOS team and with external potential partners.
9. The official website was set up, the implemented publication policy was defined and the dissemination system was set up. Moreover, the project members participated in the organisation of conferences and workshops and the AEGOS charter of partnership was defined. Since its setting up the project website ( was continuously updated and populated with documents produced by each WP and the coordination. Six quarterly newsletters were published in two formats, namely a pdf file downloadable from the website and also in html format. The mailing list was regularly updated with self registered readers on the website and contacts identified by the project team members. New posters, fact sheets and flyers were regularly generated upon request for communicating about the project in external events including workshops, conferences and exhibitions. The team contributed with the project coordination and the local hosts to organise two public conferences. Finally, the AEGOS publication policy was defined.