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  • Addressing Public Awareness to Improve Access and Use of Space Applications

    Paper ID



    • Laura Delgado López







    Efforts to increase public awareness of space activities are often driven by an understanding of the link between political support and public opinion of a given issue. A study conducted by the European Space Policy Institute in 2011, for example, recognizes the importance of public awareness of the development of Europe's Earth observations (Copernicus, then GMES) and global navigation satellite system (Galileo) infrastructures and recommends the development of a coherent communication strategy to garner and sustain public and political support of these large-scale programs. Increasing public awareness of space activities is a recurring goal of the space policies of both established and emerging space nations around the world, and motivates numerous initiatives that highlight the societal benefits of space-based applications. In addition to national development activities, the international space community has established multiple coordination efforts to expand the use of space-based applications to address societal needs, particularly in developing countries. Through these efforts, which include the United Nations Programme on Space Applications and the Group on Earth Observations, experts engage diverse user communities and help identify solutions to address challenges in the dissemination and utilization of these applications to solve pressing issues. Case studies in developing countries illustrate that lack of human, technical and financial resources are exacerbated by cultural and institutional barriers that together limit the extent to which these applications are successfully incorporated into decision-making structures. Such challenges may be symptomatic of a widespread lack of awareness in the general public and decision making communities of space activities and their link to valuable space applications, an issue that deserves greater examination. Through literature review, case studies and expert interviews, this paper will examine the potential role of public awareness as a potential barrier to greater access and utilization of space applications. It will argue that public awareness, education and communication strategies to illustrate the role of space applications in areas such as disaster and resource management, should not be considered independently from capacity building efforts and other initiatives to expand utilization. Ways to coordinate such activities should be explored and accompanied by efforts to support education and public outreach as a way to build broad-based political support to facilitate the integration of these technologies into decision making.