GMES and data, like geese and golden eggs

8 May 2013

A recent study brings forward the idea that data from the upcoming Sentinel series of satellites should be regarded as Public Sector Information, increasing their value for money.

Through the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme, decision-makers will have access to reliable, timely and accurate information services to manage the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security.

The programme will rely heavily on data provided by the Sentinel family of satellites – the first of which is due for launch later this year.

The potential of these data and information to be ‘reused’ both for commercial and non-commercial purposes recently came into focus in an ESA-commissioned study. In the final report, the authors outlined how reusing the data could potentially generate new businesses and jobs, and provide consumers with more choice and more value for money.

The report notes: “GMES may well be Europe’s goose capable of laying golden eggs. But how can we ensure a steady sustainable business model: do we take one egg (direct returns from sales of data) or do we allow the egg to hatch, hoping more golden-egg-laying geese will follow?”

The free and open data policy for Sentinel data is expected to foster such reuse. In fact, there is evidence that economic benefits are magnified when the data are made available at low or marginal cost, so that entry barriers are minimised also for small and medium enterprises.

Several surveys have evidenced this effect for various non-space information sectors, but no such survey exists for Earth observation data.

In Europe, the general topic of reusing Public Sector Information (PSI) is addressed by a specific EU directive, called the PSI Directive. A key principle of a currently proposed update for the directive is that the fees to be charged by the public authorities for the access to the information should be limited to marginal costs. For digital data, this would put the cost close to or at zero.

In the recently released study on the link between the PSI Directive and Earth observation public data, co-authors Geoff Sawyer from the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies and Marc De Vries from Citadel Consulting present the outcomes from studies available for other PSI sectors, and analyse the possible applicability to GMES.

The authors note: “No links have been made so far between the world of [Earth observation] data and services and the wider world of PSI reuse: it is now time to bring them together.”

The GMES data and information policy is being finalised, targeting an open and free access to Sentinel data.

Click here to read the study report.

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