The annual CEOS plenary offers an opportunity to reflect on the past year, plan for the future, and for some of our Working Groups, to welcome new leadership. This November, the Working Group on Capacity Building and Data Democracy (WGCapD) welcomed a new Chair, Jorge Del Rio Vera, from the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), and a new Vice-Chair, Dan Matsapola, from the South Africa National Space Agency (SANSA). The new Chair and Vice-Chair will serve to guide WGCapD through the next two years by organizing meetings, identifying priority work areas, and overseeing the completion of deliverables.
Mr. Jorge Del Rio Vera will be the first representative from a UN group to serve as a Chair or Vice-Chair since the WG’s inception. Mr. Del Rio Vera has been deeply involved in multiple WGCapD deliverables and work planning, efforts that align well with his role as Scientific Affairs officer at UNOOSA, a CEOS Associate. “Mr. Del Rio Vera is currently providing technical and scientific leadership to the flagship “Access to Space for All” initiative of the Office [of Outer Space Affairs], which provides research opportunities in orbital experiments, small satellites, and in space exploration,” Simonetta di Pippo, UNOOSA Director, writes. “In 2021, [Mr. Del Rio Vera] is also responsible for key capacity building events, including the UN/International Astronautical Federation Workshop to be held in Dubai just prior to the International Astronautical Congress. Mr. Del Rio Vera also provides the Office with specialist advice on subjects, among others, such as global navigations satellite systems, Earth observations, and space asset operations. I copiously trust Mr. Del Rio Vera for the position of Chair, and he will have my full support during his tenure.” Mr. Del Rio Vera will be supported by a secretariat team that includes Mr. Pavel Kiparisov.
Mr. Dan Matsapola is a founding member of WGCapD – he has been involved in the group since July 2008, when the WG was known as WGEdu, and was in attendance at the WGCapD-1 annual meeting held in Ilhabela, Brazil in 2012. Mr. Matsapola has over 20 years of experience in the space industry, during which time he championed the “Data Democracy for Developing Countries” legacy project in Africa from 2009 – 2013 and oversaw SANSA’s Earth Observation Human Capital Development portfolio. Mr. Matsapola currently serves as Science Engagement Manager, where he drives the strategic objective “to support the development of a critical mass of skills and expertise needed to give effect to regional space initiatives” in the SANSA 2020 – 2025 Strategic Plan, writes Andiswa Mlisa, SANSA Managing Director of Earth Observations. “SANSA uses this strategic objective to drive capacity development initiatives, with partners at national and regional levels. It is against this strategic alignment and SANSA’s historic participation in CEOS and, in particular, WGCapD, that SANSA raises its hand for the WGCapD Vice-Chair role.” Mr. Matsapola will be supported by Dr. Phila Sibandze, Head of the Department of GIS & Remote Sensing at the University of Fort Hare.
The new leadership received unanimous support from the WGCapD community. The outgoing WGCapD Chair, NASA’s Dr. Nancy D. Searby, shares her colleagues’ enthusiasm for the new leadership team. “These two strong leaders bring unique perspectives and incredible energy to the WGCapD community, meaning they are positioned to implement new ideas and bridge gaps that CapD has not yet filled. I look forward to remaining an engaged member of WGCapD under their excellent leadership, and I’m eager to see where the group goes with Jorge and Dan at the helm,” Searby writes.
WGCapD aims to increase the capacity of institutions in less developed countries for effective use of Earth observation data for the benefit of society and to achieve sustainable development. The group pursues a variety of activities to unify CEOS efforts towards enhancing access to Earth observation data, increasing the sharing of software tools, expanding data dissemination capabilities, transferring relevant technologies to end users, and providing intensive capacity building, education, and training for enabling end users. CEOS and WGCapD offer their warm welcome to Mr. Del Rio Vera and Mr. Matsapola to the leadership of WGCapD!