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Digital Transformation in Government Insight #95:
Digital Earth Australia

Digital Earth Australia brings together satellite imagery, cloud computing, open source and open data to create a platform where analysis-ready earth images and data are available for re-use by anyone.

Salsa Digital 10 December 2019

About Digital Earth Australia

Geoscience Australia’s Digital Earth Australia platform (DEA) brings together a range of images and data taken by satellites of the Australian landscape. The data includes images from as far back as 1985 and as current as 12 hours ago. The platform was built in partnership with the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI), Data61 and Amazon Web Services (AWS). NCI provides the data service, ‘GSKY’, which allows for the real-time analysis of the datasets.

Users can download and use a range of images and other data from the platform. The data can then be manipulated and analysed, and/or re-used. These DEA videos provide a thorough overview of the platform:

Digital Earth Australia also won the Outstanding Digital Platform Award at this year’s Australian Government Digital Awards in October.

Benefits and applications

It's envisioned that the DEA platform will be used in the creation of innovative services and products, and will ultimately help create jobs and drive the economy. The Digital Earth Australia website talks about the importance of geospatial services in the global economy and also cites a European study, saying that: “access to new satellite data will create 12,600 new jobs in the development of applications and services based on these information sources.” It also states that the Earth Observation market in Australia “provided $500 million of direct economic benefits to the Australian economy in 2015.”

The project itself represents a large and ongoing investment for Australia, with the government committing $13 million a year on an ongoing basis.

Potential use-cases include:

  • Mapping areas of high vegetation re-growth that could increase fire risk

  • Mapping paddock boundaries

  • Analysing pasture information to help farmers make the most of their land

Open Data Cube and open source

Digital Earth Australia was developed as part of the Open Data Cube initiative. Both Open Data Cube and Digital Earth Australia are open source initiatives, with the DEA program contributing code and other resources. View the Open Data Cube GitHub repository.

Industry strategy

As part of the process, Geoscience Australia and FrontierSI developed an industry strategy for the Digital Earth Australia (DEA) program. This process involved input from over 500 people, including face-to-face workshops and one-on-one sessions with industry leaders.

Salsa Digital’s take

Open data, in this case geospatial data and images, is an essential pillar for open government and an important part of digital transformation in government. The fact that DEA combines open data and open source also aligns the project well with our advocacy for ‘open everything’ and the open revolution; all elements that will help create an open government. It will be interesting to see the DEA platform gain momentum and generate more use-cases. Hopefully we’ll be profiling a case study in the near future that uses imagery and/or data from Digital Earth Australia.

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