Technology: Ethiopia’s Ultimate
standing values of nationality and sovereignty have increasingly become old
fashioned concepts in today’s international system where the mighty have
boundless say on what goes on in countries all around the world. Before it all
came down to money and military might, there was some place in the international
system for non-interference in the internal affairs of states and some good old
most values have been replaced by venomous vices that are presented in a much
more positive manner than the consequences they are bound to entail, a few
things still get those values out in the open withstanding the barrage of
bullying in the present international system. A notable member of such things
is space exploration.
it was during the cold war or in the present international setting, venturing
into space science and exploration has always brought out the pride and sovereignty
in states. Ethiopia’s venture into this prestigious arena of science marked by
the recent inauguration of the Entoto observatory is also a serious testimony
of the country’s ambition in the coming years.
there was a time when ancient civilizations in what has become today’s Ethiopia
were known around the world for their astronomical, metallurgic and medical knowledge,
modern Ethiopia has lagged behind the rest of the world in the modern sense of
these disciplines. The ancient Ethiopian book of numbers, “Abushaher”, is
especially credited with calculations measuring the distance between the Earth
and celestial objects like the moon and the sun. It is also said to have the
names of the stars visible over the Ethiopian sky.
obviously brings pain for a country that was once held in such high regard to
become synonymous with famine and poverty. The last two decades of relentless
efforts by its people to finally eradicate poverty and reclaim their former
prestige have shown encouraging results with the double digit in the last
decade cited very frequently as the main indicator. However, anyone familiar
with Ethiopia knows that its achievements and ambitions go far more than that.
great achievements in agriculture, health and educational coverage, Ethiopia
has become one of the elite states tipped to fulfill most of the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs). The infrastructural coverage has increased in folds
allowing for the development in the country to reach to all its corners. The
coverage of roads, electricity, telecommunications and other ICTs has shot up
exponentially. Huge ongoing and planned projects of railway construction and
electricity generation are also hoped to take the country into the next step –
becoming a middle income country.
help the country’s efforts towards that end, Ethiopia is working on a space
observatory and research centre. In fact, the Entoto observatory and research
centre, located on the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa, is nearly
complete. Considered a sector for the rich countries of the world, space
technology has generally not been a focus area for the poor especially of
Africa. So, why would a country like Ethiopia decided to invest in the sector
and how does it expect the technology to aid its development?
have a clear idea of what Ethiopia has ventured into, let’s first take a closer
look at the plans and implementations of the project. The Entoto observatory is
the first of its kind to be installed by the Ethiopian Space Science Society
(ESSS) which was established in 2004. The steady effort of the ESSS in the last
decade has managed to introduce astronomy courses in universities. The
Ethiopian government is also expected to come up with a space policy in the
coming years with a rather higher bar set with plans to launch an Ethiopian
satellite sometime next year.
observatory boasts two one meter wide telescopes that would help explore
planets, stars, the Milky Way, and deeper galaxies. This project is the first
phase of a space exploration programme with work on a second observatory already
underway in the mountains of Lalibela in Northern Ethiopia 4,200 meters above
Entoto Observatory is one of the only two observatories south of the Sahara
with the other one located in South Africa. The observatory is said to have
been designed to promote astronomical research not only in the country but in
the region as well. Capacity building and research are said to be the two main
targets of the project. The observatory is expected to train people in
astronomy, space science, applied maths and applied physics. The research
division, on the other hand, includes earth observation, satellite technology, climate
modeling and atmospheric science.
space technology is expected to help the country out in boosting agriculture,
health, education, energy and disaster prevention (environmental management).
Let’s then have a brief look at how the technology is expected to achieve that
in simple terms.
agriculture forms the basis of our food supply. However, it is
subject to several challenges, from increasing pressure on soils, water availability,
vagaries of weather and climate to unsustainable farming practices. Farmers
often face challenges because of water shortages, expensive fertilizers and
other chemical products, which also have a negative impact on the environment.
Satellite-based imagery can be helpful in pinpointing
problematic areas and drive specific hot-spot surveys. Also, they can highlight
trend anomalies when comparing different years. When these data are integrated
into agronomic models, crop yields can be forecasted. At continental and global
levels, the capability of anticipating variations in crop yield is key to anticipating
swings in the markets and therefore enhancing the governance of 'price and
monitoring is based on a combination of satellite observations, meteorological
data, agrometeorological and biophysical modeling as well as statistical
analyses. High to low resolution multispectral optical sensors allow the
monitoring of several parameters related to crop and vegetative health, such as
crop type and area. Using these parameters evaporation and transpiration rates
can be derived that help to optimize irrigation and the use of fertilizers. Such
data are then used for the continuous monitoring of other important soil
properties, such as roughness and soil moisture content.
short, satellite technology can be used to monitor soil properties, optimize
irrigation and the use of fertilizers, monitor crop and vegetative health and
forecast crop yields making food availability and price a much more foreseeable
matter than it has been. Considering these are the areas Ethiopian agriculture
needs to put more muscle into, the introduction of this technology would help
out in taking our agriculture one step higher.
Health: it is known that in developing
countries most of the qualified doctors practice in urban centers where as
majority of the population live in rural areas. Therefore, the majority of
people in countries like ours do not get the services of the most qualified
doctors in matters related with their health. That is where telemedicine
facilities come in. Telemedicine facilities connect District Hospitals/Health Centers
in rural areas with Super Specialty Hospitals in urban centers via satellite for
providing expert consultation to the needy majority population in rural areas.
most widely known use of space technology in health care is demonstrated
through telemedicine. Telemedicine system consists of
customized medical software integrated with computer hardware, along with
medical diagnostic instruments connected to the commercial VSAT (Very Small
Aperture Terminal) at each location. Generally, the medical record/history of
the patient is sent to the Specialist Doctors, who will in-turn study and
provide diagnosis and treatment during video-conference with the patient's end.
application of this technology in our country would become a reality with the
introduction of space technology and launching of a satellite. Once applicable,
the technology would provide the country’s rural population with the highest
expert diagnosis in a quick and timely manner. The use of video-conference
could also help them get timely medical procedures supervised by top level
experts. Another advantage of the technology is that it would cut the costs
incurred by patients very drastically as they would not be expected to travel
to urban centers and hospitals that charge expensively.
one of the main aspects of the application of space technology to education is
expressed in the use of satellites for educational purposes. Such programs are
mainly intended to meet the demand for an interactive satellite based distance
education system for countries. These programs play a crucial role in the
development of the population in remote and rural locations.
like the telemedicine scheme, satellites can establish connectivity between
urban educational institutions and a large number of rural and semi-urban
educational institutions to provide an educational infrastructure.
supporting formal education, a satellite system can facilitate the
dissemination of knowledge to the rural and remote population about important
aspects like health, hygiene and personality development and allow
professionals to update their knowledge base as well. Thus, in spite of limited
trained and skilled teachers, the aspirations of the growing student population
at all levels can be met through the concept of tele-education.
introduction of such a system to our country would then help achieve universal
education besides creating a wide ground for informal education. It would also
help teachers with their jobs besides training and informing them on important
developments in their discourses. Rural and remote communities would also
benefit a lot from such a scheme as it would make other awareness raising information
at their disposal.
Disaster Management: by its resolution
61/110 of 14 December 2006, the General Assembly of the United Nations decided
to establish the proposed United Nations Platform for Space-based Information
for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) as a programme
within the United Nations “to provide universal access to all countries and all
relevant international and regional organizations to all types of space-based
information and services relevant to disaster management to support the full
disaster management cycle by being a gateway to space information for disaster
management support, serving as a bridge to connect the disaster management and
space communities and being a facilitator of capacity-building and institutional
strengthening, in particular for developing countries.” (UN-SPIDER)
technologies such as Earth observation satellites, communication satellites,
meteorological satellites and global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) play
an important role in risk reduction and disaster management. Global support in
disaster management using space technology is also relatively easily accessible
in the areas of capacity development and knowledge-building; data access, data
availability and information extraction; enhancing awareness; and national,
regional and global coordination.
introduction of space technology in Ethiopia is not just a matter of national
pride but a very practical one as well. The benefits briefly discussed above
are just a small section of the whole package. Energy, telecommunication, mining,
satellite navigation, remote sensing and security are other advantages of the
With about USD
3.4 million required to complete the Entoto observatory and the relevant
applications it has, the project is not exactly the open check scheme the haves
embark on to quench their curiosity about the skies. To the contrary, the
project proves to be a conscious investment towards enhancing development and
ensuring maximum accessibility to a major part of the country’s population.
Therefore, although it is an integral part of the package national pride is
just part of the benefits the introduction of space technology offers for a
country like Ethiopia.