The International Council for Science has tasked the global scientific community with delivering to society the knowledge and information necessary to respond effectively to the global challenges that are impacting on humanity and the sustainability of the planet’s resources.

Spatial thinking is one of the fundamental forms of intelligence needed to function in modern society, and the development of such skills should be part of everyone’s education.

Prof Mike Goodchild, Emeritus Professor, University of California

Realising the vision of Digital Earth provides a robust framework for scientists, decision-makers and communities to organise and use information to support decisions on the sustainable use and equitable distribution of scarce resources across regions and generations.

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A particular value of Digital Earth is in its capacity to visualise combined spatial environmental, social and economic information, and in doing so deliver valuable insights for both complex decisions and wide-ranging non-expert communities. There are myriad operational uses for Digital Earth including mapping and analysis of patterns of change in risk hazards, human health and poverty, environmental quality and protection, education and community empowerment, natural resource management and productivity, municipality design and regional planning.

Over the last fifteen years Digital Earth has undergone significant evolution. Many people can now readily access volumes of data from global to local scales that was not even envisaged a decade ago. There is potential to make much better use of existing capability. There is also a need for further research and innovation, and new partnerships are required to build capacity in Least Developed Countries and regions to support both sustainable growth and risk management.