Doug Specht, Senior Lecturer and Director of Teaching, Learning and Quality Assurance, was quoted in an article by Devex about why ethics must be considered when using satellite data for development.

Doug Specht

In the article, Doug Specht spoke about how if satellite data is used carelessly, it has a danger of alienating local partners. He said: “In the development context, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of being participatory, about whose voice is being expressed…But mapping is an inherently colonial activity, and there is nothing less participatory than using a god-like satellite to take images from above, and using that to decide how resources should be distributed.”

He added: “One of the key issues with satellite technology is that it upsets the power dynamic…There cannot be any parity of power when one party has access to technology that tells them everything about your daily movements, and the other side has nothing. So you are not starting on a level playing field.”

Specht recommends engaging locals in a more collaborative and empowering way, and said: “Used unilaterally, satellite technology can erase local voices, by luring us into thinking we have enough data to answer critical questions. To make this process participatory, we need to find a way to bring in those local voices and to recognise that power dynamic.”

Read the full article on the Devex website.

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