PROMOTING INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION THROUGH TRAINING AND EDUCATION IN SPACE TECHNOLOGY APPLICATIONS AND ADVANCES AMONG BIMSTEC COUNTRIES – A GOVERNMENT OF INDIA INITIATIVE
Keywords: Space Technology Applications, BIMSTEC, International Cooperation, training, capacity building
Abstract. India is one of the top space-faring nations in the world, which not only to build satellites and launches them using indigenously developed launch vehicles but also spearheads the use of space technology for many applications at the national and international level. Training, education and capacity building (TECB) are important components in promoting the use of space technology, thereby benefitting the society. North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC) is one of many institutions under the umbrella of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Department of Space (DOS) which is responsible for promoting TECB at National level. ISRO / DOS also supports TECB at an International level through many initiatives such as IIRS – ITC JEP, UN-CSSTEAP, CEOS, UNSPIDER, UN-FAO, WMO, Commonwealth, and BIMSTEC etc. NESAC established in 2000, initiated capacity building and spearheaded Outreach programs from 2019 in the North East Region of India. Prime Minister of India announced in the plenary meeting of BIMSTEC(Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) Summit at Kathmandu, Nepal in August 2018, recognizing NESAC to conduct space technology training programs of two weeks and 3 months for BIMSTEC Countries every year for the next five years with full financial support from Government of India. The first two week training program on “capacity building on the earth observation applications and research” was successfully conducted for 24 participants, four participants each representing Bangladesh, Bhutan, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The participants are from User Departments, Science and Technology Ministries, Space Organizations and Academia and Research Institutions. The training benefitted the participants from state of the art training facilities and experienced faculties from NESAC/ISRO/Academia from across India. The summary of feedback from the participants (excellent – 57%, good – 40%, average – 2.6% and poor – 0.4%) indicates that the course is very much useful as it has enhanced their knowledge in earth observation, geospatial analysis capabilities that will be put into use on their return. The training and capacity building has opened new vistas of cooperation and possible collaboration between BIMSTEC countries ranging from availing satellite data, expansion and access to data sharing portals, creating knowledge network to promote young researchers and expert sharing within the region, further to expand the capacity building by initiating distance learning programs, taking up joint research and application projects, etc. The rich experience of conducting a unique program, one of its kind and detailed feedback and possible expansion of BIMSTEC programs in the future is presented in the paper.