An Interview with Einar Bjorgo
Einar Bjorgo is Director of Satellite Analysis and Applied Research at UNOSAT.
Bjorgo received his PhD in Geophysics from the University of Bergen, Norway, in 1999 on applications of very high-resolution satellite imagery in support of refugee relief operations. He holds a Master of Science in Meteorology (Climate Science) and a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California San Diego. He started working for the United Nations in 1999 when he joined the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to work on the integration of new solutions into UNHCR operations, including the use of GIS, GPS and satellite imagery. Bjorgo joined the UNOSAT team in 2002 when he was a central element in the development of the Humanitarian Rapid Mapping service and later become in charge of all operational activities at UNOSAT. Apart from the operational mapping side, Bjorgo was the initiator of capacity development and disaster risk reduction activities in Asia and East Africa.
Who are you and what is your background?
I am the Director for the Division on Satellite Analysis and Applied Research at the United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR). In that capacity I oversee the UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Progamme, known as UNOSAT. I have twenty years of experience in the UN system working on various applications of earth observation data, such as humanitarian, security, human rights, cultural heritage, development, environmental and disaster risk reduction. In addition, training and capacity development on the mentioned applications are an integral part of this work. I have a PhD in Geophysics and a Master in Meteorology, using satellite imagery for both degrees.
What is your individual position on the project?
I am the CommonSensing Project Director, which means I am responsible for the overall project to the UK Space Agency, who is funding the project. In that capacity I ensure all functions are in place to deliver for lasting impact. I also work strategically with our Steering Committee and represent the project vis-à-vis our partner countries, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. I work to raise awareness about the project so that the results can be transferred and/or scaled up for even higher impact.
What is your companies UNOSAT’s aims?
UNOSAT aims to leverage the use of satellite imagery in support of the various thematic specialities and mandates of UN sister organizations and to support countries to make the best use of such data – from imagery to impact.
What is your companies UNOSAT’s involvement in the project?
UNOSAT is the overall project lead, but also focus on leading on capacity development, sustainability, monitoring & evaluation and stakeholder engagement. In addition, we make sure large amounts of detailed satellite imagery is handed over to the countries and support the development of various imagery products by our project partners.
Why are you interested in climate change?
I have a background in climate science. During my master studies I was looking at how to see trends in melting polar ice caps from satellite imagery. Now being able to help countries directly affected by climate change is a good opportunity to apply earth observation data for very practical applications. The countries we support in CommonSensing are in the forefront of climate change, the changes are happening now and we need to support them as much as possible. No one should be left behind when it comes to benefitting from satellite imagery technologies.
What do you hope to achieve through the CommonSensing project?
I hope to see increased resilience to climate change at the local level. I hope to see direct practical impact of the tools and data we are developing in order for the countries to have more funds for climate adaptation measures and increased implementation rates from on evidence based decision making at the national level. I also hope the solutions developed will be put to good use well beyond the lifetime of the project. That is an important aspect that we pay much attention to.