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Japan seeks to use space technology for international aid

Japan is well known as one of the largest donor nations in the world. Now, it plans to step into a new stage of its official development aid, with the utilisation of its space technology.

TOKYO: Japan is well known as one of the largest donor nations in the world.

Now, it plans to step into a new stage of its official development aid, with the utilisation of its space technology.

The Japan Coast Guard previously used Japanese earth observing satellite Daichi to monitor ocean ice. It was occasionally used for international cooperation, in particular to keep an eye on deforestation in the Amazon, and to produce maps for Southeast Asia and Africa.

Now, Japan is preparing for the launch of a new satellite with a refined role -- a joint effort between the Japan International Cooperation Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Daichi 2 is expected to be launched at the end of May to replace its predecessor Daichi, which stopped operation a few years ago. Besides Daichi 2, other satellites too are expected to be used for Japan's international aid.

Naoki Okumura, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, said: "From space, an extensive area can be observed. It is beyond national borders.

“Being able to observe a huge area at once can help with policy making, to resolve regional issues, so I believe this will be an effective tool."

Japan was the top donor country in the 1990s and until 2001. As of last year, it is the fourth-largest donor, due to the reduction in the aid budget. Still, this project has lofty ambitions.

Akihiko Tanaka, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, said: "We are thinking (that) in addition to flood management and deforestation, climate change activities, we would also like to pay more attention to areas such as agriculture production."

According to some analysts, the purpose of Japan's aid is now focused on global cooperation, rather than to benefit its own prosperity and economic growth, as in the past.

Professor Izumi Ohno from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, said: "Instead of group charity, giving fish, Japan is trying to teach how to catch the fish. That is a very important component for Japanese cooperation, particularly through human resource development, infrastructure development, and also institutional building that will continue."

The agencies said they hope the nations receiving Japan's help will one day be able to purchase the technology and benefit from it directly themselves. 

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