The role of Digital Earth in a Transformed Society

Blog / Stefano Nativi & Changlin WANG / November 8, 2018

Digital Earth - the virtual representation of our planet - is a multidisciplinary and collaborative effort that engages different sciences (e.g. Earth, space, information, and human sciences) to monitor and forecast natural and human phenomena.

Since the concept of Digital Earth was presented in 1998 [1], the state of Digital Earth science and technology has thrived and provided prosperous growth in key areas [2]. Digital Earth has been at the cutting edge of developments in Earth science, information science, and space science and technology.

Today, after 20 years, the wave of Big Data has transformed society, enabling the understanding and use of Digital Earth through new and powerful technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. The present digital revolution can be seen as a renaissance for the Digital Earth, which has a significant role in:

  • the datafication process of the elements representing the Earth;
  • knowledge / insight generation from Big Data, to monitor and forecast environmental phenomena; and
  • the interpretation and use of insights for contributing across many sectors, including the economy.

The contribution of Digital Earth to the digital transformation of our society and the opportunities raised by this revolution for Digital Earth science are the themes of the 11th International Symposium on Digital Earth, which will be held in Florence, Italy, from 24-27 September 2019. The Symposium is organized by the International Society for Digital Earth (ISDE), and is the first global event focusing on this important cultural and technological evolution.

The Symposium programme considers interdisciplinary broad topics, to overcome the traditional disciplinary divisions and improve the experience for attendees. These topics include:

  • International programmes, initiatives and treaties (UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Paris Agreement, Digital Belt and Road Initiative, etc.)
  • Digital Transformation of Society
  • Narrow Artificial Intelligence
  • Space 4.0
  • Citizen Science
  • Big Earth Data challenges and opportunities
  • Digital Economy and Data Economy
  • New generation of high performance computing (HPC) for Digital Earth
  • From Data to Knowledge
  • Digital Observation of the Environment
  • Mathematical models for Digital Earth
  • Open Data and Open Sciences

Joint sessions will be launched with partner organizations (IEEE GRSS, OGC, ICSU and others) and community programmes on relevant themes of common interest. We warmly welcome colleagues from the GEO community to propose and organize special sessions at the Symposium. 
A special session will be held to discuss the future of ISDE and the key challenges to be addressed by the Digital Earth community. Finally, a special session will celebrate the 20 years of the ISDE Symposium, which was initiated in Beijing in 1999.


[1] "The Digital Earth - Al Gore". digitalearth-isde.org. 1998-01-31. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
[2] Foresman, T. W. (2008). "Evolution and implementation of the Digital Earth vision, technology and society". International Journal of Digital Earth. 1(1): 4–16. doi:10.1080/17538940701782502.


About the authors

Stefano Nativi

Stefano Nativi is the Big Data Lead Scientist of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. He is co-chair of the Scientific and Programme Committee of the 11th ISDE Symposium. He has been engaged for more than 10 years with GEO, as co-chair of the Scientific and Technology Committee, member of the GEO Programme Committee, co-leader of the “GEOSS Architecture Evolution” WP of the GEOSS Evolve Initiative, and more recently member of the GEO Experts Advisory Group. He is member of the ISDE Council and co-chair of the OGC Earth Systems Science Domain WG. He was Head of Unit at the National Research Council of Italy, and professor at the Universities of Padua (I), Florence (I), and Jena (D).


Changlin WANG

Changlin WANG is co-chair of the Scientific and Programme Committee of the 2019 11th ISDE Symposium. He is Executive Director of the International Society for Digital Earth, Executive Editor of the International Journal of Digital Earth, and Executive Editor-in-Chief of the Big Earth Data Journal.


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