The National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) on 27 February, 2018, announced the launch of an international centre to carry out the work of the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) Digital Belt and Road (DBAR) programme.
The Digital Belt and Road (DBAR) International Centre of Excellence in Bangkok is to focus on cooperation among countries participating in the BRI on tackling issues such as climate change, disaster risk reduction, environmental research, and capacity building.
The secretary-general of the NRCT, Professor Sirirurg Songsivilai, told reporters during the opening ceremony of the centre that it will be instrumental in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Guo Huadong, a senior academic with the CAS, said at the same ceremony that the Belt and Road Initiative’s expansive geographical reach across the Eurasian supercontinent, Africa, the Indian Ocean, and possibly even the Arctic Ocean, will require civil and scientific research, surveillance, and monitoring capabilities and services that can help decision makers deal with a range of environmental and developmental matters.
By using Earth observation imagery from satellites, and big data from a range of sources, the programme will provide information to policy-makers to use in their execution of the Belt and Road Initiative, said Guo.
The DBAR programme was established in 2016 by Chinese scientists, in cooperation with experts from more than 20 countries and international organizations participating in the BRI to promote global cooperation and collaboration using imagery from Earth observation satellites and big data sets.
The information generated by the Bangkok-headquartered DBAR Centre of Excellence will be used for research, policy-making, programme management, and monitoring in seven main areas: environmental protection, disaster risk reduction, water resources management, urban development, food security, coastal zone management, and the conservation of natural and cultural heritage across the BRI participating states.
DBAR’s international centres of excellence will also help address the capacity gap in expertise and capabilities among countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Belt and Road Initiative, announced by China’s President Xi Jinping in 2013, is the largest and most expensive trade and infrastructure programme in history that will connect Asia with Europe across the Eurasian supercontinent, Africa, and the Indian Ocean similar to the ancient land and sea trade routes of the fabled Silk Road. The BRI will also include a space and telecommunications element as well.