Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) is a vitally important consideration in modern society, as it promotes fairness and equal opportunity. It ensures that everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability, age or any other characteristic, is treated with dignity and respect and can reach their full potential.
The moral or social justice case for DE&I asserts that each person has an important value to contribute, and that we must address barriers and historical factors that have led to unfair conditions for marginalised populations.
The market case for DE&I indicates benefits to market growth and bottom lines. DE&I initiatives also help improve organisational performance through the creation of a diverse and inclusive workplace that can attract and retain top talent, foster innovation, and improve decision making1.
Similarly, the silver economy is leveraging the increasing need of tailored services and products that can maintain and improve the life of elders. These market opportunities will grow alongside the inevitable acceleration of the demographic inversion in Europe, Asia and America over the next decades.
1What are Short-Term and Longer-Term Actions Companies are Taking as Part of their DE&I Strategy? (cornell.edu)
Topics Of Relevance
The scope of this Kick-Start theme is to investigate the technical feasibility and viability of space technologies and applications addressing challenges related to DE&I in society. The following relevant topics were identified for this Kick-Start theme, along with examples of potential applications that could be proposed:
- Inclusive Cities
- Inclusive Corporate Cultures and Business Models
- Inclusive Society for Elderly Citizens
Accessible and inclusive cities are those that are designed to be accessible and inclusive for all people, regardless of their age, physical ability, background, or gender. This means that the cities need to be designed to be safe, welcoming, and accommodating to everyone. This includes making public spaces accessible to people with disabilities, providing accessible transportation services, and creating policies that promote diversity and inclusion. Additionally, cities should strive to create a sense of belonging and community for all residents, regardless of their background or identity. Cities should ensure that all residents have access to essential services such as healthcare, education, and employment. Some examples of the potential use of space assets in support of inclusive cities are:
- Space technologies can provide detailed data on the physical environment, which can be used to inform urban planning decisions. For example, satellite imagery can provide detailed information on land use, infrastructure and population density. This data can be used to identify areas that are underserved or have inadequate access to services, and to develop strategies to improve accessibility to public services.
- Satellite navigation can be used to design autonomous vehicles and smart transportation systems to improve access to public transport for all citizens, regardless of their physical abilities.
- Smart parking solutions can make it easier for people with disabilities to find and access parking spots. These solutions can use satellite navigation and IoT/sensors to detect vacant parking spots and can provide users with real-time information on the availability of accessible parking spots.
- Safe Spaces: Applications that use satellite imaging and GNSS tracking to identify safe, accessible areas in cities, such as parks and public buildings.
Inclusive Corporate Cultures And Business Models
DE&I is far more than a ‘human resources issue’. It should be a core ingredient in the design and execution of business strategy and continuously embedded in the activities of an organisation2. Inclusive business (IB) models incorporate DE&I into the design of the products and services a business provides, and its underlying value chains, including suppliers, local communities, and customers. IB models work around existing market failures and inefficiencies to successfully integrate economically disadvantaged individuals, either on the demand side as clients3 or on the supply side as distributors, suppliers of goods and services, or employees4.
Some examples of potential use of space assets in support of IB models:
- Digitalisation has helped the move away from traditional manual processes and to reduce physical work. For example, remote operation of equipment in manufacturing and monitoring situations allow people with disabilities to perform the role in the same way as workers without disabilities. This also helps to incorporate diversity and inclusivity into traditional industries.
- DE&I requires a structured approach and regular monitoring of its impact. In this context, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) applied to the data of a company (diversity trends, composition of workforce) merged with external metrics acquired from satEO sensors and contextual information provided by GNSS (e.g. geo-localised social media data, roads accessibility and security in areas close to the workplace) can help predict diversity trends and provide meaningful insight to support DE&I actions (e.g. elevating equity, activating diversity, leading inclusively, revealing relevant opportunities).
- Satellite communications can be used to connect remote and underserved communities to the internet and other communication networks, enabling them to access information and services that might otherwise be unavailable. Satcom could help in the set-up of community internet access points for training and support in local centres and business.
Overall, the use of space assets in IB models has the potential to support economic development, improve access to information and services, and promote sustainability.
3 The consumer-oriented approach was first developed by Prahalad (2006) and is commonly known as ‘BoP’ – base of the pyramid.
4 UNDP (2008), p. 2. For the differences and similarities between different terms, such as social entrepreneur, BoP and inclusive business, see GIZ (2011a and 2011f) and Gradl/Knobloch (2009).
Inclusive Society For Elderly Citizens
Ageism and services available to the elderly are key aspects to be addressed to make DE&I activities truly impactful and support the evolution towards a better society. Demographic inversion creates challenges, including the question of how to take care of the increasing ageing population and manage the aftermath of the decrease in active population and workforce. Automation is increasing the efficiency of the workforce leading to safer and less manually intense work. AI and big data analytics can support decision-making, identifying new opportunities for the elderly workforce where they add the most value. To be beneficial to society, these opportunities must consider constraints specific to the elderly (e.g. accessibility) that can be assessed by satellite imagery and applications.
The healthcare system must also evolve to consider the demographic inversion and will have to take appropriate measures to deliver adequate services under increasing pressure. In addition, the reduced mobility of elderly people will also shape the evolution trajectory of the healthcare system and will require innovative solutions such as remote care, tailored and easily accessible to an elderly population, accessible transportation to healthcare facilities, etc.
More generally, questions about how to maintain access to public services for ageing populations and how to keep social links with the rest of the population must be addressed, calling for inclusive innovations at both local and regional levels.
Digitalisation with universal coverage, thanks to satcom, will help to ensure that no one is excluded, even in remote areas or where individuals have an inability/limited ability to move, while the development of autonomous vehicles using GNSS and satcom will preserve independence in daily living of the ageing population.
Autonomous vehicles and automation tailored to the elderly, digital health services to monitor aged patients from their home, and digital communication services ensuring social links are some of the innovations that could bring benefit to older citizens, and therefore to society.
Value Of Space
There are many opportunities to use space assets and to integrate them with other technologies for the above topics. Some (non-exhaustive) examples are listed below. The use of complementary advanced digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Augmented Reality (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR) and digital twins integrated with space data can be beneficial to deliver services addressing DE&I challenges.
Satellite Communications (satcom) ensure a universal coverage of digital services to both citizens and firms, thus reducing the digital divide. It offers equal access to digital technology, connecting people and enabling businesses located in remote areas. This can be particularly important in developing countries where traditional terrestrial infrastructure may be lacking or inadequate, as well as in remote areas in developed economies underserved by terrestrial communications. By providing internet access to these areas, satcom technologies can help to bring together people and communities that may have previously been isolated or disconnected from the global digital economy. This also has the potential to contribute to further socio-economic development, for example by providing access to employment and/or education. Furthermore, the provision of online content and resources, including educational materials and cultural exchange platforms, can help promote linguistic and cultural diversity by bettering the understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures.
Moreover, satcom can provide seamless connectivity for autonomous vehicles and enable data collection and analysis for patients in remote areas.
Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) have the potential to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in society by providing people with the tools and resources required to navigate their environment and connect with others.
Considering accessibility for those with disabilities, for example, GNSS-enabled devices can provide directions and information about accessible routes for people with mobility impairments, helping them to navigate unfamiliar places with greater ease. GNSS can contribute to equity by providing access to information and resources that may not have been previously available to certain groups, for example, by locating and mapping resources such as libraries and medical clinics, which may be particularly useful for marginalised communities. GNSS can also be used to provide real-time traffic updates and enable shared mobility solutions, helping to reduce the time and cost of transportation for people who may not have access to a car or who live in areas with inadequate public transportation links. Similarly, GNSS can break down barriers and enable people to connect with each other and their communities by locating and mapping community resources and events, and helping people to find and participate in activities that align with their interests and values. Lastly, GNSS is a key technology for autonomous vehicles that could be used by elderly people in the near future.
Satellite Earth Observation (satEO) along with data analytics / modelling can contribute to the analysis, improvement and maintenance of infrastructure planning, helping to identify difficulties and improve integration in underserved areas and communities. SatEO can also contribute to inclusion by providing a means for individuals and communities to participate in the decision-making processes that affect their lives. For instance, satellite imagery can be used to engage communities in mapping and monitoring activities, which can help to empower individuals and communities to take an active role in shaping the policies and programmes that impact their lives. This can help to ensure that the voices and perspectives of all members of a community are considered.
What We Look For
Kick-Start activities explore the business opportunity and the technical viability of new applications and services that exploit one or more space asset (e.g. Satellite Communications, Satellite Navigation, Earth Observation, Human Spaceflight Technology).
This call for Kick-Start activities is dedicated to ‘Diversity, Equity & Inclusion’, which means that the call is open to companies who intend to develop space-enabled applications and services relating to themes in this domain.
How To Apply
- Register by completing the online questionnaire on esa-star (this provides for the minimum ‘light registration’): Home - esa-star Registration System
- Visit esa-star Publications and search for this opportunity to download the official tender documentation. Official documents will include proposal templates, a draft contract, and additional information about this opportunity.
- Use the official documents to prepare your proposal.
- Write your proposal and obtain a Letter of Support from your National Delegation, if needed (see Authorisation of Funding section below).
- Submit your proposal via esa-star Tendering by the deadline.
Authorisation Of Funding
ESA Space Solutions can provide funding to perform Kick-Start activities to any company (economic operator) residing in the following Member States: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Germany, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom have pre-approved funding for this Kick-Start activity and applicants from these countries do not need to obtain a letter of authorisation from their National Delegation.
Currently, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Austria and Switzerland are not supporting this Kick-Start activity.
Applicants of other Member States must inform the National Delegation of the country they are residing in to obtain a letter of authorisation allowing the funding of the proposed activity. Contact details for each national delegate can be found here.
Kick-Start activities are 75% funded by the European Space Agency up to a maximum of €60K per contract.
A webinar to present the Kick-Start opportunity is scheduled for 8 November, 11:00 CET (10:00 BT) to 12:00 CET. Register by using the register button at the top of the webpage.
- External speaker: Clarisse de Cerjat from EUROCITIES