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Impact: Utilization of geospatial data within international development cooperation

Nominee Ben Feringa Impact Award 2024 | Category student
06 May 2024
Jonas Göbel
Jonas Göbel

In the coming weeks the nominees for the Ben Feringa Impact Award 2024 will introduce themselves and their impactful research or project. This week: Jonas Göbel, nominee in the category 'student' for his internship research around the utilization of geospatial data in the field of international development cooperation.

Who are you?

My name is Jonas Göbel, and I came to Groningen for my master’s program. I was born and raised near Frankfurt and I did my bachelor’s in Economics and Geography at Heidelberg University.

At which faculty do you study?

I study International Political Economy at the Faculty of Arts.

What is your research about?

My research is centered around the utilization of geospatial data in the field of international development cooperation. This field often involves projects in remote and fragile areas, which are particularly exposed to current and future climate risk scenarios. During my placement at the German International Development Bank (KfW), I worked with my supervisor on generating and collecting data that captured the geographical location of project sites in southern Africa. We mapped schools, health clinics, and regions where projects are financed by the KfW. The data we collected ranges from elevation profiles for transmission lines to current and future climate-related risks that could damage infrastructure and pose risks to individuals in the region. With my supervisor, we initiated the collection and use of geospatial data in other departments, presented the idea at company events, and supported other colleagues in the implementation.

Jonas Göbel at the German International Development Bank
'Geospatial data serves as a valuable tool for understanding the local challenges rather than simply intervening and financing.'

What is the impact of your research and how could it help society?

In recent years, the impacts of climate change have caused considerable damage to local infrastructure in Malawi, presenting challenges to the well-being of communities. In response, the KfW Development Bank, along with other stakeholders, has undertaken efforts to address these challenges and improve living conditions by supporting the financing of healthcare centers, schools, and energy infrastructure.

Geospatial data, in combination with other tools like satellite imagery and drones, enables us to remotely manage, assess, and address emerging issues within a project. This data facilitates the creation of maps that provide comprehensive information about the region's current risks, the infrastructure's elevation profile, and its extensive distribution. By collecting and analyzing this data together, we can enhance transparency in cooperation efforts and work towards improving infrastructure resilience and sustainability. Geospatial data serves as a valuable tool for understanding the local challenges in Malawi rather than simply intervening and financing. This approach benefits both international development institutions and local stakeholders by considering the specific contexts of the region.

What is your motivation for the research? What has it taught you?

Despite the work experience and knowledge that I gained during my studies, adapting to a professional, financial work environment was tough. I was wondering which value I can add to the projects with my academic background. Although Geography was a relatively short part of my studies, geospatial tools always accompanied me as an incredibly valuable tool for the globalised world we live in. When my supervisor and me started to initiate the program and to expand it to other teams, I was able to learn so much about transferring my knowledge into a professional setting and how to convince others of a new tool. The experience as an intern at the KfW, has made me even more enthusiastic about expanding data-driven international cooperation. 

Last modified:22 May 2024 11.08 a.m.
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