Poland User Forum “Satellites for society: operational uses of satellite-based services by the Polish public administration”

Warsaw, Poland


The Eurisy “User Forum Poland” was organised to present the results of the Eurisy survey on the use of satellite-based services within the Polish public administration and to discuss the main challenges still facing public authorities to fully exploit the potential of satellite applications. The over 100 participants, representing public administrations, private companies and other stakeholders, provided feedback on the results of the survey and helped contextualising the 49 replies received by Polish public authorities between March and September 2015.

Opening the conference, Jadwiga Emilewicz (Undersecretary of State at the Polish Minister of Economic Development), and Marek Banaszkiewicz (President of the newly formed Polish Space Agency) underlined the key role of satellites to support fundamental public services, such as transport and rescue services. Ms Emilewicz praised the Eurisy initiative to survey current operational uses of satellite-based services within the Polish public administration and recognised the importance of building a data system as a first step to fully exploit the potential of such services. She also pinpointed that the challenge for the future will be the “operationalisation” of the data available, to make it immediately usable by public managers. Mr Banaszkiewicz also emphasised the role played by the academia to link R&D and societal needs, to raise public awareness on these new developments, and to generate new jobs in high technologies. Johannes Ortner, Vice-President of Eurisy, recalled the lasting presence of Polish institutions among the Eurisy members and recognised Polish endeavours in space policy and developments.

The keynote speeches introduced the basic concepts of the conference. Thibaud Delourme, representing the European Commission, stressed the difference between intermediate users (transforming satellite signals and data into usable applications) and end-users, more concerned by the usability of the applications than by the technologies behind them. To favour the development of increasingly user-friendly services, collaboration between the public and private sectors remains fundamental. Indeed, Ms Otylia Trzaskalska-Stroińska from the Ministry of Economic Development explained that two of Poland’s strategic objectives in the space sector are to increase the competitiveness of national enterprises and to enhance the capabilities of public administrations.

During the “User testimonials” session, the audience was presented with four experiences from Polish regional and national administrations using satellite data and signals routinely. Representatives from the Jastrzębie-Zdrój City Office showed how they are able to monitor soil subsidence caused by mining activities. The Office of the Marshall of the Mazowieckie Voivodeship in Warsaw described their use of satellite data to coordinate ambulances and rescue teams during emergencies. The Maritime Office in Gdynia presented a range of satellite-based services which allow the Office to monitor ships, to intervene on oil spills and to ensure coastal security. Finally, the Central Statistical Office explained how they use satellite data provided by the Institute of Geodesy and Cartography to monitor crop yields on the national territory.

The Eurisy survey showed that demonstration projects can result in services that are used also after the conclusion of the projects. The following session gave examples of such virtuous processes, which were described by the private company SmallGIS and by the Crisis Information Centre at Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The first presented a web-based service to monitor forests, including data from satellite imagery. The second reported on a system relying on satellite data to help coordinating rescue operations during emergencies. These examples, together with the user testimonials previously presented, confirmed the results obtained from the Eurisy survey: public authorities are interested in satellite-based services and actively participate in their development, although technical and economic challenges are still to be faced. The examples were also representative of the main sectors of application of satellite services mentioned by the respondents to the survey, i.e. transport, agriculture, urban planning and risk management.

Finally, the roundtable allowed participants and speakers to discuss challenges and opportunities linked to the use of satellite-based services within the Polish public administration in the coming years. In addition to the previous speakers, the panel included Anna Kacprzyk, from the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, Zbigniew Burdzy, from the Polish Space Agency, and Norbert Hübner, from ESA’s Telecommunications and Integrated Applications Department. During the discussions, Mr Banaszkiewicz confirmed the existence of a growing ecosystem of private companies with an interest in satellite applications in Poland. Ms Kacprzyk specified that most providers of satellite-based services in Poland are SMEs and praised the work of the ESA IAP programme to support such entities. Mr Delourme added that while to develop a competitive upstream space market might take years, developments in the downstream sector are much faster, since small companies can enter the market from an IT, rather than a space perspective. Mr Hübner confirmed that most private companies benefitting from the IAP programme are SMEs. He then identified a number of challenges that public authorities face to use satellite-based services. Among those, he mentioned the need for tailored-made services within the public administration, the disconnection between operational needs and procurement mechanisms, and the absence of specific reference to high-tech services in public tenders.

Conclusions and recommendations

With a population of almost 40 million, a growing average GDP, and raising income and consumption rates, Poland is ready to take up the challenge of becoming a regional reference for higher-technology production. This will imply aligning academic skills with labour market needs and strengthening the managing capacity of public administrations. Within this process, ministries, regions, academia and private companies are showing a growing interest towards space and space-based technologies. The Polish space strategy for the coming years aims at creating a competitive national space supply and value-adding chain and at providing public administrations with better tools to manage public services.

The current process of reorganisation of space governance, with the creation of the Polish Space Agency, will lead to a multiplication of efforts to create a downstream market for satellite-based services and to favour the development and uptake of services which respond to operational needs of the public administration. On their side, public authorities have already seized the potential of satellite-based services, sustained by a growing ecosystem of IT and data analysis private companies, including SMEs.

Indeed, the replies submitted to the Eurisy survey indicate that not only national authorities, but also administrations at the regional level have been consistently using these services, motivated by the will of improving the quality of the services offered by the public while saving resources. Three quarters of respondent public authorities have been using these technologies since at least five years. Satellite-based services are employed in sectors such as transport, environmental monitoring, agriculture and urban planning, which are considered of primary importance for the economic, social and environmental well-being of the country.

In most cases, satellite-based services are used to respond to existing needs, replacing ― fully or partially ― previous systems used to perform similar tasks. The public bodies who took the Eurisy survey mentioned international organisations and private companies as the main entities providing them with satellite-based services, while only 16% of the sample relies on academic and research institutes.

Public authorities report a number of benefits entailed by these services, in particular time savings, the improvement of the services provided to the public and better information for decision-making. Although such benefits are clearly perceived by user public authorities, these remain difficult to quantify. Moreover, and despite the relatively low costs of satellite-based services, public authorities still face economic, material and technical challenges to first adopt these services. Most public administrations also face organisational and technical challenges to use and maintain the services. At the regional level in particular, one third of the surveyed sample reports technical challenges to first adopt and then use satellite-based services.

Based on the information collected through the survey and the feedback provided by public administrations during the User Forum, the organisers propose the following set of recommendations to favour the uptake of satellite-based services within the public sector in Poland: 

In order to develop an efficient downstream market for satellite-based services, the government shall support intermediate users.

The development of new satellite-based services for the public sector shall take into account current needs, workflows and the organisational structure of public administrations.

Polish regional authorities are already using satellite-based services operationally. Local authorities seem instead to be less aware of the existence of these services. More efforts are hence needed to stimulate the uptake of satellite-based services by local administrations.

Public administrations using satellite-based services should foresee a budget for training their staff on the use of these services.

To support both the downstream and upstream sectors of the space market, the Polish government could launch a programme that would act as a “middleman” among public authorities, research centres and commercial service providers.

End user public administrations need specific support to become familiar with satellite-based services and to identify the required services and procurers. POLSA, the Ministry of Economic Development and relevant stakeholders could offer punctual advice and technical support to public authorities interested in the uptake or in the development of satellite-based services.