Geo-Economics and Politics

These 6 countries are using space technology to build their digital capabilities. Here’s how

View of outer space.

In the coming years, space technology will help us to monitor the effects of climate change. Image: Unsplash/NASA

Simon Torkington
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • The space economy could generate $1.8 trillion in global growth by 2035, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum and McKinsey.
  • The space industry is growing at 9% per annum – outstripping global GDP.
  • Space technology can monitor climate change and streamline global supply chains.

In just over 60 years, human endeavours in space have evolved from extraordinary adventures to become everyday activities. The development of space now touches the lives of billions of people. Hail a ride on your smartphone and the taxi will be directed to you by location data from satellites orbiting the Earth. A fast internet connection is now available anywhere on the planet courtesy of hardware in low Earth orbit.

In recent years there has been an exponential growth in the space economy, with bigger, reusable rockets carrying heavier payloads on more frequent flights into space.

The World Economic Forum’s latest report into the space economy reveals a $1.8 trillion opportunity for global economic growth by 2035. The report, published in partnership with McKinsey & Company, shows the space industry is growing at an average of 9% every year – outstripping growth in global GDP.

Graph illustrating the nominal forecasted GDP growth over 2023-35.
The space economy is growing at 9% per annum, faster than global GDP. Image: World Economic Forum/McKinsey

In the coming years, space technology will help us to monitor the effects of climate change, warn of impending natural disasters and improve humanitarian response when they strike. Space tech can also streamline the flow of global trade through more efficient supply chains.

Many countries are leveraging the opportunities presented by space technology to accelerate the development of digital capabilities. Here are six examples.

Graph showcasing the recent space-related developments around the world
Multiple countries are leveraging space tech for economic and social development. Image: World Economic Forum/McKinsey

India

India's space ambitions continue to grow. The nation's space sector has experienced a remarkable surge in activity, with a notable achievement being its pioneering lunar mission that made India the first country to land a spacecraft in the vicinity of the Moon's south pole.

In an effort to commercialize the technologies developed through government-funded initiatives, India has established dedicated bodies and platforms to facilitate coordination and knowledge sharing. Private enterprises are offering cost-effective satellite launch services, space-based communication solutions to cater to the growing population, and imagery data tailored for applications in agriculture and infrastructure development.

Japan

Japan has dedicated substantial resources to space endeavours, solidifying its prominent position in space exploration, research and navigation. The Japanese space ecosystem is renowned for its cooperative nature, establishing partnerships across the public, private and international sectors.

This collaborative approach has yielded fruitful outcomes, such as a partnership with the United States aimed at enhancing the accuracy and reliability of positioning, navigation and timing systems in densely populated urban areas. Additionally, Japan has forged cross-industry partnerships to develop sector-leading capabilities, including its collaboration with Toyota to develop lunar transportation solutions.

Ukraine

Ukraine is using space technology to bolster its defences against Russian military aggression. Earth observation data allows Kyiv’s military commanders to monitor troop movements and optimize communications. Ukraine has been denied access to some privately-run satellite technology, emphasizing the need for governments to invest in their own space-based defence infrastructure.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is using space exploration to diversify its economy and establish a tech-focused industry.

Recent years have seen substantial investments in space, with Saudi astronauts visiting the International Space Station for the first time in 2023.

The Saudi Vision 2030 initiative outlines plans to develop a space industry, backed by a $2 billion investment over the next decade. This investment aims to promote scientific research, bolster national security, and transition the Saudi economy beyond its traditional reliance on natural resources.

Thailand

Thailand is advancing its space technology capabilities with the aim of improving the lives of its citizens.

In 2022, Thailand unveiled a five-year plan for domestic satellite design and development research. This begins with the TSC-Pathfinder satellite for Earth observation.

Thailand plans to develop a multi-billion-dollar domestic space market. It is also developing a domestic launch site to support launch demand in Asia.

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Peru

Peru is bridging the digital divide and empowering its youth through satellite-enabled connectivity across local communities. A pioneering ‘Internet for All’ programme, launched in 2019, harnesses collaborative partnerships between space industry players and non-space operators to strengthen internet access in rural regions.

Simultaneously, the Peruvian Ministry of Education has implemented a dedicated rural school connectivity initiative, investing in internet infrastructure and digital educational resources tailored for remote settlements.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Geo-Economics and PoliticsEmerging TechnologiesClimate ActionNature and Biodiversity
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