The International Astronomical Union (IAU), the largest professional body of astronomers in the world, adopted a strategic plan in 2009 that aims to realize the global developmental benefits of astronomy. In order to implement this plan the IAU established the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD). The OAD exists as a global coordinating center for “astronomy-for-development” activities, tasked with establishing and strategically coordinating Regional Offices and Language Expertise Centers across the world. Currently there are ten OAD regional offices in Armenia, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Jordan, Nigeria, Portugal, Thailand and Zambia and Netherlands.
East Africa Regional Office of Astronomy for Development (EAf-ROAD) is one of OAD offices in Eastern Africa hosted by Ethiopia. EAf-ROAD office was opened in Ethiopia in 2014 as an East Africa Regional node of OAD under agreement between IAU and Quadrilateral Parties in Ethiopia: Ethiopian Space Science Society (ESSS), Ministry of Education (MOE), Addis Ababa University (AAU) and Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). Currently the agreement is amended and EAf-ROAD is hosted by the newly established Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI) and accountable to Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) with direct supervision of both ESSTI and MOST.
The main objectives of the office is to further the use of astronomy as a tool for development by mobilizing the human and financial resources necessary in order to realize the scientific, technological and cultural benefits to society and implementing the IAU’s strategic plan and missions of OAD.
Strategic Priorities of EA-ROAD
The strategic direction of the OAD and its regional offices is guided by the following priorities:
- Implementation of the IAU Strategic Plan: The regional office will implement the Strategic Plan (SP) which was set by IAU and under the guidance of OAD in realising the benefit of astronomy for development.
- Strategic advice and guidance: The regional office along with OAD, guided by the SP and a global view of development activities, provide strategic advice where needed to individuals and organisations involved in similar activities. They also collect evidence and best practice into a library that will be used to guide astronomy-for-development activities. The regional structures of OAD should be the “first port of call” for development activities using astronomy.
- Coordination and Facilitation: The regional office coordinates and facilitates regional activities. Such efforts do not imply necessarily carrying out activities on the ground but rather sourcing partners or volunteers and providing them with the contacts, assistance and guidance necessary for them to implement regional project, training’s, workshops , research collaboration and exchange of expertise within and outside the region.
- Funding and Infrastructure:
- The regional office along with help of OAD, regional member countries and partners seek to acquire or assist in the acquiring of funding and infrastructure for regional projects and training’s.
- Implementation of projects:
- There may be specific developmental projects which are managed and administered by regional offices and or by the OAD, especially if there is a need to test, evaluate and develop best practice around a particular idea. The regional office will strive to implement such projects.
Tasks of EA-ROAD
- Fostering the goals of the IAU Strategic Plan in the East African Region
- Regional management, coordination and evaluation of IAU capacity- building programs, including recruiting and mobilizing volunteers
- Liaison with OAD and the three sector Task Forces (Universities and Research; Children and Schools; and Public Outreach) in planning and implementing relevant programs within the region in each of these sectors
- Provision of regional support where relevant for IAU-endorsed activities in the development, education, and outreach
- Coordination of Contacts between the IAU and National Authorities in the region.
- Provision of advice, guidance and information for scientists, and technologist of the field in all countries in the East African Region about IAU programs
- Proactive initiation and coordination about fund-raising activities for regional development activities
- Reporting regularly to OAD, and IAU executive Committee where required on activities of the regional node
- Provision and dissemination of information, resources and current affairs of the region continuously via full-fledged website.