1 January 2020

Government, private sector and academia boost project to promote Chile as a model for data science


ALMA Observatory in San Pedro de Atacama was the site chosen by the Ministries of Science and Economy, in alliance with Amazon Web Services and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (UAI), to present the preliminary results for the first year of operations of Data Observatory, a national scientific data platform that aims at contributing to the progress of science, technology, knowledge and innovation.

Data Observatory, an unprecedented public-private alliance, celebrated its first year of operations at ALMA Observatory in San Pedro de Atacama, with a ceremony that was led by representatives from the Ministries of Science and Economy, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, to present the advancements for its emergent project in astroinformatics, and to call for new strategic partners from Chile and abroad.

The ALMA Chilean Centre, Data Observatory’s first project, consists of a national archive of data that have been collected by the observatory and that are in the service of the local astronomical community, contributing to research and analysis with veracious and updated information, a model for providing data science that is reusable in other scientific and economic sectors.

On its first anniversary since it was created, and with an initial project underway in the field of astronomy, the solutions and algorithms that make it possible to lookup, organize, store, analyse, and access these astronomical data could be applied to modern day problems such as climate change, terrestrial monitoring for sustainable development or smart cities, among others; thus contributing to Chile’s leadership in data science, the science of the future.

In this sense, Carlos Jerez, Interim Executive Director at Data Observatory and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences at UAI, remarked that through its access to databases that have world-leading value – such as those related to astronomy and terrestrial observation – DO is capable of generating research, education, and world-class technology transfer, thus contributing to sustainable development. “Astronomy is an ideal field for training in Chile, considering the characteristics of the data that are generated through sky observation, both in volume and in quality, and in their velocity and diversity; but we have to focus these mechanisms on the earth in order to generate solutions regarding problems such as global warming and water scarcity”, he added.

Likewise, the Minister of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation, Andrés Couve, emphasized that through DO, Chile has what it takes for occupying an international position in the field of data science. “Today, our scientists participate in international collaborations and publish the highest level of knowledge. Nevertheless, the impact that their research has made on the country’s sustainable development and social welfare has been insufficient.” Minister Couve added that “determined participation in the development of large scientific-technological projects is a proven path towards reaching that impact. Starting from the year 2020, we will send an open invitation to academia, the private sector and the civil society to take part in this project in order to utilize the data that will be generated nationally for research and entrepreneurship”.

According to Julio Pertuzé, representative for the Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism at DO, it is in the public interest “to promote projects around capacity building in data science, artificial intelligence, and big data, while recognizing that technological disruption brings forth different challenges and opportunities for small countries like Chile. What we lack in the size of our population or technological industry, we make up for in knowledge, human capital and data volume. This makes it possible for us as a country to generate an endogenous structure for data science. Within the next decade, will host 70% of the global astronomical infrastructure, which in itself constitutes a great amount of scientific data and astronomers applying mathematical techniques and algorithms that are reusable in other industries. We are focusing our efforts on ensuring that these capacities will not only be limited to astronomy and science, but will also extend through technology transfer to different economic and industrial areas, as well as to entrepreneurs and the Chilean society as a whole.”

Jeff Kratz, Regional Director for the Public Sector in Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada at Amazon Web Services (AWS), mentioned: “The scalability of the dataset that was harvested and warehoused on AWS cloud-based infrastructure by Data Observatory enables the management of dense and extensive layers of data that are open to the scientific and technological communities in Chile. In almost a year since we started the organization, DO has already replicated the cloud architecture of the ALMA Chilean Centre project, making it possible for us to disseminate and democratise data that used to be difficult to access and that can foster progress within multiple national industrial sectors. We are pleased to be one of the founding members.

The Rector of Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Harald Beyer, stated that “data are ultimately the result from the interaction of human beings with the Universe, nature, and other human beings. For this reason, their democratisation and intelligent deployment will allow, sooner rather than later, to enhance the wellbeing of citizens, care for our habitats, and sharpen the performance of our institutions. At the same time, it makes it possible to enrich research in various fields and provide feedback to this virtuous process. Certainly, human capital must be developed in order to address these challenges. The contribution to these two dimensions -innovative research and human capital- was the initial motivation for UAI to participate in the creation of the Foundation that is home to DO, and we are happy to collaborate with the founding partners as well as future strategic partners in order to achieve these goals”.

According to the representatives of DO, their strategic partnerships will be based on the transfer of knowledge and talent, strategic databases, instrumentation and infrastructure- such as cloud-based services, laboratories, and highly specialized computing- as well as funding for innovation projects. These contributions will also make it possible for other stakeholders to join in on the work with DO.


Data Observatory’s first project is the ALMA Chilean Centre, a system that was designed to deliver content and analytic platforms based on ALMA data, and it is expected to incorporate other telescopic data at the national level within the next five years, mainly from the LSST by the year 2022. Its purpose is to strengthen the local astronomical community by synergising with other global collaborations in Chile, such as the Chilean Virtual Observatory ChiVO, the ALeRCE project at the Millennium Institute of Astrophysics, and the Centre for Mathematic Modelling.

The ALMA Chilean Centre will prepare the set-up for training the astronomical community in Chile and Latin America in the elaboration of observational projects, and will give access to laboratories for processing and analysing data that is registered with Chilean facilities. Although ALMA already has regional centres in the United States, Germany and Japan, the ALMA Chilean Centre represents the first one of its kind to use cloud-based technology.

Data Observatory (DO) is a public-private non-profit partnership created by the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Science, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (UAI), and its mission is to acquire, process, store and share datasets that contribute to the development of science, technology, innovation, knowledge and the economy, due to its volume, nature and complexity. DO will begin to work with astronomical data and will expand from there to other datasets, with the goal to remove barriers and generate the greatest value possible. More information at dataobservatory.net.

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