Chinese scientists and their foreign counterparts launched a global collaborative research program on a "Digital Earth" in Beijing on Sunday.
Digital Earth, a virtual reality planet which collects geological, geographical and space resources into one database, is expected to help economic development, environmental protection, disaster control and prevention, heritage preservation and tracking of terrorism.
Lu Yongxiang, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the International Society of Digital Earth (ISDE), said at the inaugural ceremony that it is the common responsibility of the whole of human society to explore and utilize resources on the Earth rationally and protect the environment.
"The coming of the era of an information and knowledge-based economy is changing people's way of living quietly but dramatically," Lu said. "The future of human development is closely related to digits and information in every possible sense."
"It is reasonable to believe that Digital Earth is significantly important to sustain the development of human society, improve quality of life and advance science and technology," Lu said.
"We have every reason to expect the ISDE to make its own unique contribution to development of Digital Earth," Lu said.
Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Xu Guanhua and MarioHernandez, an official with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), jointly unveiled the nameplate of the ISDE.
More than 200 scientists from developed countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan, as well as Chinese government bodies and research academies, are participating in an international symposium on Digital Earth.
The ISDE is scheduled to organize a large-scale world conference on Digital Earth in June 2007 in San Francisco.