In January 2008 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) set out to develop a visionary decadal strategic plan entitled “Astronomy for the Developing World”. This plan aimed to use astronomy to stimulate development at all levels including primary, secondary and tertiary education, science research and the public understanding of science. After several iterations with relevant international organizations this plan was ratified at the IAU General Assembly in Brazil in August 2009.
At the heart of the implementation of this plan was the creation of a central coordinating “Office of Astronomy for Development” (OAD). After a lengthy international selection process, the IAU chose South Africa as the host country for the OAD, and the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), a facility of the National Research Foundation (NRF), as the host institution. This arrangement was strongly supported by the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST).
On the 16th April 2011 the OAD was officially launched by the South African Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor. Following the first meeting of the OAD Steering Committee (which took place immediately after the launch event) the OAD set off with a vision of “Astronomy for a better world”.
The mission of the OAD is to help further the use of astronomy as a tool for development by mobilizing the human and financial resources necessary in order to realize the field’s scientific, technological and cultural benefits to society.
In August 2012, at the IAU General Assembly in Beijing, an updated version of the strategic plan was released including an update on implementation. The title was more appropriately updated to “Astronomy for Development”