CTA’s view on open data

ICT Update

CTA is a member of the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative which recently met in Wageningen to discuss the actual and potential impacts of Open Data  on development (see p6). Here are nine things we learnt from the GODAN meeting.

1. GODAN aims to demonstrate the value of Open Data in Agriculture and convince more governments to encourage its availability. A timeline of the history so far was presented together with deliverables.
“I’m optimistic about the potential of open data if we can to think about the work of projects like GODAN not just as a case of gaining permission to work with a few datasets, but as about building new open and collaborative infrastructures, through which we can use data to communicate, collaborate and reshape our world.” (Tim Davies, GODAN)

2. Open data for agriculture: Whilst there are thousands of sources of data relevant to agriculture
(Dataverse, CIARD ring World Bank, Datahub) only satellite and weather data show examples of impact for smallholder farmers. The hackathon, ran alongside the conference, showed example applications from a variety of such sources.

3. Linked open data: The machine readable set of data in agriculture relies heavily on a common vocabulary. The FAO, National Agricultural library in the United States and CABI are linking their thesauri through the GACS project (www.slideshare.net/catecara/2015-01-godanwageningengacs)

4. Hackathons can work in just 2 days to generate and validate incredible ideas for applications using open data for agriculture. We saw what they are, how to run them and what’s the result (futurefoodhack.nl).

5. Data value chain: We were introduced to the concept of a value chain for data and how this is rapidly changing. For example Cap Verde is using tablets for collecting census data, Samoa is digitising community 3D maps for decision making and open data is being published in the African open data portal by all governments. Surprisingly some parts of the chain still need manual interventions for processing such as removing clouds from satellite images.

6. Government data: We saw the scale of governments opening up their data in particular, hearing about the data portal run by the African Development Bank.

7. Lack of data: We heard that there was a lack of Nutritional data and problems with data accuracy in some areas (see interview with Lawrence Haddad, p8).

8. Many speakers saw open data as a public utility. The Gates Foundation specifically mentioned the need for more public funded research to make data open and adopted a policy earlier this year. “Too much public money is sunk into inaccessible untested data.” (Woods, Gates Foundation)

9. Private Sector: New models are emerging to make it cost effective to open up data sources, and companies already use the same linked open data architecture within their organisations, so opening parts up can become more straightforward.
“Open data needs to leave the building use it to sell your companies services.” (Batianssen, Water Watch) ◀

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CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.