Actions to turn the power of open data into real impact

Sander Janssen and Sjoerd Croqué

At the third international workshop on the impact of open data for agriculture a new action agenda was discussed by a mix of organisations. They concluded that more focus is required on benefits for the less favoured actors, that open data should become a vehicle for multi-stakeholder collaborations, and that assessment of data driven organisational change is required. Further actions to achieve impact were also discussed in relation to business innovation and capacity building.

In February 2017, the third international workshop ‘Creating impacts with open data in agriculture and nutrition’ was held in The Hague, organised by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, CABI, GODAN, CTA, and Wageningen UR. A total of 120 participants from key players at national, international and global level (governments, businesses, consultants, universities, research organisations and NGOs) took part in the workshop to share their views, practices, success stories and failures, and business cases. The third edition of the workshop particularly searched for Big Wins towards impact in agriculture and nutrition, the link between open data and the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (End Hunger), and business models for innovation with open data in agriculture and nutrition. It is the follow-up on the first workshop that recognised the need for an action agenda, and the second workshop that had drafted the initial action agenda.

Renewed action agenda

The workshop resulted in an overall action plan for the coming years to be implemented by all the stakeholders that consider open data as important. One important action that was discussed is to develop frameworks and models for benefit sharing across the data value chain, incorporating the rights of the least-favoured. For example, farmers in the developed and developing world, who see others using their data feel that they are not experiencing the benefits equitably. A similar situation applies to smaller organisations, like cooperatives or local NGOs, who might lack the organisational capacity to obtain the benefits. For open data to succeed, models and frameworks that make benefits explicit and sharing them across the data chain, need to be developed, just as the rights of all players need to be ensured.

A second action is to activate open data as a tool for collaboration in multi-stakeholder environments. During the workshop, several sessions concluded that open data can bring actors together across the supply chain or in multilateral or multi-institutional government processes, like in roundtables on sustainable palm oil and soya. By jointly sharing and discussing the importance of data, the parties can build trust and examine new models for collaboration.

Another action is to develop storylines of data-driven organisational changes. With more data available, and more options for data-based decision-making, organisations might need to change their own organisational structures.

Big wins 

Next to these overall actions, specific actions were defined during the different sessions at the workshop – as well as many insights were gained. In the sessions on Big Wins three cases were examined: weather data, nutrition data, and biodiversity data. It became apparent that, although impact is substantial for open data on these three topics, the roads to achieve big wins were very different with different users, beneficiaries and mechanisms.

Take for example weather data. The chain to impact is quite simple for weather data: the more open weather data is available through met offices, intermediaries (e.g. small and medium enterprises, farmers’ cooperatives) will build services on these data, which in turn can be used by farmers to plan their farm operations, and result in a de-risking of agriculture. In contract, in nutrition data, the chain to impact is much more complex, as many different steps can be measured in the distribution and processing of food and many links are possible to health, hygiene and agriculture. Often data is residing with different agencies and institutions (also universities), and to get it all together is a complex task. However, there is lot of potential to achieve impact in the better targeting of nutrition interventions by public bodies.

Finally, with biodiversity data related to agriculture, there are large networks of crowdsourcing and citizen-driven science at work that gather a lot of observations on biodiversity. These observations could potentially offer insight on local-specific contributions to agriculture productivity, for example, assessing the degree of a bee-friendliness as a crucial pollinator for agricultural crops.

Actions for private and public sector

The private and public sector have different organisational processes towards impact. For private sector firms, business models and value-adding services are important to enable them to invest in open data and data driven innovations. In a dedicated session, four actions were identified in relation to business innovation with open data. First, to document stories of data sharing, shifting revenue models, benefits and risks in the private sector. Second, to develop thought provoking materials on supply chain changes and industry collaboration through (open) data/digitisation. Third, to establish a cross sector focus group on private sector to open-up their own data. And fourth, to disseminate successful business models based on open data to firms in the service sector.

In the public sector, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been widely recognised as an important goal setting mechanism towards sustainability. In a session, the link between SDG2 (End Hunger) and open data was discussed, and a paper was launched by the GODAN Secretariat for an “Accountability Framework” for SDG2 linked to data that was developed jointly with the One Campaign, which focuses on monitoring the achievement of SDG2. Further actions identified in the session were on developing a paper on the mechanisms with which open data can help to reach the SDGs, building partnerships for transforming agriculture towards SDG2 with open data, and developing innovative show cases of private sector, project and programme contribution towards SDG2 with new data sources.

Capacity building

A final session looked at capacity building in organisations that work with open data. Capacity building was discussed from two angles: those that want to use the open data that is available (demand) and those that produce open data and intermediaries which consume open data to develop different services (supply). Participants identified that local conditions and context are extremely important to tailor efforts in capacity development, and that there is still a lot to be gained in training basic skills in data literacy, also as part of school curricula. Finally, capacity development should be done from the perspective of the end-user, so that he or she is ultimately helped in achieving the desired impacts.

During the workshop a number of important pledges by participants were made. Muchiri Nyaggah, Executive Director of LDRI, announced that G77 Ministers of Agriculture Conference on Open Data will be held In Nairobi, Kenya, with GODAN as co-host of the event. Wisdom Donkor announced the Second Africa Open Data Conference to be held in Accra, Ghana, in July 2017, in which agriculture and nutrition is one of the tracks. Malick Tapsoba from Burkina Faso announced a Francophone Africa Open Data Event to take place in June 2017, while finally, ISRIC and WaterWatch Foundation highlighted their commitments to open data as they are making available soil data and vegetation data respectively. These pledges and the renewed action agenda mean significant steps forward have been made to create impacts with open data in agriculture and nutrition in the years to come.

Related links

See on Twitter: #GODAN #impact
PowerPoint presentation on the outcomes of the 3rd workshop
Read about the outcomes of the 2nd international workshop

Outcomes of the 3rd Workshop ‘Creating Impact with Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition’

This document outlines some of the key action points discussed at the workshop held in February 2017. More information about the workshop: http://bit.ly/2lt7Vb…

other articles in this issue

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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.