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CTA’s view on open data

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. 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 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. Here are nine things we learnt from the GODAN meeting.


In the era of open data, agriculture and nutrition are starting to push forward. Indeed, in this as in so many other sectors, free access to high quality data is of vital importance. The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) Initiative, which held its first conference in January 2015 in the Netherlands has demonstrated this.


Time has become a scarce resource and make daily use of the internet, social media, e-mail, mobile services and information alerts – and the rise of big data is putting further pressure on our ability to consume such large amounts of explicit knowledge. Indeed, the amount of explicit knowledge available on the web related to agriculture alone is too overwhelming for anyone single person to process.


African smallholder farmers face a recurring problem of access to finance and credit. Financial institutions, for their part, do not have access to many potential customers, considered as too risky. Young Kenyan computer scientists have developed FarmDrive, an application that aims to promote access to credit and financial services for smallholder farmers. banks remain to be won over, but the project is on track.

Participatory 3D modelling is a community-based tool that builds on local and indigenous knowledge for a variety of purposes, such as land use planning, watershed management, disaster prevention, communication and advocacy.


In your article in the last issue of ICT Update you mentioned that we need to coordinate efforts to monitor the impact of applications since there are so many of them. Have there been any positive signs during your stream sessions that this may be accomplished?


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Next-generation ACP agriculture - innovations that work

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Women and Digitalisation in Agriculture

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