Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How can we improve agriculture, food and nutrition with open data?

At the same time that the GODAN Discussion Paper was presented during the International Open Data Conference 2015 (IODC15) , GODAN made a call for contributions on the theme of the Paper: "How can we improve agriculture, food and nutrition with open data?". The point is simple: What has been depicted in the report was the status of open data in agriculture and nutrition at a specific time, as seen by a limited number of people (the GODAN Secretariat, the ODI team and some more people, among others).

Due to the tight deadline, it was not possible to contact as many people as we would like to and have their opinions expressed in the report; on top of that, there was a clear limitation in the total size of the report (regarding the number of pages), as a typical, long report would not be as usable and efficient as we would like it to be - and we wanted the report to be easy to use!

However, it is quite important to include the opinions, views and feedback of as many stakeholders as possible, something that became obvious during the Conference as well. In this context, the GODAN Secretariat is now calling all stakeholders of Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition to express their views on a single question:

How can we improve agriculture, food and nutrition with open data?


If you are interested in sharing your views with the rest of us, you can respond to this single question by completing a dead-simple online form, which is available here.

To my understanding and from my own point of view, what is urgently needed is a set of coordinated actions that will allow the reuse of what currently exists with what is further needed in order to enhance the adoption of open data in agriculture and nutrition and at the same time ensure the availability of the data needed for making an impact to various types of stakeholders, ranging from small farmers with limited access to information to policy makers and governments. In this context, I have tried to compile my ideas into a set of major interconnected activities, as shown below:

  1. Collection of requirements from actual open data "consumers", such as smallholders but also researchers, open data journalists - all types of stakeholders to see what their actual needs are, in terms of open data; 
  2. A mapping of all (if possible) open agri-food and nutrition data sources worldwide & the standards used by them, which should be mapped to existing standards used worldwide. There is still wealth of data and opportunities that we are not aware of;
  3. The development of a tool/framework (or an adaptation of an existing one) for the evaluation of the quality and status of data in terms of openness;
  4. Mapping of needs identified in (1) with existing data sources (2), so that we can identify the gaps and work on them;
  5. Engage experts (open data, researchers, policy makers, data journalists) in working on solutions needed in (4), applying the standards agreed in (2). Funding needs to be secured for the engagement of experts; such work cannot be based on a voluntarily/part-time basis;
  6. Disseminate the work and try to engage as many organizations and other bodies in GODAN as possible. Create material (and even courses?) to educate data producers/managers about the benefits of opening up their data and providing the tools and methodologies for helping them do so. Webinars, leaflets, blog posts, anything should be used for this purpose. Explore opportunities for collaboration (e.g. RDA Working Groups, existing Open Data initiatives and agri-food open access ones can contribute to this cause)

My impression is that a project consisting of the aforementioned Work Packages (rough ideas at this point) could provide substantial results in a relatively short time. The data and standards exist out there, the experts are already working on that (but in a not harmonized/organized way); we need to formulate the mean through which they will turn into useful information that will create impact to its end users.

If you have your own ideas, feel free to share them through the online form; your feedback is really appreciated!