With the advent of web 2.0 and social media, a new phase of data openness began a few years ago when a number of tools and technologies were made available and accessible to many people worldwide. This has provided increased access to information and enhanced the ability to collaborate through information sharing.
According to A World that Counts, the 2014 UN Data Revolution Report, new technologies such as satellites or soil sensors are leading to an exponential increase in the volume and types of available data, offering possibilities and innovative solutions for all global societies. This represents an opportunity – for instance to target tailored interventions to a specific group – as well a challenge, particularly in terms of privacy rights and potential abuse. But utilising these new technologies is not just a matter of creating more data; it is about making the best use of accurate, up-to-date and readily accessible data.
Agricultural statistics continue to suffer from poor quality, lack of relevance, insufficient funding and are little used in national policy dialogues. The poorest countries – for which agriculture is a critical source of livelihoods – often have the poorest data in quality and scope, as they are least able to direct limited resources into improving statistical quality for informing policies.
Providing open access to information is paramount to development. But while access to information and technology are important to the development process, they are only part of the equation in finding solutions. A crucial part of the process lies with ordinary citizens who can – and do – utilise the information and data to engage with their communities.