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Summary of Discussions: Week 3 of the e-Forum on ICTs and Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition

e-Agriculture's picture


The third week of the e-forum discussion on ICTs and Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition continued with participants sharing tips on different investments that are needed to reap open data benefits. 

The question for week 3 was:

What investments are needed to reap open data benefits and what precautions are needed to prevent damage to vulnerable farmers from opening data for agriculture and nutrition?

Summary of contributions

In this section a number of interesting contributions were made to the forum. Dr Muchiri opened the address with a powerful contribution that steered much debate from the participants. He noted that there was need in investment by governments to (e-govt) unlock open data by the Ministries of Agriculture (MoA) and related ministries. There nature of investments were summarised into the following categories:-

  • Policy for data,
  • Financial Resourcing,
  • Infrastructure, and
  • Human Capital

Also a rights based approach was proposed to ensure that policy and legal frameworks support the development of citizen agency and protect farmers from harmful practices.

An emphasis was weighed in on organizational capacities of the institutions within these countries (Justin Chisenga; Sonigitu, Ekpe-Aji). Sonigitu requested to know more about the monitoring and evaluation of these organisations in meeting their respective mandates.Another user shared concerns of government in protecting the farmers through intellectual property regimes (Simon Wilkinson), and noted that these have contributed to restricting access to data. Potential benefits of open data were considered to be vastly outweighing the potential risks.

Amparo Ballivian, picked up this thread and agreed with the potential benefits of open data, she then further shared a number of investments needed to ensure that open data benefits the agricultural community. These include clear policy frameworks, software tools for open data and basic data management, data quality reviews and she cited the "Open Data in 60 Seconds" publication. The other cited investments were structured data (Demba), farmer\ s safety, and investments in infrastructure, training and long-term plans (Vassilis). The view of Henry Van Burgsteden was that governments and UN agencies need to make sure their data is more useful, usable and used, to facilitate open innovations, and these needed to be unlocked. Simon Wilkinson also noted the value of investment into open licenses, where he cited specifically Creative Commons licenses that allow ownerships and appropriate exploitation.

Selected quotes from contributors 

  • "think beyond open data to the broader macro environment in the public sector within which data originates in order to identify the priority areas to put investment guided by the local context.Take a rights-based approach to open data in order to ensure policy and legal frameworks support the development of citizen agency and protect farmers from harmful practices" - Muchiri
  • "I would also add investment in building organizational capacity. Among others, organizations, especially public institutions, should have clear mandates to open up the data; have internal processes in place, including clear guidelines for staff to facilitate generation and access to data; and establish collaboration and knowledge sharing mechanism/platforms " -Chisenga
  • "..restricting access to data, thereby stifling the very research required to develop benefits in the first place. The fisheries example in the article is a personal experience." -Simon
  • "In terms of risks, the only one I can think of is privacy risk and this pertains only to personal information. There are no risks in many of the data that are typically opened: meteorology, yields, prices and other market info, Ag property prices, land quality and access, Ag science data and many other datasets. All of these do not include information on individuals, so there are no privacy risks"- Amparo
  • "One of the most important investments that need to take place are national policies and legislation regarding the sharing of their data. Legislation needs to take into consideration existing work and aspects such as data ownership, data privacy, the sensitive nature of personal data, data sharing options, exploitation of data for commercial purposes, liability etc" - Vassilis
  • "Two balanced actions are needed; we need open data to become data as utility and big data to be treated as social good"- Henry

Specific resources shared in this week 

  1. Access and benefits sharing, in Aquaculture Asia. Volume XIV, No.2. April-June,2009 pp1-2.
  2. WorldBank. Open data in 60 Seconds. Available http://opendatatoolkit.worldbank.org/en/
  3. Comengip Journal. Available http://comengip.org/en/
  4. Frugal Innovation. Available https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/04/how-frugal-innovation-can-fight-off-inequality/
  5. Open Knowledge Foundation. Available https://okfn.org/about/vision-and-values/
  6. Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source and Open Innovation. Available http://digitalprinciples.org/


Lewis Banin's picture

I think starting with a good legislative instrument that will ensure various stakeholders in the agriculture sector takes data collection to a central pool to their data and information departments.

 Policy makers should clearly define which of the information will be relevant to sharing on an open data plantform, assesible to all.

Now my challenge has to do with less developed countries, if their rural farmers can give credible information to assist data collection.