Challenges and potentials of open data discussed at the GFIA panel session about open data for agricultural innovation

The interactive panel session about "Open Data for Agricultural Innovation" was organized by the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN)  initiative together with the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). The session was part of the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture Africa (GFIA Africa) that took place on the 1st and 2nd of December 2015 in South Africa. Its main objective is to effect real change and offer solutions to raise agricultural productivity and to stop harvest losses.

The session was moderated by Valeria Pesce (GFAR/GODAN Secretariat), André Laperriere (GODAN Secretariat) and Ana Brandusescu (GODAN Secretariat). Five high level panel speakers gave their inputs to the session:  

  • Gracian Chimwaza – Executive Director, Information Training and Outreach Centre for Africa, ITOCA
  • Summer Allen – Research Coordinator, International Food Policy Research Institute, IFPRI
  • Fatma Ben Rejeb – CEO, Pan-African Farmers’ Organization, PAFO
  • Ednah Karamagi – Executive Director, Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative, BROSDI
  • Winnie Kamau – Data Journalist, Association of Freelance Journalists

The main topics of the panel were challenges and potentials of open data. These are the main arguments the Panel speakers pointed out during the discussion: 

There is a consent that opening data has a lot of advantages for food security: farmers as well as policy makers would be enabled to take better decisions based on timely information. Farmers could better adapt their farming to climate smart measures and policy makers would be able to better track how much money is spent and understand the conditions of regional agriculture.

The challenges start with encouraging different individuals to share their own data. One question is how to decide on what to keep private and what to share. Another critical point is who owns the data after having it shared: People who open their data should feel comfortable - farmers as well as researchers. Researchers should be supported by internal processes within their institutions. However, changes within institutional processes are difficult and might need some political committment. Farmers must become aware of the importance their data has and collaborate closely with farmer organizations, which are currently not prepared and would need training - and training is not only needed in farmer organizations, but it is a general requirement for more data sharing. Another issue is that people from different cultures have a different mentality versus sharing their data. And even if more data can be made open, ways for reviewing this data must be found.  

In general political committment of governments  to open data  would support these endeavours, especially if they can increase resources for statistical divisions. 


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