Can big data be used for addressing food security? The CGIAR approach

By 2030, the CGIAR wants its action to result in 150 million fewer hungry people100 million fewer poor people – at least 50% of whom are women and 190 million ha less degraded land (source: CGIAR website). For this to happen, CGIAR has mobilized a tremendous amount of money from their donors to achieve it. And they are now designing the way in which they will make it happen.

Taking a closer look to their recently published progress of work, I was intrigued by two things:

  • They follow a truly transparent process, since they have published quite elaborate and detailed pre-proposals that are still under evaluation. This is part of implementing their Open Access and Open Data policy, since they consider that the knowledge that their scientists are producing is a public good for humanity.
  • They have big data on the spot. They consider it important for their work. They have foreseen funding a dedicated CGIAR Big Data Analytics Platform separately funded, as a horizontal activity that will try to support and harmonise relevant work taking place across their whole research portfolio during 2017-2022.

You can also take a look online at the five initial proposals (Expressions of Interests) that some of the CGIAR centers have submitted in response to this call. You will probably be impressed by the emphasis that they put on a variety of big data issues. You will like some extremely interesting ideas that these proposals have (like funding a large number of small, innovative, risky pilots that will try to pitch their solutions to the group – similar to the way that startups try to sell their ideas to investors). You will see all the big players (IBM, Google and ESRI) being listed as partners. You will see the complexities, as well as the opportunities, of putting such a big data platform in place that will support and inform the whole research portfolio and activities of the CGIAR.

This great work is very similar to what we try to do in Europe through the Big Data Europe coordinating platform.  In this context, a liaison should be made and a collaboration be established, so that such significant efforts are aligned and working towards addressing common challenges.

This post was originally posted on the Agroknow blog.


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