RDA/IGAD Webinar Series: 'Mobilizing Capacity Development for Bridging the Digital Divide in Agriculture'

As part of the Research Data Alliance's (RDA)/ Agricultural Data Interest Group's (IGAD) ongoing webinar series, aimed to keep up with cutting edge developments in agricultural data, and encourage the free flow of ideas, the latest webinar took place on 12 December 2019.

The webinar focused on Mobilizing Capacity Development for Bridging the Digital Divide in Agriculture, and featured Suchith Anand and Foteini Zampati from the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN). Cynthia Parr, Technical Information Specialist, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, moderated the webinar.

Today, nearly 800 million people in every corner of the globe struggle with debilitating hunger and malnutrition. That is one in every nine people, with the majority being women and children. The solution to Zero Hunger lies within existing, but often unavailable, agriculture and nutrition data. Open Data offers a great potential for innovations from which the agricultural sector can benefit decisively due to a wide range of possibilities for further use.

Mostly in developing countries, smallholder farmers are not harnessing the power of data and must overcome challenges and risks to ensure that investments benefit them. In this case, two are the main challenges that need to overcome: first, to gain access to relevant data and services provided by others and, second, to make sure that any data they share does not actually weaken their positions. Improving data access in agriculture is not only a technical issue; it is also a social, ethical and legal one, having in mind that the world of agriculture is quite diverse, composed of very different types of agricultural methods and farming realities.

Today, our society is globally connected and so is our food system, we source our products from all over the world and agriculture is making significant impacts in local communities. A large share of the world’s farmers could benefit from bridging the digital divide (Jellema et al 2015, Berdou and Miguel Ayala, 2018).

To reduce the digital divide in agriculture, we need to strengthen the capacity to access and reuse data. It is important that the digital solutions developed are designed to allow all farming communities to maximize their potential; this is especially true in countries with very low literacy levels and limited knowledge of digital technologies, yet where the untapped agriculture potential remains among the highest in the world.

The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) Initiative supports proactive sharing of open data to make knowledge on agriculture and nutrition available, accessible and usable, in an effort to deal with the urgent challenge of ensuring world food security.

During this webinar, the presenters, drawing from their experience at GODAN, will determine how we can bridge the digital divide in agriculture by bringing together various stakeholders globally.

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