RDA/IGAD Webinar Series: ‘Lessons Learned from the Massive Open Online Courses on Farm Data Management’

As part of The Research Data Alliance (RDA) Interest Group on Agricultural Data (IGAD) meeting focusing on IGAD/RDA : Sharing Experiences and Creating Digital Dialogues, Ilkay Holt, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) presented a webinar during the ‘Americas/Asia’ group of presentations on May 27.

The webinar focused on ‘Lessons Learned from the Massive Open Online Courses on Farm Data Management.’ There is an exponential growth in data accompanying the digitalisation of agriculture through the proliferation of mobile technology, remote sensing technologies and distributed computing capabilities among others. The effective management of this data will open up new opportunities to better the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers by lowering cost and reducing information asymmetries. The lack of experience in data management or adoption of data driven services can limit the possibilities of digital transformation, which is vital for food security and nutrition. There is a strong need to strengthen the capacity of data producers and data consumers to better understand and begin to utilize open data to improve efficiency and effectiveness in agriculture and nutrition. Digital literacy has been identified as one of the key challenges in the Data for Development agenda developed by the European Commission.

Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO) was a partner of Global Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) Action project funded by UK Aid DFID between 2017-2019. FAO together with the other project partners involved in the creation of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on open data management in agriculture and nutrition targeting developing countries. SIDDI (FAO’s Scientific Information and Digital Data for Innovation) Team led this course and delivered five times over the year of 2018 to more than 15.000 participants from 148 different countries.  Based on this experience, SIDDI Team collaborated with Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the Pan African Farmers’ Organisation (PAFO) as part of the Data4Ag project to develop a MOOC on farm data management targeting farmer and farmer organisations including researchers in the area. The topics were data sharing frameworks, FAIR principles and open data conceptual frameworks, while also emphasizing the legal and responsible ethical considerations for data rights and protections.

The online course targeted professionals involved in using or managing data services for the benefit of farmers and farmers organizations. These professionals work in a wide range of organizations, including international organizations, donor agencies, multilaterals, NGOs, academic and research institutions, universities, national or local governments. Capacity development opportunities to improve access to, and knowledge of information and data vital for food and agriculture. This online course attracted over 5.000 participants from 153 countries which are mainly from the Global South. They are now connected through a mailing list, still sharing their experiences or asking support from each other. The course materials have been published and shared under the Creative Commons BY SA license to allow reusability. Some of them conducted training sessions with the materials used in this online course.

The Research Data Alliance (RDA) Interest Group on Agricultural Data (IGAD) meeting was set to be held in Rome (Italy) in April 2020 but instead, took place as a virtual meeting from May 25 to 28.  The virtual meeting provided an online platform to continue to build upon collaborations, knowledge sharing and developing innovations with activities including panel sessions, group discussions and presentations.

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