The State of Open Data: Histories and Horizons

Where are we with Open Data? What is the state of the affairs at the moment?

The recently published, “The State of Open Data” not only brings together more than 65 authors from around the world but further retraces the more than ten years of open data history.

The State of Open Data is an ambitious 18-month research project designed to reflect on 10 years of community action and review the capacity of open data to address social and economic challenges across a variety of sectors, regions, and communities.

If you are interested at the sectoral view of open data, then this resource is designed for you. However, its main goal is not only to inform but to help shape the future of open data based on information and evidence gathered from the community.

The State of Open Data explores 16 different sectors and communities where open data has been applied.

The State of Open Data: Agriculture

Open Data in Agriculture has been characterized by high level leadership and broad based stakeholder involvement with government, civic society, private sector and academia participation and placing the open data on the agenda across the agricultural sector.

The agriculture chapter was contributed by known data advocates – Ben Schaap, Ruthie Musker (GODAN) and Martin Parr (CABI) and Andre Laperriere (GODAN).

They contend that data in agriculture has benefited from a number of interventions - at political level, (the SDG 2 which commits states to achieve food security and nutrition), increased participation in agriculture by the private sector, and rapid internet and mobile penetration are some of the favorable conditions to increase data productivity.

Open Data Issues in Agriculture

The following were identified as open data issues in this sector:-

  • Connecting stakeholders – the data and metadata that are collected within agricultural systems are complex and diverse – using a mixed range of types, formats, and ontologies. The following stakeholder base has varied use and expectations of open data – Larger corporations, farmers, academia and research, and civic society
  • Standards – while standards are good guidelines for the collection, management, and organizing data. Various standards have had a low degree of interoperability as they were developed to serve a specific sub-industry function. To solve this, the GODAN action has mapped the agri-food standards and established that 16% of the standards are not online, and only 56% are machine-readable and only 21% are available under open licenses. GODAN Action and FAO AIMS have developed the VEST Registry to make standards more open and useful.
  • Policy – Globally favorable open access and open data policies have been pronounced and enacted. However, several other governments in the global south are still to develop data policies.
  • Ethics – Smart machines now capture data and expose these to producers there-by raising the the ethical concerned – a case in point being the John Deere tractors. As a result of such cases the EU Code of Conduct on Agricultural Data Sharing by Contractual Agreement has been endorsed by many equipment manufacturers.
  • Capacity Development – There is a need to educate smallholder farmers on how they could benefit from open data-driven knowledge and utilize this information to make on-farm decisions. Additionally, there is a need to ensure that all stakeholders have the technical resources, knowledge, and capabilities to collect, publish, or reuse open data.

The future of Open Data in Agriculture

This diagram outlines the ecosystem for open agricultural data (Drawnalism artwork by Alex Hughes captured at the GODAN Summit, September 2016)

In conclusion, donors and governments have a key role to play in establishing the policy framework for openness and supporting the infrastructure needed for a sustainable open data commons for agricultural research and practice.

Read the chapter here for more information

Add comment

Log in or register to post comments