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What role can ICTs play in using Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition for family farmers?

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What role can ICTs play in using Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition for family farmers?
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What role can ICTs play in using Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition for farmers, especially small holder family farmers, rural women and youth engaged in agricultural livelihoods?

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Welcome to the e-forum on ICTs and Open Data

Welcome everybody, to this global e-forum on ICTs and Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition.

In the next three weeks, we are looking forward to exciting discussions – at the beginning of each week a guiding discussion question (setting the theme) will be posted on the forum and you are free to reply with your contributions. 


Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger aims to achieve food security, sustainable agriculture, and improve nutrition. It is crucial to monitor the progress towards SDG2 with the correct information and data.

Many stakeholders within the agriculture and nutrition sectors have highlighted the importance of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) for sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and facilitating access to agricultural information and services by marginalized groups (mainly women and the youth) and poor communities.

ICTs may improve farm level decision making, maximise the use of farm resources, improve the quality and safety of farm produce and to improve financial, and logistical services for farmers to market their produce.

Increasing the availability and accessibility of data through ICTs and enabling their effective use, could also offer even more benefits for smallholder farmers and rural communities through more precise agriculture and market chain management of their produce.

Open data on the whole accelerates innovation and generates economic and social capital, but must not neglect those who are economically, politically, socially and technologically weak and less powerful. Data, like the Sustainable Development Goals, must help everyone equally.

This online debate on the e-Agriculture platform will explore the cross roads between ICTs and issues around open data in Agriculture and Nutrition and its effective use, with a focus on establishing what benefits and possible losses, can accrue to smallholder farmers.

I wish you all a fruitful discussion.

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Re: Welcome note and setting the tone

Thank your Andre, l would set the discussion with my personal observations.

In a joint workshop of farmers, extension agents and scientists held recently held recently at Dantewada, in North Gujarat, India in which I participated, some farmers, most of them small holder family farmers growing spices such as cumin, anise and chillies, demanded that the University develop an application (app) on their “Smart” phones that enables farmers to record their data. They wanted to record their data because they wanted their produce to meet GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) standards and get certification needed for export such as to Europe.

I as an observer started examining this demand. Farmers wanted a data driven agricultural system because they wanted to participate to earn more in a globally competitive market and following GAP standards and producing the evidence for having met those standards was a must. They wanted to use the latest available information and communication technologies (ICTs) that enabled easy data flows (Smart phones and 4G which is now available across most of India). Their immediate use was of course to present evidence of following GAP so that they could be registered and participate in International markets. But why did the University not do this in advance before being made a demand intrigued me! It should have had a foresight of this need. I started discussing this issue with the University people.

The issues that came to my notice was that the University leadership was not fully aware of the need. The demand of the app had not been articulated by their extension staff who were focused more in solving agronomic concerns of farmers not the whole agri-business of farming. The extension agents were also “shy” of using data as they had little capacity or training in data driven agriculture. They also had a notion that farmers could not use “advanced” technologies. No one among the University people discussed with me how such data could be made use of in their research and for innovation both by University and the farmer community.

I even goaded the University in my remarks when I suggested that data for incidence and prevalence, since both the location and time data were available, of plant diseases and crops could also be gathered and a plant disease surveillance and monitoring system be developed that can over time be developed using other data into a disease forecasting system.

Farmers could be given more reliable diagnosis of diseases and pest in their plants and crops if they shared images along with the occurrence of a plant/crop related problem. And, of course the University needed an open data and information policy, strategy and capacities to implement it so that farmers and other users (including fertilizer and pesticide suppliers) could contribute and see the results and impact of data contributions. This also needed change in both the University’s and its people towards using ICTs in agriculture.

The purpose of this discussion is to explore how information communication technologies (ICTs) can be used in facilitating the fair use of open data in agriculture and nutrition by farmers in general and especially by the more vulnerable among them such as family farmers, rural women and the youth engaged in farming as a livelihood. The above story illustrates some of the issues that use of openly available data and information face in farming and agriculture.

I am sure others also have similar stories and insights.

Ajit Maru

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Thanks for sharing this

Thanlks for sharing this experience. Same for countries in Western Africa.

Farmers know what they need, much better than any well intentioned university or NGO or private sector company or government staff. But very often nobody is asking them what they need. It is a human tendency not to ask. In our societies people have the impression that not knowing is considered as a failure. In fact this is just the other way round. Asking is the source of empowering. In the case of using ICT by farmers it is important to also ask why, several time as the technology to be used is depending on the need. Using sms, Voice, radio, etc.

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AN EASY PLANT DISEASE DIAGNOSTIC & MONITORING TOOL

Hello Ajit - this App may be of interest to you

http://plantix.net/

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re: An easy plant...

Dear Chris,

Could you also post this in this week as a case study with just a brief summay

Regards

Thembani

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ICTs will play a great role

ICT will play a great role for sharing open data in agricultural research institutes mainly research outputs (agricultural information & technologies) for farmers and devlopment agents as demanded and with thier local langauge. It will also play a role in managing huge knowlege in agricultural research institutes.

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ICTs will benefit most smallholder farmers

The awareness been raised to the farmers on use of ICTs simple technologies will enhance the livelihood of the farmers especially those who live in the rural areas, they are the most vulnerable for effect of climate change

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Thank you and a warm welcome to you all!

Thank you Andre and also Ajit, both for the opening remarks and also for setting the tone for this discussion.

Dear participants, we warmly welcome you all and we gladly let you know the floor is open for your contributions. Looking forward to your submissions. I wish you, on behalf of e-Forum moderators, the best discussions.

For any questions, kindly send e-mail at e-agriculture@fao.org or consult this blog on how to post in the forum.

Co-Forum Moderator

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Lack of awareness

There is an acute shortage of awareness in this field. While the technology developers do not know the exact requirements and the farmers do not know whom to approach. the university people are bit too busy in their own world of academic papers and acheivements. This should serve the needy.

Use of ICT for disease surveillance is an excellent idea, would like to hear if it is to be targeted to specific diseases or crops or general area or what ?

more light on specific applications/ needs is very much required.

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Lack of Awareness

It can be both i.e. specific crop or area though for the Dantewada University I would focus on area. What we need is farmers and extension agents reporting incidence of a pest or disease through SMS/MMS (for photo or video) what they observe which would also give time and space of recording the so called incidence. The SMS and photo/video can be used to validate the pest/disease (there are several apps that also use image processing to aid this process) as also ground truth the incidence. Mapped on a GIS System (with other data shown as layers), the spread and direction of spread can be plotted. This contributes to developing and operation a disease and pest surveillance and monitoring system and coupled to other data related to the disease or pest, crop, farming conditions etc. into an epidemiological system that with adequate data can be used to manage and forecast for prevention outbreaks of the disease and pest.

Ajit

Ajit Maru, Ahmedabad

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Specifically, ICTs will help

Specifically, ICTs will help to democratise valuable information and this achievement can mean the difference between success and failure for two hypothetical smallholder farmers (as a case study). Timely availability of information to these farmers on rainfall patterns, source of quality and improved seeds, how to access quality fertilizers, groups willing to make purchase of produce abd the form in which they will prefer it are some of the advantages they stand to gain.

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Data acquisition

Dear all,

Data and, more important, information are crucial for every endeavor to succeed. Agriculture is no exception. Information is a capital good, as are land and seed. However, acquiring it and using are usually difficult in their own, but ICT or Digital Technologies are particularly useful for the task.

That said, in this post I would like to stress the point of data acquisition, and later in another one, the transformation of data into useful-actionable information and its dissemination.

Data acquisition in agriculture is expensive, and because of this is mainly undertaken by governments, universities, NGO's, etc. and mostly with different purposes in mind. So most data gathered by this actors is not very useful at the farm level. 

We argue that data must be acquired at the point of origin, the individual farm. Then it can be aggregated and processed to get a better view of market and production.

As said above, Digital Technologies are very powerful for this task. We need to bring farmers to the digital space through useful applications, so their common production-commercial activities generate point of origin data, that can then be processed into useful actionable information at the farm level.

Any thoughts?

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Hi there,

Hi there,

 

What do we think about the farmers with no technology adoption? Some farmers either doesn't have the reach towards technology or numericy is a problem due to lack of literacy. How can we reach those farmers through the implementation of different technologies?

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prioritizing data collectors training

Dear All, My submission is that before ICTs could play a meaning role and sustainable one we need to have field data collectors who understand the nitty gritty of various new technogies useful for collecting data before production, during production, marketing and consumption stages. In developing countries, most extension workers lack the required skills set.

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Exactly, that's the point!

Exactly, that's the point!

Digital technology for data acquisition and capture in different points of the value chain, e.g. Market places, raw material suppliers, up loaded by farmers themselves, and a long etc.

However there might be data that can only be acquired by direct human interaction, but we already have technology to derive info from different data sets and types.

There's an opportunity!

Cheers

 

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That's a point that should

That's a point that should draw our attention: Data acquisition is the first step in the whole data management and exploitation process and in this context, it should be carefully designed and implemented in all data-powered applications. While some types of data used in the agridfood sector are automatically recorded (e.g. sensor, remote sensing etc.), in many cases, the quality of the data depends on the knowledge of the person responsible for the recording.

An interesting example is the concept of CABI's PlantWise programme, where Plant Doctors (see for example here) are carefully trained individuals who have the knowledge to support the needs of the programme. In a similar way, those involved with data recording should also be trained to do so in the best possible way (thus minimizing possible errors).

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That's apoint that should draw our attention

I agree with you Vprot on the aspect that quality of data depend on the knowledge. This point is the key to the sucess of ICT and agriculture. In Kenya so many people have developed beautiful agricuture mobile apps but the implementation does not exist, why there was no knowledge behind it for this person to first understand the concept behind agriculture  and nutrition at small scale farmer level. Which include culture, traditional methods of feeding and farming, level of education and the understanding concept of the farmer. If all this can be taken seriously the mobile apps can start making sense and the maps will speak sense too and easily understood for decision making.

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Annrose, can't agree less with you!

That is right on spot! The knowledge of the thematique bearing in mind all you said is same i tried to battle in my earlier submission. ICT yes but it should be the right one taking into account all you listed.

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The evoloution of technology

The evoloution of technology has led to an abundance of ICT tools (such as agriculture-focused apps for smartphones, as you mention in your post). However, it seems that not all of them take into consideration the needs of the potential end users (e.g. farmers) so it is hard for them to use. For example, if there is no provision for offline data recording using smartphones in the field, then even a willing farmer (but with no internet connection in the field) will not be able to make the most out of it.

The design of ICT tools should follow a bottom-up approach, so farmers should be the ones providing the requirements that will drive the design and development of apps. Validation of the apps (and other ICT tools) is also a crucial factor, in order to ensure that apps work as expected under various different conditions and with minimum effort from the end user. Last but not least, training on the use of the apps is an important factors, so that end users will fully understand what they can do with an app and how to do it.

Of course, these conditions are hard to apply in the case of individual app (or ICT tools) developers, how do not have the capacity (e.g. financial) to ensure the applicability of these different aspects of their (usually free) apps.

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Capacity development and need for local language interfaces

Good to see the excellent inputs and discussions from all. Capacity Development and Training at all levels is key aspect that we need to consider. There  needs to be   emphasise on local language interfaces, icon and voice-based input rather that keyboard input both because of mobile device restrictions and because of low levels of literacy in some rural farming communities.  Icon and voice-based user interfaces needs to be used where feasible to minimise the impact of the multiple languages and varying levels of literacy . Technical service components and functionality  will need focusing on agriculture and rural enterprise – both key factors for alleviation of poverty and achieving the SDGs of the UN.

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Capacity development and need for local language interfaces

Indeed capacity development (CD) is extremely important. CD should take into account the capacity of the family farmers to use the ICT tools (i.e. mobile devices, apps, etc.) and to “consume” the open data or services developed from using open data; capacity of individuals (i.e. extension agents, etc.) and organizations (NGOs, community-based organizations, radio stations, extension services departments,) to develop services or products based on open data for the farmers, and of course on ensuring that an enabling environment (policies, laws, regulations, etc.) that support opening access to data, especially public data, and its re-use, is in place.

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Big Issues - Effectively Linking e- Agric with the SDGs

Impressive Faculty of Moderators and Subject Matter Experts have been assemble for this e-Forum. This is commendable. The e-Forum Purpose is to answer important e-Agric How questions. However, past Un System: UNO, WBG, IMF Entities initiatives aimed at answering How questions, end up answering What questions.

Records show that What questions have been overanswered but How questions have been avoided or evaded by UN System: UNO, WBG, IMF Entities in past and ongoing UN System: UNO, WBG, IMF Entities Study Reports; Global Consultations; Conferences and Meetings Outcome Documents. 

If the purpose of this e-Forum is to be achieved, then its outcone document need to set clear way forward pursuing Needed Change and not Change for Change sake. This suggest that discussions need to recognize the strong link between e-Agric and Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition Seurity Dimension of all 17 Goals of the SDGs as well as reognize that SDGs affect all Countries in our World today - North and South.

The FAO Partnership Unit needs to do more to ensure that the FAO Partnership Strategy with the Private Sector drive Needed Structural and Policy Changes on FAO, other UNO Agencies and other UN System - WBG and IMF Entities; 306/193 UN Member States Governments and Parliaments and Community, Sub-national, National, Sub-regional, Regional and Global Partners sides and within a Universal / Holistic / Integrated / Worldwide Approach that is INDEED a Common and Systemic Generic Approach that could be adopted / adapted to meet the unique and specific needs of each Community in each Country in each Continent unique and speifi needs and not a One Cap fit All.

The Moderators need to give clear assurance at this early stage of the e-Forum that this e-Forum will indeed be different in demonstrating and been seen to demonstrate genuine commitment to finding clear and correct answers to How questions as well as clear assurane that FAO and WBG Governing Councils and Executive Managements will Genuinely COMMIT to full implementation and effective monitoring and evaluation of the full implementation of the e-Forum Outcome Document Conclusions and Recommendations as first step catalyzing all remaining UN System: UNO, WBG, IMF Entities Governing Councils and Executive Managements Genuine COMMITMENT to full implementation and effective monitoring and evaluation of the full implementation of the e-Forum Outcome Document Conclusions and Recommendations.

It is our hope that the Moderators and Subject Matter Experts will address all points made above and also participate ACTIVELY in PILOTING this e-Forum to achieve increasing convergence between Purpose Intention and Reality in each Community in each Country in each Continent in our Fragile Planet today. 

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Reply to NEHMAP

Thank you for your contribution and greatly appreciated.

You will notice that this e-Forum has 3 questions, and these aim at giving an all-round approach to the topic under discussion. As you might have noticed, we have representation from a broader spectrum of international players within the agricultural field.

The first question is a WHAT question, l can assure you the HOW question is there. In the second week we will be calling for the practical HOW cases. Examples on the use and benefits of ICTs and Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition. I therefore, urge you to stay and also contribute to the next week again.

This e-Forum is a separate structure; it does not overtake the governance bodies for partners in this forum - for example FAO,WFP ( as you mentioned them) or other partners in the e-forum, have their respective internal mechanisms to reach their decisions. You can visit the FAO Council and WFP Executive boards to learn specifically about these - you can do the same with WorldBank, GODAN and CTA. This forum is not replacing these established bodies within these organisation.However, the results can be a good advocacy for policy change, as an example.

Back to this e-Forum, for sure the report should be moving in understanding the issues that arise with open data, we will later offer more information on the output of this discussion. However, l might also mention that there are also policy recommendation that will address the HOW question and also your concerns. The next e-Forum  (e-Forum discussion on the GODAN Agriculture Open Data Package -AgPack.info) on this platform will also provide you with more practical points that are being implemented in Open Data in Agriculture.

We are looking forward to your thrilling and exciting comments

Thembani Malapela (Co-Moderator)

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ICT needs to provide tools for decision making

Hi everyone,  Good to see some of my colleagues contributing to this important discussion. 

Just back from interesting national conference in Australia on harvesting the benefits of digital agriculture and some discussion on the access to open data to improve agricultural productivity.  Farmers and industry do have concerns with providing their farm and paddock data if they can't realise the individual benefits it can have for their farm.  There seems to be interesting move by some farmers to develop data coops which allows for the pooling of farm and supply chain data for the overall benifit of the farmer goup. This is an interesting concept, though i feel could be exploited by governments and private industry.   

Some other thoughts to ponder,  

1) There is no point collecting big data sets related to agricultural production if this data can not be presented to answer the questions the farmer hads or address the important decisions he need to make.   

2) how can these tools improve on the innate knowledge that the farmer or encourage them to explore new farming systems. 

3) how can we pool data and continually enhance the prediction models for individual farmers  senario or district regional level.  

 

 

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I agree with your analysis.

I agree with your analysis. There are indeed few initiatives that actually try to move towards data coops. One that I know of is the Cool Farm Alliance, they add value to products accross the value chain by being transparent about the GHG emissions at farm level. The data sharing is demand driven, so buyers ask producers to submit the data. 

However, there other existing coops that are working on concepts of data sharing for the benefit of their members. And yes, your three questions are valid and need to take into consideration. Re: 1) I think that this could be the role of existing coops, they need to explore how sharing data and using other open data sources can enhance their position as a coop. 2) This is an interesting idea. 3) This is a crucial question for science and society. If we want to enhance the models and improve the quality of the tools we need to pool the data as smart as possible. The Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) principles provide a good framework for sustainable data sharing and will help to grow an existing pool of data. However, this requires that the collection of the data is done in a structured way (eg.: by using unique identifiers at farm level?). Could ICT's play a role here to structure the data collection more?  

Sea
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RE: UNIQUE IDENTIERS

Yes, ICT can play a lot of major role to help structure data collection and analysis.

Take for instance soil sensors that transmit information on soil health and once the data is analysed and presented to the Advisory officer, he advises the decision maker on what incentives to provide to the farmer for soil improvement, so also it is appltcable to weather data,crop yield data and so on.

What is needed is a harmonised Shared Data Infrastructure (SDI) that shall meet the standards for easy of validation of data.

Stakeholders have to come up with acceptable ways of syncronizing information generated by open data.

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ICT for the dissemination of agricultural technologies

ICT is a great medium for information gathering, storing, analysing and disseminating. However, ICT services providers provide these solutions based on their own understanding of what is needed without more often than not proper research. Private and public organisations working with smallholder farmers collect information to suit specific need of purpose. I believe, it is time we start by going to the farmers to understand what information they actually require and why, discuss with them and agree on what really matter before an ICT approach to resolving their need in information or other agricultural technology.

I was at women forum early this month in Abidjan organised by USAID C4CP and its partners CORAF, WAAPP, AfDB etc... There have been number of agricultural technology developed to ease women work in farming and processing. Various seeds have been developed for better yield and more resistant to pest. Besides, nutritious processed foods have derived from the grown crops. How many are actually aware of these? Those technology needs to be disseminated though ICT across Africa so, all farmers be it women, men, young can benefit from it and prevent other researchers from wasting the time on same issues already resolved by their peers in other countries and concentrate on other equally pertinent issues that need attentions. Research result should and must be widely disseminated through ICT.

Farmers when they follow the Good Agronomic Practices and have good yield thanks to ICT, they need to sell: a structured market is more sustainable then producing before looking for a buyer again, ICT can and is making this happen however, how many farmers are actually aware or have experienced that? Awareness must be created on what already exist so it can be improved upon and avoid reinventing the wheel to create unhealthy competition.

Research is takling improved seeds, mechanization however, one thing farmers said they are not is packadging to add value to their agriculture produce processed or not. Where can they find the seeds, input in general, where can they sell, where to store, where to find good packadging? So many questions which answers must be streamlined and organized through ICT to make those information readily available to farmers.

I know for plant health management for instance CABI has come out with an up you can install on your smart phone “plantwise’’ based on each country they are present. It health identify the pest and find the solution to deal with it. Furthermore, it provides the nutrition value of each crop to improve the intake of those crop as well as their production by smallholder farmers engaged in subsistence farming. As not every farmer or event extension agent can use smart phone, mFarms for instance works with the University of Ghana (Legon) to repackage such information and disseminate it to farmers/farmer leaders via SMS and also came out with posters for educating the smallholders’ farmers. This is typical open data on agriculture and nutrition made available to a few farmers. It should be many more. As one person stated earlier, information generation cost a lot so does its dissemination. Will the farmers be ready to pay for such information even a token? More often than not due to the government or projects interventions here and there, farmers are not willing to pay. Commercial farmers when they see the value yes but the smallholders farmers to who the information are most targeted are not willing to pay for it. That is also a hindrance in generating and disseminating pertinent information to smallholder farmers: someone must cover the bill.

ICT can make open data for agriculture and nutrition accessible to farmers however, there are preliminaries that should be done for the information to reach the right target and serve their purpose more efficiently and cost effectively based on the above observations shared.

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ICT is yet to impact open data agriculture in africa

Farming in Africa be it any form of agriculture is a way of life for most peasants and poor homes to survive. Most at time Peasants have little or no knowledge of ict talk less of reading and writing. All they know is to do tranditional and informal agricultural practices which have repeatedly been practice since historic times ininherited from their fore fathers with no modification. This method does no depend on data or quest for improvement.it is all about hand to mouth in families. ict can only play a great role here if the people and rural population concerned are given opportunities for trainings and short educational courses using reliable NGOs and donor agencies whose main objectives are truly clear and feasible.

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ICT is yet to impact open data ariculture in africa

Farming in Africa be it any form of agriculture is a way of life for most peasants and poor homes to survive. Most at time Peasants have little or no knowledge of ict talk less of reading and writing. All they know is to do tranditional and informal agricultural practices which have repeatedly been practice since historic times ininherited from their fore fathers with no modification. This method does no depend on data or quest for improvement.it is all about hand to mouth in families. ict can only play a great role here if the people and rural population concerned are given opportunities for trainings and short educational courses using reliable NGOs and donor agencies whose main objectives are truly clear and feasible.

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This is a really interesting

This is a really interesting point, and highlights the role of agricultural extension and training services (as you already mentioned) in developing countries. In such cases, ICT tools tend to be as simple as possible (e.g. based on the use of phones and GSM networks) and end users usually need more guidance and support. I believe that in such cases, ICTs and the exploitation of opean data available in these areas will have greater impact, due to the fact that farming / food production can be significantly enhanced even in a simple (but still effective way).

The challenge is to find the most appropriate and sustainable way to record data from such cases, which will be then reused under the same conditions (in the same of similar areas) to further improve the farming practices.

If we want to succeed in improving food production in developing countries through the integration of ICTs (and making use of open data), then a good candidate would be smart farming (not to be confused with precision farming) - low cost, high efficiency hardware, minimum infrastructure needed and numerous possibilities of making use of open data.

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Role of ICTs for Open Data

One can find 3 separate questions within the question: (a) What is the role of ICTs in Open Data? (b) What is the role of Open Data in agriculture and nutrition and (c) How can Open Data benefit family farmers? Here are a few thoughts on each of these.

(a) What is the role of ICTs in Open Data?

There is no Open Data (with capital letters) without ICTs. That is because one fo the two defining characteristics of Open Data, machine readability, is an ICT concept. There could still be data openly available to the public without the use of ICT technologies, for example, the case of the rural school which decided to publish its budget by writting it in chalk on the school walls as a way of soliciting parents and community views on it. That is admirable and deserving of support, but it does not allow for data re-use, which is the main benefit of Open Data.

(b) What is the role of Open Data in agriculture and nutrition?

There are many ways in whcih the goals of agricultural and nutrition policies can be advanced with the use of Open Data. these range from better policies, to wider coverage of agriculture and nutrition public services, to improved coordination within the public sector, opportunities for new private business (which in turns contirbute to GDP growth and employment) and more transparency and public participation in the policies, programs and projects in the two sectors. Rather than cite examples, interested readers could consult examples of the use of Open Data for agriculture and nutrition at:

(c) How can Open Data benefit family farmers?

The various channels thorugh which Open Data can contribute to progress in agriculture and nutrition create benefits for a wide range of stakeholders in these two sectors: farmers large and small, consumers, policy makers, media, researchers and many others. But it can be argued that the benefits may be comparatively larger for small farmers, because large farmers have the means to access and exploit data even when it is not Open in the technical and legal sense. Making data available in re-useable formats and for free to everyone allows the creation of various applications that use the data to convey information, create transactional platforms, allow analysis and other applications. These re-uses of Open Data make it more user-friendly and easier to consume for small farmers, who otherwise may not have access to relevant data and, even if they did have access to it, may not have the capacity to understand it and use it practical ways. Several of the examples given in point (b) above illustrate this point.

 

 

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Open data - an opportunity for organizations that serve farmers

To add to your contribution in (c), open data will also make it easier for organizations that serve family farmers to provide enhanced services and support to the farmers. Organizations such as national and international NGOs, farmers based organizations, and other community based organizations can use ICTs to easily access open data and re-package it in formats suitable for their target farming and rural communities. Here I can also see an opportunity for community radio stations located in rural areas. Useful open data (i.e. whether data, pests, etc.) can be used to enrich the content of their radio programmes to the farming communities. Considering that most institutions that generate or gather, process and store data needed for farming purposes are located away from the farming communities, ICTs can make it easy to deliver the data to the farmers and to organizations that serve the farming communities.

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How can we use ICT and Open Data to lower barriers?

Mobile networks, location-based technologies, sensor-web technologies and cloud computing offer the potential to develop powerful, flexible and low cost information and services networks, linking rural farmers with other communities, both rural and urban. These networks can be deployed to deliver a wide range of services to rural farming populations who  depend on agriculture as their livelihood  to receive back voice, text and image-based data for review and analysis. This will facilitate information rich interaction and iteration and the electronic delivery of high-quality professional diagnostic and information services.  There needs to be emphasise on local language interfaces, icon and voice-based input rather that keyboard input both because of mobile device restrictions and because of low levels of literacy in some rural communities.  Icon and voice-based user interfaces needs to be used where feasible to minimise the impact of the multiple languages and varying levels of literacy. 

My question is how can we use ICT and Open Data to lower barriers for varying levels of literacy so that everyone can benefit? All ideas welcome.

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Many Roles for ICT, But Focus on Sociotechnical Capabilties Key

Thank you to the hosts and moderators of this important discussion, and for all the great coments so far! Several excellent points have already been made, which I'll try to add to and not repeat here.

In terms of the what roles ICTs can play for family farmers in using Open Data, I think the list is potentially quite long and perhaps limitless. Especially if one looks at the farm as serving many purposes, or being "multifunctional". That includes supporting not only informed decision making related to farm productivity, market access and economic viability, but a variety of things often overlooked from a technical perspective, like family health and resilience, and self-determination.

For a variety of reasons many "experts" including academics and consultants are often focused on using ICTs for a particular set of farm outcomes, sometimes blind to or at the expense of others which may be equally important to the long term well-being of the farm and the families which depend on them.

My Cornell colleague Rebecca Nelson has suggested that instead of using ICTs to "optimize for simplicity", focused on disseminating top-down (often proprietary) one-size-fits-all solutions for problems and opportunities that are in fact extremely diverse, we instead leverage them in support of solutions which are "optimized for complexity". This ultimately means helping farmers assess and experiment with what the best options are for their particular context, at the individual farm level and through collectives like "Farmer Research Networks" (FRN). I had the privilege of visiting one such effort in Australia last spring, the Birchip Cropping Group.

This shifts the focus (and perhaps the original question of this forum) away from farmers as users or "consumers" of Open Data, toward helping them become active participants in the creation, exchange and transformation of it within larger systems, or "value networks". Modern ICTs and the Open Data Ecosystems which initiatives like GODAN are promoting are perfectly suited to support this shift.

But getting from here to there will require new "sociotechnical capabilities" which acknowledge and develop technical as well as social capabilities needed for equitable and effective participation within such data ecosystems, open or otherwise. That includes greater attention to and investment in the role Open Data Intermediaries and related entities like FRNs play within these ecosystems.

Here in the U.S. I've been advocating that our own Land Grant and Cooperative Extension systems pay closer attention to the role of ICTs and Open Data/Information Ecosystems, and how we might leverage them in support of healthier people, communities and food systems.

 

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Use of Open Data

Globally (even in agriculture) there are two major on-going processes brought about by the information and communication revolution. The first is of "Democratisation of Science and Learning" where there is universal access to learning and the second of "Mass Innovation". At one time learning was limited to the men of religion, later to the aristocracy and the rich. It was only in the period after the "First" World War (1914-1918), that learning opportunites were made available to the middle classes. It was after the "Second" World War, (>1945) when returning soldiers from the second world war were given opportunities to join Universities in the USA and to some extent Europe. After the end of colonial rule, many countries in Asia and Africa enabled many of their citizens (though mainly elite) to attend Universities and study science and therefore develop skills and technology needed for economic and social development. The Internet and the Smart phone has opened the avenues for exposure to science and technology and learning about it to all, even those who are not literate through video and audio, and is triggering mass innovation by those who need and actually use technology and not scientists alone. Open data (and information) contribute significantly to this process of mass innovation. What we now is to focus on is also enabling, along with democratisation of sciences, the abilites to analyse data, infer information and convert it into use as knowledge and skills.

 There has been several comments alluding to the costs of generating, collecting, collating and organisation of data and information.  Almost all data and a large amount of information today is generated now by automatic and autonomous means and contributed voluntarily. Just see how much information is available on Facebook or Youtube related to agriculture. Only a very small percentage of total data available for agriculture needs manual intervention. There are two core issues that we have not really tackled. The first is the development of Institutions who can and will enable availability and access to all this data that is affordable to all and the second is the building of capacities so that data and information can be effectively used. If we note global trends carefully, we see that data availability is becoming less costly and almost free but the costs of accessing and effectively using data are growing. Therefore the second issue is of enabling universal access and processing of data into what an individual or a community will find relevant and useful. How do we do it? Now we need applications that collate useful data and contributes to converting it into use as needed by an indicvidual and/or a community.

Ajit

Ajit Maru, Ahmedabad

 

 

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ICT,Information and

ICT,Information and Communication technologies can be used,to understand the actual anual Rainfall,precipitation and run off.Irrigation is only to stabilize,and suppliment the natural rainfall.Thus storing water for all human needs is an essential feature of human living.

We do not encourage such practices,which do not suit the farming,in slopes or very loose pervious soils as the water retentivity of soils is less.It is also essential as our friends from India has suggested to know the "epidemiological system that with adequate data can be used to manage and forecast for prevention outbreaks of the disease and pest".In such cases humna lives are also at risk because of malaria.This has a tendency to breed and spread in standing waters.

Humans have arrived at  staple food, or simply a staple, a food thatconstitutes a dominant portion of a standard diet for a given people.But if the irrigation practices fail due to uncertainities in climate they have two alternatives[1]Reduce slowly the intake or Rice or Wheat,while replenishing the quantity with the so called millets.[2]Swith over to some other millets,which can grow with less water.

Alternate genetic engineering to produce pest free Staple food,and find other resources with less quantum of water available are also on anvail.How ever the best for societies,and nations is to collect yearly data on [1]irrigated land[2]water storage[3]food production[4]Cattle use.These in relation with the population can find alternate markets for the farm produce and can fetch reasonable price for the produce.

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Dear all,

Dear all,

How to contribute our data into GODAN?

Thank you very much in advance.

Warmest Regards,

Suryadi

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Dear Suryadi and others,

Dear Suryadi and others,

We welcome everyone to join the GODAN initiative, you can fill in a short webform and you will be added as a partners soon. It is a free membership and we encourage our members to publish their data a any suitable data platform.

We do not have a data repository ourselves but we encourage our partners to publish on their own platform or on the platform of choice. For research data we can mention the Open Data Journal for Agricultural Research (www.ODJAR.org) and our own GODAN Gateway on F1000Reseach. The first is a data focused journal and the second is focused on more general research that specifically uses open data or generates open data. On the F1000 Gateway we also encourage our partners to publish material that is discussion various topic on open data in agriculture and research. 

I you are publishing your data on a specific subject and there is a good use case we would love to hear more on it so we can spread the word.

Warm regards,

Ben Schaap

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ICT interventions in livestock development

The role of ICT  in livestock developmment cannot be gainsaid. A lot of work has been done to try come up with apps and SMS lines for reporting disease outbreaks, pests and fodder scarcity. This has had varied success depending on penetration of ICTs and tech literacy especially in sub-Sahara Africa and Kenya in particular. While this is positive, the one aspect that is mostly forgotten is the extension agent. With the move toward farmer and site-specific solutions to challenges in livestock, it is important to invest in extension. There is huge potential in using ICT and e-learning to train trainers. One of the major challenges of extension and advisory services is the cost of rolling out such programs. Having a blended approach that includes face-to-face training and e-learning could geatly reduce this cost and help in teasing out site specific challenges faced by livestock keepers in Africa.

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Ecosystem is key to sustain an Open Data initiative

While theoritically, Open Data would bring in great benefits not only for family farmers but for everyone involved in the agriculture/nutrition value chain. The growth of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the last decade has made implementing and harvesting the benefits of these initiatives much easier. However, the big question is the necessary ecosystem needed to sustain this open data revolution. To begin with, we need to discuss data hygiene - is the data that is collected good enough for consumption? If analytics are inferences are built on data that is not reliable then the advisory that comes out would be useless. Second, data privacy issues - what data can be shared, with whom and for what period of time etc., These are in many cases beyond the purview of the agriculture ministry (and the health ministry if we bring in nutrition). Data interoperability standards if not implemented would prove to be a major stumbling block into realzing the benefits of open data. These standards and policies are mainly decided through the country's eGov (e-government) initiative. 

The next major concern after data interoperability is of platform interoperability. Systems are developed in isolation. Sharing data across applications and across platforms are exteremly difficult at the national level as of today.

Hence, a multi-stakeholder engagement is necessary at the national level to realize the full benefits of Open Data for agriculture and nutrution. Extending it further, are regional or sub-regional understanding should also be estabilished as data related to transboundary disease/pest and trade would greatly benefit from having access to reliable data based on which actionable information/advisories could be deduced. 

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EFITA 2017: EUROPEAN FEDERATION FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN AG

There is a conference on this theme ICT in AG in July in France. I provided the link below so all can see what topics are being discussed as they may relate to discussion topics posted here or contibute some valuable background context of what type of ICT is being applied and in what ag sub-domains. I hope this is helpful. 

EFITA 2017: EUROPEAN FEDERATION FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND THE ENVIRONMENT. http://easychair.org/smart-program/EFITA2017/  

 

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Thank you

Hello,Its been very useful as i scrolled through the related topics. Thanks

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Plant and Product protection

Although quantity and quality of food ,feed, fibers, etc. and their trade are dependent on the plant and product protection product  toolbox, three of the four main bottle necks are ICT in nature: (i) access to the knowledge of what is available in one country, (iii) access to the knowledge of what is allowed in the trading-buying country, (iii)  access to the knowledge of what is available somewhere else for growers to inform the plant protection industry of their needs and get access ot it. For those who wonder, the fourth bottle neck is regulary harmonization where training is more the bottle neck although ICT could contribute greatly. Since this information already exist, andn since a duplication has already been attempted by the FAO without success but wiht high cost, how could the Open data community make a common good so critical to growers, avaialble for all. As an example, the Canadian government made this information available for everybody with a canadian IP. This is a core question and I would argue that no data is free. Someone paid for it, one way or another. All governmental data, all NGO data, all institutional data have been paid for by paying their employees. The question is how do we get access to key data that exist in the private sector and that can not be duplicated for which the need for empowerment is so important and critical ( I would argue that as a society, we can not afford anyway to duplicate such work). Of course, this does not apply only to plant and product protection, but it is a concrete example that fundamentally govern production volume, quantity, and their trade and therefore leads me to position it as a good concrete example we ought to tackle as Open data community.

Thankn you to the organisers and participants for the very involved & enlightened inputs.

Jacques

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Beyond data generation

Coming to this Forum on Friday I can only but build on the interesting reflections the community did. :)

As Amparo said, open data can happen because of ICTs - meaning that these tools do actually provide the opportunity to record, store and share the data among different communities.

ICTs are making data generation easier and cheap. Our smartphones actually generate useful data without us even noticing: every farmer with a smartphone in his/her pocket is a small weather station, as smartphones have a built-in barometer to calibrate its GPS that can generate data. To me, the most interesting disruption ICTs can produce in this field is thus making farmers become data active generators.

ICTs does also provide the opportunity to agriculture and nutrition stakeholders to share datasets, even when small and coarse, which can be extremely helpful in developing insights about the status of communities and their territories. mWater, for example, is an open data platform allowing anyone collecting data on water to share them with other stakeholders - breaking down data silos and making it actionable by all interested parties.

Generating data is not an issue anymore. The problem is to generate positive change beyond access to data themselves. Too often institutions (both from public and private sector) think that releasing data publicly constitutes an achievement per se - though it is rather a building block for progress.

That's why I agree with Gerard. For open data to be useful there is a need to create an ecosystem, which enables a successful application of open data in agriculture and nutrition. The big shift is starting to think in terms of services before data: so what services are needed by smallholder and family farmers, rural women and the youth? What services are needed by those agrifood stakeholders that can play a role in improving the life of rural people?

Within this framework, ICTs players and other stakeholders can have a role in pushing for interoperability among different applications, creating tools making it easier to operationalize data analysis.

I will be happy to highlight the ways in which Open Data can have a positive or negative impact next week in our Forum!

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Re: mWater

Dear Simone,

You mentioned the interesting case of mWater we would love to hear about this also in the second week, 

Thanks in advance

Thembani

On behalf of moderators

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Re: mWater

Dear Simone,

You mentioned the interesting case of mWater we would love to hear about this also in the second week, 

Thanks in advance

Thembani

On behalf of moderators

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REVOLUTIONIZING AGRICULTURE THROUGH ICT

Greetings, Friends and Fellows,

Great reading all the contributions so far above and without reinventing the wheel, I shall reflect on the works and efforts of may experts accross the globe.

As we all may be aware, that over the last few decades massive technological development and opportunities have transformed people's lives includeing myself through e-resources. However, these opportunities may have not benefited the agricultural sector (farming families) in a significant way.

Farmers and various other actors along the value chains need significant amout of information. Today ICT is playing a leading role in knowledge exchange, targeted recommendaions,market integration and access to finance to make agriculture a profitable enteprise and attractive for men and women, especially the youths.

I think with the introduction of Digitial Agriculture, "which is an ICT and data ecosystems to support the development and delivery of timely targeted information and services to make farmig profitable and sustainable among small, medium and large scale farmers, while delivering safe nutritious and affordable food for ALL", may be considered as a welcome approach.

The diagram below is an illustration of how ICT can continouly improve agricultural revolution

main-qimg-c15a83c4581fd27d46a70e227db3a1Leaving no one behind becomes the greates task for International collaboration on (Open and Sensitive) data to solve the pressing challenges of both rural and urban settlements.

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Stakeholder Roles in the Innovation Ecosystem

I also made a review of all the posts in this forum over the last week and tried to summarise what I read in a few paragraphs.

Universities: Starting from the beginning we heard about expectations made of Universities – namely that researchers should be providing software solutions for farmers. I think this is a relatively new role some universities have filled in recent years but universities have been around much longer. Myself I don’t fully support the idea that universities are necessarily the main drivers of change or technical solutions. As educational institutions universities are there to impart knowledge and critical thinking skills to students. This is achieved in part by giving students the opportunity to build new innovations to solve modern day challenges. In computer science this would involve requirements gathering, intelligent design and software prototyping. I don’t think such prototypes are all destined to become marketable products, for many reasons, but certainly can serve as models / eamples for innovation. More experienced development teams are required for building robust reliable software suitable for use by a wide range of stakeholders. In short I think Universities are part of the innovation lifecycle (idea to prototype) but are not responsible for product development.

Innovation Ecosystem: I’d like to contribute that that the overall innovation ecosystem must be understood by all stakeholders so we can effectively harness new technologies to bring change in agricultural operations. I’d say each of us needs to recognise what role we play in this ecosystem. Some of us are knowledge experts, some of us are data providers, software developers, interoperability experts…. other’s are agronomists, small holders / end users that will reuse data that has been translated to contextual knowledge but do not have technical skills. No one group has all the skills and we need to establish partnerships and teams to bring about change. We need policies and agreements between organizations to ensure we can work together effectively in an inclusive mission where all stakeholders are equal participants in the evolution of technologies in support of farmers. Some posts mentioned Farm data co-ops where pooling of local data sets, expertise and infrastructure would make it easier and cheaper to innovate on behalf of many stakeholders. This week’s posts have included many valuable requirements for digital infrastructure and software for them to be effective, useful and adoptable by farmers and other knowledge workers in the agric sector. Clearly the roles of the stakeholders involved in building such digital infrastructure are many. I don’t mention them all but we have roles of software designers and engineers, data providers brokering access to large archives of data, roles for data acquisition and storage operations e.g. from sensors or from field observations. Certainly software developers do need to understand the needs of end users and consult with farmers on what data or information they need and how they want to consume it.

Data: Raw data will need contextualization with previous trends or related types of supporting evidence. Data often needs to be transformed to actionable knowledge before it can be made useful.  Sources of data must be reliable and high quality so it can be meaningfully reused, including the design of prediction tools (e.g. crop / livestock disease or pest outbreaks, yield prediction). Software must also provide access to integrated data sets (e.g. together with GIS data) that is reusable for multiple purposes. Software systems should use common internationally recognised data exchange formats to ensure interoperability and unique web addresses should ideally be used for all online data sets.

Access: Trusted data warehouses and data brokers must emerge who can reliably provide cost effective access to data sets serving a variety of client tools designed to support end users. Software needs to serve data quickly for a wide range of ad-hoc queries integrating data from silos in real-time to avoid decision making based on legacy data. Appropriate cost models must exist for access to data and services. Access should likely be governed by rules similar to Net neutrality laws to ensure democratization of access to key data for all stakeholders, rich or poor. Access also means having data in local languages and accessible in many ways that are universal independent of end user literacy, e.g. keyword driven, icon, voice or interaction.

Education: Education is an essential part of the innovation ecosystem, we need to provide examples of successful innovation using farm data so that adoption of software and tools is not stalled. New software solutions should be universally accessible and end users must feel the transformational impact of having access to data and receive support in changing farm practices. Education and training are essential and can be provided through e-learning platforms also.

ICT is a complex and diverse topic and even more so, its application in agriculture. Overall the impact of Agricultural Open data must be felt at the farm level, as soon as the digital infrastructure, business models and software access modalities permit it. In my opinion we will best achieve this by first understanding the roles of all the stakeholders, so individually we can identify how we participate in bringing change and manage our expectations accordingly. As we define our roles we can align our activities accordingly. 

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The role of government?

Dear Christopher and All,

thank you for this elaborate and well thought through summary of the roles of the different stakeholders.

Reading your overview, scanning the earlier posts (8 times the word government was mentioned) and being asked by the moderators to raise a flag for the follow-up eAgricultural on the AgPack. 

Is their a role for governments? 

  • Should they be the main data providors in the ecosystem?
  • To what extent are they responsible that the right accurate data is timely available ?
  • Should they stimulate other (private stakeholders to play their role?
  • Should they adapt the ICT education to make Open data for Ag work?
  • Should they adapt the curricullum for extension officers or the extension curriculum it include the capactity IT handling needed to make Open data for Ag work?
  • To what extent are they responsible that the countries have technological infrastructure is up to the task ICT? (e.g. the mobile or internet network)
  • or maybe private partners should make it work.
  • What do we expect? 

Based on this discussion and the next starting on the 10th of July with a webinar I am curious to learn what you expect from your government or what you recommend your government to do to start realizing impact with ICT and open data for agriculture?

http://www.e-agriculture.org/forums/discussions/e-forum-discussion-agriculture-open-data-package-agpackinfo

 

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Re:e-Forum discussion

Dear Participants,

Many thanks for the wonderful comments, we will let the forum run for 1 week more so that we can give all the chance to express themselves in the three aspects of the questions.

Those interested in the next forum click here 

We salute your comments and wish for the best

Thembani Malapela, On behalf of the e-forum on ICT and Open Data 

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