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What investments are needed to reap open data benefits and what measures must be adopted to protect farmers from open data?

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e-Agriculture's picture
Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
Joined: 12/08/2010 - 13:04
What investments are needed to reap open data benefits and what measures must be adopted to protect farmers from open data?

What investments are needed to reap open data benefits and what precautions are needed to prevent damage to vulnerable farmers from opening data for agriculture and nutrition?

Muchiri's picture
Last seen: 9 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 30/05/2017 - 14:35
Thinking Holistically About Open Data

Reaping the benefits of open data requires policy actors to think about the macro environment within which data lives, above and beyond the specific focus on open data. It also requires making a deliberate connection between an effort to open up data with a specific development agenda being pursued. For instance, an exploration of the types of investments needed to unlock value in open data would need to examine the state of e-government in the country and specifically within the ministries responsible for agriculture and their 'thematically adjacent' peers. In many instances, the investments that have been made on e-government were explicitly connected to service delivery objectives designed to empower citizens and reduce barriers to access such as geography.

Holistic Investments for Open Data

At LDRI, we study this area using a four-part framework looking at the following aspects which, in my view, are where investments should be targeted as a priority;

  1. Policy for data (and open data): Does the policy/legal framework in place provide an enabling environment for collection, use, analysis and sharing (opening) of data across ministries, departments and agencies?
  2. Financial Resourcing: Does the government make or have available the financial resources to address the gaps in data collection, analysis, and dissemination? To what extent is this resourced by development partners (speaks to sustainability)
  3. Infrastructure: Is the e-government software, hardware and network infrastructure in place to ensure digital origination of administrative data (at the least) and survey/census data (ideally)? Is the infrastructure in place to open up the data in formats that are electronically appropriate and easily discoverable?
  4. Human capital: Do the staffs have the requisite skills to collect, manage, analyze, communicate and disseminate the data? If there are terabytes upon terabytes of data available but no staff who can use it or apply institutional policy to open it there will be little progress.

Holistic Approaches to Open Data

Ensuring the right policy/legal frameworks are in place and enforced is key to protecting farmers from exploitation, especially where personally identifiable information is concerned. This cannot be addressed without taking a rights-based approach to open data. Ultimately, open data is only a means of implementation for a development agenda that seeks to address the challenges preventing people from realising their objectives and exercising their agency. Preventing misuse of open data is all but impossible due to the nature of open data. But in a governance environment where there is a narrow digital divide and low inequality, harmful misuse of open data would likely be lower if not absent.

However, although preventing misuse of open data in its entirety is impossible, it is possible to empower farmers so they don't remain vulnerable. One way of doing this is to ensure the data, as well as insights being derived from it, are made available at the grassroots to the greatest extent possible. This means working with grassroots organisations to build their digital literacy and capacity as well as educating the masses on their rights. It also means using a variety of channels/tools to get the curated data to rural communities, beyond the web tools and mobile apps that may be easier to deploy in urban and more tech savvy communities. FM Radio, public gatherings and print media still remain the 'killer apps'  for dissemination in rural communities across the global south.

In summary, therefore, I suggest two broad ideas:

  1. Think beyond open data to the broader macro environment in the public sector within which data originates in order to identify the priority areas to put investment guided by the local context.
  2. Take a rights-based approach to open data in order to ensure policy and legal frameworks support the development of citizen agency and protect farmers from harmful practices.


e-Ginnsol's picture
Last seen: 5 months 4 weeks ago
Joined: 16/06/2017 - 16:09
Thinking Holistically About Open Data

Dear Muchiri, 

In reading, I would like to promote your focus on the bottom-up approach, the use of traditional media, and ensuring that the rights of the farmers are protected. You also looked at the broader picture where all activity is taking place. We understand there is a need for policies and frameworks to be put into place, we are also aware of the length of time it takes to implement, moreover we are aware of the need to build human capacity and the aspects to be built.  

Therefore we need to work with what we have in place, focus on not only building human capacity in term of technical but human right and legal knowledge so when the time comes for policies and framework the said grassroots can also make a meaningful contribution to it after it seeks to protect the rights.

justin's picture
Last seen: 9 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 04/06/2007 - 12:22
Also invest in organizational capacity

Dear Muchiri,
I fully agree with you.
Considering that individuals work in organizations which also operate within a given environment, I would also add investment in building organizational capacity. Among others, organizations, especially public institutions, should have clear mandates to open up the data; have internal processes in place, including clear guidelines for staff to facilitate generation and access to data; and establish collaboration and knowledge sharing mechanism/platforms to facilitate inter-organizational collaboration and avoid duplication of efforts.

Sea's picture
Last seen: 9 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 18/12/2009 - 11:59

Dear Justin,

Thanks for the veiw you have put up as per organisational capacity investment.

Please permit me to defer from your point. Strengthen organistional ethics through commitment of staff is one key ingreident. We all are aware that organisations are set up with clear mandates and human capacity to drive such mandates, but the bureaucratic management theory has led to many hinderances for effective performances as personal gains or influence is always at play.

My questions shall be,

  1. How can organisations be monitored and evaluated to avoid derailing within their mandates?
  2. What approaches are required for effective expertise engagement to ensure proper delivery of the stautory functions of these organisation? 
  3. What do we need to structure organizations to remain more focus on key needs rather than grabbing more that they can handle?
  4. Are the required tools and financing provided for effective functioning based on their manadates, if no why?
Raghavendra's picture
Last seen: 9 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 20/06/2017 - 06:57
Dear Sea,

Dear Sea,

I agree with your points which you mentioned above these are the mandate questions for the beterment of opendata

Commitment of Staff is most important aspect towards open data


naca's picture
Last seen: 6 months 1 day ago
Joined: 11/03/2008 - 12:35
The "open data" benefits vs

The "open data" benefits vs risks discussion has some parallels to the debate about "access and benefit sharing" of genetic resources. Both have the potential to impact farmers and/or traditional owners in positive or negative ways and have the potential to create conflicts with external agencies.

Some time ago took a look at how governments tried to deal with this issue, in particular the consequences of introducing intellectual property rights and other measures to "protect" the rights of traditional owners, farmers and others. It's a couple of pages so I don't want to post the whole thing here, but you can download the article if you wish.

On balance it seemed to me that these measures done in the name of access and benefit sharing have done more harm than good. Why? Because they typically involve restricting access to data, thereby stifling the very research required to develop benefits in the first place. The fisheries example in the article is a personal experience.

To my mind the potential benefits of open data vastly outweigh the potential risks. Farmers also tend to be naturally sceptical and conservative about sharing information with governments and other external agents, so I do not see them as powerless in this particular sense.

thembani.malapela's picture
Last seen: 1 hour 7 min ago
Joined: 19/10/2016 - 10:48

Dear Naca,

You raised some interesting comments on data rights and also your attached case. Would you want to expound more, also perhaps summarise the case for the benefit of all, maybe 1 or 2 paragraphs?

Thembani Malapela

On behalf of the moderators

thembani.malapela's picture
Last seen: 1 hour 7 min ago
Joined: 19/10/2016 - 10:48
Strengthening the national capacities

I will remove my hat as a moderator and make also a contribution.

In my view there are also investments that are needed with the Ministry capacities of both Agriculture and central statistics offices. For developing countries to also enjoy the benefits of open data there is a need for institution capacities. In many cases some of the national offices do not have the relavant technological infrastructure to handle big data and let alone process it. The lack of investment in these areas hamper the curation of data. In most cases the infrastructure that exist is dedicated to fiscal services such as collecting taxes and processing funds. 

The other element is that of functional responsibilities, who is responsible for keeping data in governmental institutions? In most developing countries the National Central Statistical Offices are responsible for keeping this data. The Ministry of agriculture or any other becomes the data generator and would necessary focus on the primary use of data, and there after handover to the NCSO. In the path to open data there is need to allow for workflows and safe guard against data loss due to functional changes and also data should be properly managed to ensure that it makes meaning beyond the primary use. 

Therefore, the NCSO should have infrastructural mantle to handle data and let alone to make their data open and adopt open data standards that are widely accepted. Any Open Data Charter that is silent on data infrastructure will definately leave out the technologically disadvantaged.

Can cloud computing be an option? Would the players in agricultural sector adopt this and by who, especially focusing in developing countries...


Mangusho's picture
Last seen: 9 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 14/05/2013 - 13:21
ICT in agriculture

First investment in policy is necessary.

Amparo's picture
Last seen: 9 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 08/05/2017 - 21:32
3rd question "What investments are needed to reap open data bene

Before I comment on the 3rd question ("~~What investments are needed to reap open data benefits and what precautions are needed to prevent damage to vulnerable farmers from opening data for agriculture and nutrition?") allow me to say taht I agree very much with the comment posted by "naca" saying that the benefits of open data vastly exceed the potential harms to farmers.

Investments to make sure that Open Data benefits the agricultural community inlcude:

- Clear policy, establishing the legal license for data use and re-use. The license (sometimes called "terms of use") has to allow free access to the data, without the need to register, and allow also the data user to use and re-use the data for any purpose, including for commercial purposes. Without this license it can not be called Open data, because there would be no legally-sanctioned reuse of the data.

- Software tools for the Open Data portal and baisc data management. These are not very expensive. There are many open source tools. Even the cost of SaaS (software as a service) for open data is relatively low.

- Continued interaction with data users and application developers, from the starting decision of what data to open, to the development of computer applications that use the data, and everything in between. Data re-use is at the core of Open Data, so knowling very well the people who will re-use the data is key to the success of the program. Keep in mind that there are many data intermediaries, so data is not consumed directly from the publisher. Re-users include academia, media, app developers, other government departments, private sector and others.

- Data quality reviews. This includes producing and publishing metadata (and hopefully giving API access to both the data and the metadata) of every data set in the Open Data portal, as well as checking for accuracy, timeliness, consistency, freqeuncy and other quality attributes of the data to be opened. Many coutnries have used the Open Data program as a way to improve the quality of data by asking users to report data problems and interacting with them to solve data quality issues.

To see a brief on the needed investments, I recomend reading "Open Data in 60 Seconds" at http://opendatatoolkit.worldbank.org/en/

In terms fo risks, the only one I can think of is privacy risk and this pertains only to personal information. There are no risks in many of the data that are typically opened: meteorology, yields, prices and other market info, ag property prices, land quality and access, ag science data and many other datasets. All of these do not inlcude information on individuals, so there are no privacy risks.



StrategyFirst's picture
Last seen: 6 months 3 days ago
Joined: 04/07/2017 - 18:29
Operational investments & selective approach to OD to be sought

Open Data is already here, acknowledging it's potential and how to use such remains a challenge... Structuring data, raw data on initial investments for the last three decades, left us an aggregate database requiring, to date, soft and selective investments on research based/proven data over marketability, usability and alike.

Link http://comengip.org/en/ 

My actual interest and work remain in such areas of great interest to further widespread use of OD in Africa...

vprot's picture
Last seen: 23 hours 59 min ago
Joined: 26/10/2010 - 11:51
I am carefully watching the

I am carefully watching the contributions in the forum and have to admit that there are some really interesting ideas presented. Just to add my two cents on the topic:

  1. Farmers need to feel safe when openly sharing their data, and I do understand their unwillingness to do so currently. One of the most important investments that need to take place are national policies and legislation regarding the sharing of their data. Legislation needs to take into consideration existing work and aspects such as data ownership, data privacy, the sensitive nature of personal data, data sharing options, exploitation of data for commercial purposes, liability etc. If there is a thorough legal framework, than farmers will feel safer sharing their data. In this context, policy documents, guidelines, White Papers etc. on the management of (open) data, such as the ones developed by GODAN, CTA, ODI and other organizations, are valuable.
  2. Investments in the data infrastructure. A country that wants to invest in open data and reap the benefits of it, will have to invest on a national infrastructure that will be responsible for data recording, aggregation (from various sources), management (organizations, sharing) and publication/sharing. Such an infrasstructure will also have to be open and interoperable, easy to connect to existing data tools (no need to re-invent the wheel) and easy to use. This would also need investment in terms of human resources, regarding people with the appropriate technical and open data background that will be able to maintain the operation of such infrastructure.
  3. Training: Training in the concept of open data, their benefits and even the use of open data repositories, are essential for the successfull implementation of an open data plan. Data providers (e.g. farmers) need to understand the benefits and risks of sharing their data and how to share them. They need to be trained on the use of tools that they can use for recording data from their farms (both desktop and smartphone apps) and those data-powered tools that they can use for monitoring their farms or find the data they need from open sources. Investments in open data training are essential.
  4. Long term plan: The exploitation of open data will take some time to show results, and it is important to have a long-term plan for this purpose. The plan needs to be flexible so that it can adapt to different conditions and challenges that may arise during the implementation of an open data plan.

There are more components in which investment will make sense, but I'll have to skip them as time is limited. I also agree with most of the points already made in this topic.

burgsteden's picture
Last seen: 9 months 1 week ago
Joined: 22/11/2016 - 11:01
Data as utility and social good

As rightly stated by Ajit Maru in his post in week 1 and 2, much of the available open data and information is not as useful as it could be, therefore not leveraging its full potential.

Innovative small startups have the potential to leverage that data. See the article about Frugal Innovation: the quiet revolution that is fighting off inequality. See https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/04/how-frugal-innovation-can-fight-off-inequality/

Many frugal innovations, like mPesa, are “empowering”.

This is also stated by the Open Knowledge Foundation.

“Open knowledge is what open data becomes when it’s useful, usable and used - not just that some data is open and can be freely used, but that it is useful – accessible, understandable, meaningful, and able to help someone solve a real problem.

So open knowledge is empowering – it helps us effect change and improve the world.” See



Governments and UN agencies need to make sure their data is more useful, usable and used, to facilitate open innovations. This is part of their core mandate.

In order to avoid that data and innovations are locked away, they need to be “unlocked” by using “Open Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation.” See http://digitalprinciples.org

The discussions about open data poses a dilemma. The difference between open data on the one hand and micro data on the other, collected through all sorts of digital sensors; e.g. mobile, social, IoT and satellite, much of it in real-time.

Where the former needs to be available in more useful, usable and used ways, the latter poses protection, privacy, ethics and ownership questions. Who owns the data “at the farm level”, now that digital sensors are collecting more and more micro data? Many studies reveal the potential of this big data and its capacity to steer innovation and provide new insights by using data science.

A recent report by GSMA and UN Global Pulse states that the “Achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require development and humanitarian organizations to utilize new sources of data, technologies and skills for planning and programme implementation. The real-time digital data derived from mobile phone usage is among the richest data sources about population well-being. As this data is held by companies, the public sector cannot fully exploit it without leadership and partnership from the private sector. What we need is action that goes beyond corporate social responsibility. We need big data to be treated as a social good,” said Robert Kirkpatrick, Director, UN Global Pulse. See



Two balanced actions are needed; we need open data to become data as utility and big data to be treated as social good.

naca's picture
Last seen: 6 months 1 day ago
Joined: 11/03/2008 - 12:35
One practical way that farmer

One practical way that farmer (or other data provider) rights can be protected without encumbering research with red tape barriers is through the use of open licenses (eg. the various Creative Commons licenses). These licenses essentially i) allow creators to assert copyright/ownership over their data while ii) permitting it to be freely used in certain ways.

For example, almost everything we publish goes out under a Creative Common by-attribution license. Anyone is free to redistribute, copy or build on our work, the only restriction is that they have to acknowledge the source. The software we write goes out under a GNU General Public License, which is quite similar but applies to code.

There are different types of Creative Commons license, and some restrictions can be applied such as "non-commercial" use or "share alike", depending on the wishes of the creator. If farmers wished to prevent application developers analysing their data and selling it back to them they could probably achieve that with such a license.

Open licenses are not without problems though. One of the main issues is that variations in conditions often make different "open" licenses incompatible with one another, so it becomes difficult or impossible to combine code or data that have been distributed under different licenses.

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