For open data to be more effective, local workshops and ICT capacity building initiatives are needed | CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture

For open data to be more effective, local workshops and ICT capacity building initiatives are needed

As the supply of open data is increasing, it is equally important to consider the demand and usage of these data by the group targeted to benefit.

Photo by E. van de Grift / CCAFS

Open Data has become a global issue. Fortunately, some institutions are doing well in making data open using the internet. This is highly attributed to the call for open data by institutions who know the worth of open data and the opportunities it brings.

There have been many calls for open data in agriculture, and the result is gradually taking effect. As the supply of open data is increasing, it is equally important to consider the demand and usage of these data by the group targeted to benefit. Smallholder farmers, policy makers and development agents are willing and ready to use any information or data that would contribute to better yield, productivity, profitability and economic growth, without causing any adverse effects.

The most used platform for publishing open data is the internet. But the question is: how many of these actors, especially smallholder farmers, have access to the internet? How many of smallholder farmers use Internet of Things? How many will be able interpret what has been published or delivered to them if they do have access to the data and information? These makes it relevant for all actors of the open data chain—from “data publishers” to “data users and beneficiaries like small shareholder farmers” to come to a common platform to take decisions which would yield effective and efficient use of Open Data.

The most used platform for publishing open data is the internet. But the question is: how many of these actors, especially smallholder farmers, have access to the internet?

There are numerous channels of making data accessible and discoverable to users. Globally, we agree open data can be shared via the internet. But this channel has not been effective in some countries due to knowledge barriers of what open data is and the low level of ICT literacy in some countries.

Knowledge on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) are the basics for which a stakeholder will understand what is open data. It is therefore critical to understand the knowledge level, educational background, and specifically the ICT knowledge of the target group before deciding on ways of publicizing open data. Other means that can be equally effective to make open data accessible and discoverable is through the use of the radio and television.

In open data interoperability, language used in publishing the data plays significant role to the usage of the data by the local smallholder farmers. At this level of actors, local workshops are needed to be organized for these smallholder farmers and explained to the maximum depth on what open data is, as well as about the associated benefits. Their capacities in the demand for open data must be enhanced to ensure they understand the available opportunities open data derives.

For example, climate change, among other global issues, has influenced agriculture for decades now. A lot of data have been obtained from the many research projects done on climate change and weather, yet findings show that a large number of smallholder farmers are still in crisis due to climate change. This might be associated with smallholder farmers’ poor access to weather data. The call for Open Weather where weather data can help smallholder farmers improve their activities is limited.

Global Open Data for Agriculture (GODAN) classified the type of open data that smallholder farmers may benefit from—Open Field, Open Weather, Open Water, and others. It is now necessary to use local means by which these data would reach the farmers.

Dr. Frank Kumi, during an interview at the Engineering department at the University of Cape Coast, said: “Why don’t we use the mobile phones which are used by the masses to promote open data? These are platforms which can easily reach a huge number of people including the smallholder farmers at both the rural and urban centers. Yet still, we need to build the capacity of these rural folks on how they can effectively use the technology.”

Policy makers have a significant role to play in making open data demand-driven. If not a global initiative, a nationwide initiative can be developed to organize series of local workshops of which actors in the open data chain would be present to build consensus on informed decisions on making open data effective.

With the ideology of having an all-inclusive governance, most policymakers tend to develop a network with citizens to make available all developmental issues set for the country. This can be employed in the field of agriculture through awareness creation, workshops and seminar for policy makers to know the essence and benefits of developing frameworks that can data and information dissemination timely.

“The linkage between researchers and farmers is weaker than the linkage between extension agents and farmers. This hinders the effectiveness of knowledge systems in agriculture”

GODAN has put some initiatives inline to improve the awareness of open data to actors in the agriculture sector through local workshops. It is a good initiative of which decision makers would be available to develop policies that will help the smallholder farmers realize and use open data significantly.

The weak linkage between researchers and smallholder farmers is a critical factor in open data initiatives. This was identified from a pre-test on agricultural knowledge systems during a study undertaken by assistant lecturer Ms Fatimah Abubakari Von at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

Ms Abubakari Von said: “The linkage between researchers and farmers is weaker than the linkage between extension agents and farmers. This hinders the effectiveness of knowledge systems in agriculture”

It is therefore important to establish a single platform through local workshops of which all actors of the whole open data chain would be available to take informed decision to enhance accessibility, discoverability, interoperability and usage of open data.

Feb 28, 2018

Shaibu Zikiru

Cape Coast, Ghana

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