Continuing the Open Data discussion

Laureene Reeves Ndagire

The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative (GODAN) recently met in Wageningen, the Netherlands to discuss the actual and potential impacts of open data in agriculture.

GODAN (The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative) aims to demonstrate the value of open data in agriculture and convince more governments to encourage its availability. During the meeting, a timeline of the history so far was presented together with deliverables.

“I’m optimistic about the potential of open data if we can think about the work of projects like GODAN not just as a     case of gaining permission to work with a few datasets, but as about building new open and collaborative infrastructures, through which we can use data to communicate, collaborate and reshape our world.” Tim Davies

Whilst there are thousands of sources of data relevant to agriculture (see Dataverse, CIARD ring, World Bank, Datahub), only satellite and weather data show examples of impact for smallholder farmers. The hackathon run alongside the conference showed example applications from a variety of such sources.

Towards linked open data and a common vocabulary


The machine-readable set of data in agriculture relies heavily on a common vocabulary. The FAO, the National Agricultural library in the United States and CABI are linking their thesauri through the GACS project. Learn more about the project.

Hackathon: getting data to work for farmers

Hackathons can work in just two days to generate and validate incredible ideas for applications using open data for agriculture. We saw what they are and how to run them as well as result. Read Tim Davies’ blog on Five reflections for an open data hackathon.

Visualising data for value chains

We were introduced to the concept of a value chain for data and how this is rapidly changing. For example, Cap Verde using tablets for collecting census data, Samoa  digitising community 3D maps for decision making and open data being published in the African open data portal by all governments bar five. Surprisingly, some parts of the chain still need manual interventions for processing such as removing clouds from satellite images.

Satellite data and Government data

We learnt that you can track Dutch mice if you take out the clouds (see Groenmonitor, in Dutch), and all with open data! We also saw the scale of governments opening up their data in particular hearing about the African data portal, run by the African development bank where all countries bar five have data.

“We have real-time economic and climate data – why not nutrition data?”

We also heard that there is a lack of nutritional data and problems with data accuracy in some areas. Read Laurence Haddad in ICT_update

Open data as a public utility

Many speakers saw open data as a public utility. The Gates Foundation specifically mentioned the need for more publicly-funded research to be made open and has adopted an open access policy this year.

Stanley-woods-325px“Too much public money is sunk into inaccessible untested data” Stanley Wood, Gates Foundation

Opening new opportunities for the private sector

We heard how new models are emerging to make it cost-effective to open up data sources, and how companies already use the same linked open data architecture within their organisations, so opening parts up can become more straightforward.

“Open data needs to leave the building use it to sell your companies services” Wim G.M Batianssen, WaterWatch

An online community around #GODAN

As shown in this report, we see a growing amount of Internet users joining the conversation around #GODAN. The report, created with a real-time hashtag tracker for social media, Keyhole, helps us understanding the GODAN community better so that we can identify those who support it and engage with it.

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We hope to continue the conversation on open data for agriculture, together with other aspects of the data value chain at the Brussels Briefings, taking place on 18 February 2015.

Register and join us or follow the webstream at

Follow live discussions on Twitter: @brubriefings and #BrusselsBriefing

For further details and multimedia about the GODAN meeting organised in Wageningen in January 2015, browse this special blog elaborated by CABI through the Storify online tool.