In this section, you may find new materials that have been published on the topic of ‘Data: the next revolution for agriculture in ACP countries?’, since the date of the event. We continually select major new publications and articles that add up to the policy points discussed in this briefing:

Click here to read the  latest CTA Brussels Office News on the topic of Data

Big-data project aims to transform farming in world’s poorest countries, 24/09/2018

A coalition including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and national governments has launched a US$500-million effort to help developing countries gather data on small-scale farmers to help fight hunger and promote rural development. The programme, which will run through 2030, aims to fill a yawning information gap about what an estimated 500 million farmers living in poverty are doing across 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It will do so by expanding the reach of surveys developed separately by the FAO and the World bank gather information on factors such as livestock holdings and crop yields. Those surveys have been piloted in eight countries over the past decade. Coalition members said on 24 September that they plan to spend $36 million over three years, starting in 2019. They aim to spend an additional $200 million through 2030, with the remainder of their $500-million goal coming from participating governments and in-kind contributions.

Emerging Opportunities for the Application of Blockchain in the Agri-food Industry, 28/08/2018

Distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) have the potential to transform the global food system by introducing important efficiency gains along value chains, and improving trust, transparency, and traceability. While large actors are likely to make fast and significant inroads in exploiting DLTs, small farmers and processors also stand to reap significant benefits, provided the technology is made accessible to them. This paper seeks to make an initial contribution to the emerging public debate on this issue by providing an overview of DLTs and their application in food and agriculture, examining public policy implications for food security and rural development, and identifying some potential challenges, risks, and the way forward.

Farmer profiling: Making data work for smallholder farmers
CTA Working Paper 17/09, November 2017

The study presented in this report was commissioned by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) as a member of the Global Open Data for Agriculture & Nutrition (GODAN) initiative, and was conducted by SB Consulting (SBC4D). The objective of the research is to understand the role of farmer organisations (FO) and cooperatives in the agriculture data ecosystem. This document includes 3 main sections. The first one provides the overall context of the research, including an overview of smallholder farmers’ role and challenges, the methodology followed in this research, and the scope of the study. The second section details for each stage of the crop cycle, the findings in terms of data use, needs, and challenges. The third section is a summary of the findings in the form of recommendations for farmer organisations and cooperatives in terms of farmer profiling activity. Finally, the document contains an acknowledgement section, a conclusion and a series of annexes including the bibliography and references used.

Africa’s data revolution probed in UN-backed report
SciDev.Net, 11/08/17

Limited capacity, investment and collaboration are among the challenges facing data communities working towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063, according to the inaugural Africa Data Revolution Report (ADRR). The report was presented last month (17-21 July) during a panel discussion at the second Africa Open Data Conference held in Accra, Ghana. It cites issues such as legal and policy frameworks, infrastructure, technology and interactions among stakeholder as challenges facing the “data ecosystems” of the ten African countries studied: Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania.  The ADRR was jointly published by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), UN Development Programme (UNDP), World Wide Web Foundation and Open Data for Development Network (OD4D). “Open data is Africa’s biggest challenge,” says Nnenna Nwakanma, a senior policy manager at the US-headquartered World Wide Web Foundation, noting that the open data revolution is key to Africa achieving the SDGs.

Africa’s open data revolution hampered by challenges
SciDev.Net, 04/08/17

Sub-Saharan Africa has numerous data revolution challenges such as little capacity and investment, thus limiting demands for using data to boost sustainable development. According to the inaugural Africa Data Revolution Report (ADRR), there is minimal or non-existent collaborations among data communities regarding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s Agenda 2063. The report was presented last month (17-21 July) during a panel discussion at the second Africa Open Data Conference held in Accra, Ghana. The report cites issues such as legal and policy frameworks, infrastructure, technology and interactions among key actors as challenges that confront data ecosystems of ten African countries studied: Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland and Tanzania. The ADRR was jointly published by the Economic Commission for Africa, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Wide Web Foundation and Open Data for Development Network (OD4D). “Open data is Africa’s biggest challenge,” says Nnenna Nwakanma, a senior policy manager at the US-headquartered World Wide Web Foundation, noting that open data revolution is key to Africa achieving the SDGs.

Africa Embracing Open Data to Tackle Food Insecurity
indepthnews, 05/07/2017

Despite possessing huge potential for agricultural growth due to the availability of vast land and water resources, Africa’s food production sector is seriously under-performing. Steps are now being taken in the direction of using and sharing agriculture data to boost food production and contribute to making the continent food secure. Participants at the Ministerial Conference on Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition and 4th Agritec Africa Exhibition, held in Nairobi from June 14-16, 2017, agreed that a new mechanism is needed to ensure rapid and sustained growth of food production and put Africa on the path of ending hunger and improving nutrition. Calling for greater use and sharing of agriculture data, speakers noted that this will not only benefit food production but will also help to overcome the impacts of climate change by enabling the practice of sustainable agriculture and thus move towards achievement of Goal 2 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable development

Esoko – Leveling the Information Playing Field for Smallholder Farmers in Ghana

Smallholder farmers generate much of Ghana’s agricultural production. However, they have only limited access to important information that underlies increasingly complex global food chains, and this prevents them from fully maximizing the value of their crops. Esoko, a company operating in Ghana, sought to address this problem by using multiple data sources, including open government data, to permit farmers to secure better prices for their produce and level the playing field in price negotiations between farmers and buyers. The provision of information to smallholder farmers is being replicated by Esoko in other developing countries, and new organizations are entering the market to provide similar services to smallholder farmers.

A Data Commons for Food Security
Jeremiah Baarbé, Meghan Blom, Jeremy de Beer, 20/06/2017

We propose a ‘data commons’, formed through a licensing model that allows farmers to benefit from the datasets to which they contribute. Agricultural data is globally recognized for its importance in addressing food insecurity. This data is generated and used by a value chain of contributors, collectors, and consumers. Our licensing model addresses the crisis caused by a lack of data ownership rights for contributor farmers. Using the IAD framework we consider five case studies. These studies explore how John Deere, Plantwise, and Abalobi license data collection and how Creative Commons and the Open Data Commons license data distribution. Supported by an independent organization, our license supports SME data collectors, who need sophisticated legal tools; contributors, who need
engagement, privacy, control, and benefit sharing; and consumers who need open access.  Market forces encourage participation in the data commons by granting users the ability to display a social certification mark.

Digital transformation in agri-business required to safeguard African food supply
IT Web, 23/03/2017

African food security is under threat from a confluence of climate change, severe drought, water scarcity and a destructive fall armyworm invasion. But, says Lawrence Kandaswami, Managing Director, SAP South Africa, there are technology tools at hand to help solve Africa’s food security problems. “Smart Farming solutions will become the cornerstone of global food production over the next decade. By using cloud-based computing, big data, analytics, and IOT devices, and bringing together key industry players, we are able to deliver new innovations across the entire agricultural ecosystem to boost food production in a sustainable manner.” In 1950 Africa’s population of 229 million people accounted for just 9% of the world’s population. In 2015, less than three generations later, Africa’s 1.16 billion people account for 16% of the globe’s 7.3 billion people. By 2050, Africa’s population will have more than doubled to 2.4 billion people. In addition, two-thirds of Africa is arid or semi-arid, and 38% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in a water-scarce environment.

Open data benefits for agriculture and nutrition
ICT Update, February 2017

In September 2016, the first Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) summit took place in New York. And in February 2017, the third international workshop on impacts with open data in agriculture and nutrition was held in The Hague, the Netherlands. Both events showed progress made to provide better access to accurate, timely information for policy-makers, farmers and private sector to shape a more sustainable agriculture future.

Big data and data analytics, 29/09/2016

Advances in information and communication technologies, the increasing use of electronic devices and networks, and the digitalisation of production processes mean that vast quantities of data are generated daily by economic and social activities. This ‘big data’ can be transmitted, collected, aggregated and analysed to provide insights into processes and human behaviours. Big data analytics have the potential to identify efficiencies that can be made in a wide range of sectors, and to lead to innovative new products and services, greater competitiveness and economic growth. Studies suggest that companies that adopt big data analytics can increase productivity by 5%-10% more than companies that do not, and that big data practices in Europe could add 1.9% to GDP between 2014 and 2020. However big data analytics also pose a number of challenges for policy makers. Whilst protecting privacy and personal data has arguably received the most attention, other big-data-related issues are expected to appear on the European Union policy agenda. These include ‘data ownership’ principles that determine who shares in the rights associated with big data; data localisation requirements that may unjustifiably interfere with the ‘free flow of data’; labour shortages of skilled data workers and data-aware managers; and the creation of a new digital divide that risks marginalising those who do not make extensive use of information and communication technologies.

Big Data and Africa’s Green Revolution, 26/09/2016

“Take it to the farmer”. Those were the last words of Dr. Norman Borlaug, as remembered by his granddaughter Julie Borlaug in her opening speech at the Africa Green Revolution Forum in Nairobi. The man whose improved wheat varieties sparked the Green Revolution in Asia during the 1960s had dreams to take new and improved agricultural technologies to Africa to spark a similar revolution here, but he died with “unfinished business”.

Can mobile phone data answer global development’s call?, 07/09/2016

Mobile network operators are gathering a tremendous amount of data every hour of every day. How they might use that data to support society is something they are still trying to figure out. Many, both at mobile network operators and in development, have recognized that the data from mobile phones can help in tracking critical challenges — from the spread of disease, to migration patterns, to poverty rates — but they have now reached a critical junction where they need to translate that knowledge into action. “In general we see we cannot leave this potential on the table and do nothing,” said Nicolas de Cordes, vice president of marketing anticipation at the Orange Group, a mobile network operator among the first to examine using data for social good.

Data revolution needs to deliver for world’s poorest, 28/07/2016

It’s clear that measuring progress against the Sustainable Development Goals will require a huge amount of data and that collecting these data will require a significant amount of effort. But should this be the top priority in the data revolution? In countries where statistical capacity and resources are scant, trade-offs between the need to report internationally on SDG progress and to develop information systems that meet domestic needs will inevitably take place. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that whole new reporting systems are needed for SDG reporting at international, national and even subnational levels. At the international level, the task of producing a set of coherent SDG indicators to measure progress continues. Meanwhile, in the poorest parts of the world, civil registration and vital statistics systems don’t yet exist — at least not in a form that can guarantee the production of timely and reliable information that can be used for decision-making and planning.

Bridging data gaps for policymaking: crowdsourcing and big data for development, 18/07/2016

Good data to inform policymaking, particularly in developing countries, is often scarce. The problem is in part due to supply issues – high costs, insufficient time, and low capacity – but also due to lack of demand: policies are rarely shown to be abject failures when there is no data to evaluate them. The wonderful phrase “policy-based evidence making” (the converse of “evidenced-based policy making”) comes to mind when thinking about the latter. However, technological innovations are helping to bridge some of the data gaps. What are the innovations in data collection and what are the trade-offs being made when using them to inform policy?

Data revolution: The role of private sector, citizens and government

We’ve been told the data revolution is already happening thanks to a flood of data, overflowing out of every interstice of our digital society. But, so far at least, the revolution has not been evenly distributed. Although attempts have been made to make the most of information extracted from the web, all that is mined is not gold when it comes to designing public policies. The trace on the web (mostly in terms of social media) might not be the most insightful source of information to describe and inform the needs of the most deprived populations, nor to create and implement growth-enhancing policies. The data we need is somewhat more difficult to gain access to. Beyond the web, we need data that describes people’s activities within the physical, analog world: how people live, how they move around, how they interact, and so on. We need more frequent and granular data on people’s wealth, their activities, transactions, mobility, social ties, and more.

CTA Discussion Paper: Data Revolution for Agriculture

New technologies are leading to an exponential increase in the volume and types of available data, offering possibilities and innovative solutions for all global societies. This represents an opportunity – for instance to target tailored interventions to a specific group – as well a challenge, particularly in terms of privacy rights and potential abuse. But it is not just a matter of creating more data; it is about making the best use of up-to-date and readily accessible data.

Can Data-Driven Agriculture Help Feed a Hungry World?, 21/04/2016

From Bonneville County, Idaho, to Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, tablet-toting agronomists with Anheuser-Busch InBev — the world’s largest brewer by volume — are visiting farmers who grow the company’s malt barley, a key ingredient in beer. These meetings are a decades-old ritual: Growers review contracts as agronomists offer advice on ways to maximize productivity and profitability. Only these days the conversations are increasingly steered by a computer app called SmartBarley that farmers use to log details on more than 40 variables that affect barley production, such as variety planted, soil type, and tillage method, along with applications of water, fertilizer, and pesticides. Growers use the platform to compare their practices and yields with other farmers who operate in similar soil and climate conditions.

Open data infrastructure for resilience analysis: Implementation, examples and case studies in Kenya, 08/04/2016

This report serves as documentation for the construction, operation and utility of the Horn of Africa Data Catalog (accessible online at, which was developed to serve as a platform to provide indicators identified as critical to the work of the Technical Consortium for Building Resilience in the Horn of Africa (TC) and its partners. This technical report provides details on the implementation of resilience analytical framework using an open access data and knowledge management platform and presents examples on how to access and visualize them online through the web user interface and the application programming interface (API).

The Rise of the Data Scientist: How big data and data science are changing smallholder finance Initiative for Smallholder Finance, 17 March 2016

The enormous gap between the supply and demand of formal credit for smallholder farmers is caused, in part, by the extreme lack of information available to lenders on potential borrowers. The lack of information create risks for financial institutions and limits their willingness to lend to smallholder farmers and other “thin file” borrowers in developing countries. New research from the Initiative for Smallholder Finance explores how innovative lenders are using new data sources and analytics to assess the creditworthiness of borrowers.

Open data for agriculture and nutrition
CTA, March 2016

The use of data in sustainable development has expanded rapidly since the term ‘data revolution’ was first coined in May 2013. Since then, CTA has been working to develop open data initiatives that benefit smallholder farmers and agribusinesses. Building on Open Data Day in March, CTA will shortly publish ‘Data Revolution for Agriculture’, a paper drawing attention to the need for policies to enable open data in agriculture and nutrition. Climate change and population growth affect rural communities that are dependent on agriculture. Reliable, up-to-date, easily accessible data is important for making decisions to deal with these challenges. As a result, the open data movement has gained momentum in recent years. The quantity of data that is available is steadily increasing. Satellite images and the exponential growth of mobile communications have helped extend access to data rapidly. In addition, our ability to share data effectively is increasing. This is leading to a growing interest in putting it to good use.

The Digital Technology Cloud Hangs Over Every African Farm
All Africa, 05/02/2016

The digital cloud is high above every smallholder farm in Africa. We have the opportunity to bring the power of the cloud down to earth, and transform the ability of smallholder farmers to access finance, information and markets as never before. On Monday, a landmark edition of the international journal Foreign Affairs highlighted the possibility of rebuilding Africa’s food systems with smallholder farmers as the standard bearers of digitally powered world-class agriculture. The technology to do so is now available — from the farm, to the cloud.

East Africa: Now, Drones Used to Gather Crop Data
All Africa, 23/01/2016

Scientists from various research institutions in the region are carrying out a pilot project for gathering crop data using drones. The researchers from the University of Nairobi and the International Potato Centre (CIP) in partnership with the University of Missouri, regional civil aviation authorities, regional agricultural research institutes and regional statistics bodies, have started a pilot project in Tanzania, where a drone was able to pinpoint 14 different varieties of sweet potatoes in Ukiriguru Research Institute in Mwanza. “Crop statistics are important for planning, policy making and timely interventions to address food security,” said Elijah Cheruiyot, a research associate in remote sensing at the International Potato Centre in Kenya.

Drivers of household food availability in sub-Saharan Africa based on big data from small farms
PNAS, 12/01/2016

We collated a unique dataset covering land use and production data of more than 13,000 smallholder farm households in 93 sites in 17 countries across sub-Saharan Africa. The study quantifies the importance of off-farm income and market conditions across sites differing strongly in agroecology and derives generally applicable threshold values that determine whether farm households have enough food available to feed their families. These results show there is a strong need for multisectoral policy harmonization and incentives and improved interconnectedness of people to urban centers and diversification of employment sources, rather than a singular focus on agricultural development of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Big Data and International Development: Impacts, Scenarios and Policy Options
 IDS, 11/12/2015

Many people are excited about data, particularly when those data are big. Big data, we are told, will be the fuel that drives the next industrial revolution, radically reshaping economic structures, employment patterns and reaching into every aspect of economic and social life. The numbers are certainly impressive. In 1946, one of the first computers weighed 30 tonnes and could do 500 calculations per second. Today, IBM’s ‘Watson’ supercomputer can process 500 gigabytes of data per second. Every day, 39 per cent of the global population use the internet. Facebook has more than 1.3 billion active users, and after the United States the countries with the most subscribers are India, Brazil and Indonesia. In 2007, Twitter had 400,000 tweets per quarter. By 2013, there were 500 million per day. Ninety per cent of data in existence were created in the past two years, and the quantity is doubling every two years. The size and cost of storage has fallen by a third every year since the 1970s, making it possible to store these vast new pools of data. New statistical techniques and tools such as machine-learning algorithms can process and analyse these data dynamically, at a scale and speed that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. [Download this publication ]

How do developing country decision makers rate aid donors? Great new data, 18/11/2015

Brilliant. Someone’s finally done it. For years I’ve been moaning on about how no-one ever asks developing country governments to assess aid donors (rather than the other way around), and then publishes a league table of the good, the bad and the seriously ugly. Now AidData has released ‘Listening To Leaders: Which Development Partners Do They Prefer And Why?’ based on an online survey of 6,750 development policymakers and practitioners in 126 low and middle income countries. To my untutored eye, the methodology looks pretty rigorous, but geeks can see for themselves here. Unfortunately it hides its light under a very large bushel: the executive summary is 29 pages long, and the interesting stuff is sometimes lost in the welter of data. Perhaps they should have read Oxfam’s new guide to writing good exec sums, which went up last week.

Cabo Verde takes agricultural census of the archipelago, 10/30/2015

Cabo Verde (Cape Verde) will invest around €5 million euros in an Agricultural Census (RGA) intended to understand the agriculture and livestock sector of the archipelago. The Minister of Rural Development, Eva Ortet announced that the shall begin on 5th November and last for three months. This is the fifth such census since 1963. The director of Agricultural Statistics of the Ministry of Rural Development (MDR), Maria Auxiliadora Fortes, said the land agents – 246 interviewers, 63 controllers, 25 supervisors and 54 cartographers – will collect data on agriculture, livestock, forestry and aquaculture. This census ties in with the MDR’s efforts to improve the production of agro-statistics, by updating information on agriculture practiced by about 44,506 agricultural holdings in the archipelago.

End malnutrition with better data on eating habits, 29/10/2015

According to a recent blog post by Lawrence Haddad, Chair of the Foresight Lead Expert Group and Patrick Webb, Policy and Evidence Adviser for the Global Panel, more attention needs to be placed on the data gap about what people actually eat. Food systems already fail the 795 million people who are hungry, the 2 billion who currently suffer micronutrient malnutrition, and the 1.9 billion who are overweight and obese. Firstly, data on food consumption (not supply) is both limited and poor. In this regard, efforts need to be expand and improve data collection to record what people in different places actually eat. Secondly, good data on the “food environments” in which consumption choices are made is lacking. In his opinion, indicators are needed to describe and track the areas where policy actions need to be focused: 1) What food options are consumers presented with? 2) What shapes the options available? 3) What affects the choices made, in the context of relative prices, income, personal preferences and societal norms? 4) What are the health and nutrition consequences of those choices?

Open for Collaboration: Open Access Week 2015, 15/10/2015

The 9th International Open Access Week (OAW) will take place from Monday 19 to Friday 25 October, 2015. This year’s theme is ‘open for collaboration’, which highlights the ways in which collaboration both inspires and advances the open access movement. For example, exploring the partnerships behind launching initiatives such as the Public Library of Science, a non-profit publisher and advocate of open access research, and Impact Story – which allows researchers to discover and share how their research is read, cited, tweeted, and bookmarked. Another focus is how communities establish working relationships with policymakers to deliver open access policies around the world. The theme also emphasises the ways in which open access enables new avenues for collaboration between scholars by making research available to any potential collaborator, anywhere, and at any time.

‘Big Data’ Spells Big News for Crop Breeding Programs, 10-2015

Crop breeders could now have at hand an elegant solution that allows infusing empirical evidence into the iterative process of genetic selection, an approach deemed to be more efficient than breeding improved crop varieties. Murari Singh, biometrics specialist at ICARDA explained, “We have applied a common mathematical analytical tool in a brand new context of crop breeding”. Crop researchers have developed a systematic framework that harvests and harnesses existing data to refine the process of crop breeding. The Bayesian framework uses probability distribution of various parameters to enrich the current information in identifying accessions’ potential and predicting the genetic gain when certain genotypes are crossed to make progress toward desired traits e.g. high yielding wheat with drought tolerance. Using empirical evidence to inform the iterative process of selection of good lines and removal of bad lines is lending a firm footing to crop breeding.

Lack of data hinders Caricom export competiveness, 06/10/2015

Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, Pamela Coke-Hamilton has described the lack of data for the region as “a little embarrassing.” Coke-Hamilton pointed out to the chronic lack of data and how this hinders advancing export competitiveness in the Caribbean. She explained, “When an attempt is made to measure the competitiveness of our exports, the analysis is practically impossible given the lack of data that would allow us to do so comprehensively. (…) With all the improvement in data collection and technology, there must be a way for us as a region to collect the data that addresses the issues that are germane to us. To say that is practically impossible in 2015 to have adequate data by which to ascertain whether we are becoming competitive or not. I think that we need to address this sooner rather than later.”

The hidden digital data divide, 30/09/2015

When the term ‘digital divide’ was coined in the 1990s, it simply referred to the growing inequality between people with internet access. It was relatively simple to identify clear gaps between rich and poor countries, between cities and rural communities. But today, the digital divide has evolved to mean much more i.e. it now incorporates wider issues such as the speed and quality of access. Some mobile applications are being developed to support agricultural organisations e.g. in India, mKisan is used to share information and advice with farmers according to what and where they farm. Such apps teach relevant techniques, best practice and show hot to monitor the growth of crops. Some systems also supplies information on prices, offers weather forecasts and predicts harvests.

Working with global nutrition data, 28/08/2015

In a recent blog post, data analysts who authored the Global Nutrition Report 2015 explain how tricky assessing trends in malnutrition rates and country progress can be: global numbers do not reflect individual country improvements nutrition and national averages may hide granularity of sub-national data at the state and district levels. Additionally, as data may explain some improvements – i.e. childhood malnutrition is decreasing in many countries – it may not reveal other trend, such as growing rates of adult obesity. As a result, it is not clear whether malnutrition is increasing or decreasing globally? The authors conclude that they do not have the data to give a reliable conclusion.

What is the global development hype over big data?, 27/08/2015

Anoush Tatevossian from the U.N. Global Pulse discusses future challenges and opportunities for  big data in development work in relation to the post-2015 agenda. The explosion of digital data and innovations that help store and analyse it could be essential to monitoring and measuring progress of the 17 sustainable development goals and 169 associated targets. Big data is more than the mere collection of data. It is more an umbrella term for an ecosystem that allows for real-time collection, storage and analyses of digital information. From this definition, the goal is more about leveraging analysed data and providing insights that can guide policymakers and decision-makers, and practical information for the larger public. Big data has spurred innovations in the way information is collected and translated into practical applications e.g. it can provide granular weather forecasts that help farmers optimize their planting, harvesting and crop protection decisions.

How Africa can benefit from the data revolution?, 25/08/2015

A three day workshop in Kenya recently displayed how Africa can benefit from the data revolution. Some key excerpts include:  (i) The Umati project uses social media to understand the use of ethnic hate speech in Kenya (Sidney Ochieng, iHub, Nairobi); (ii) The use of social media for monitoring the evolution and effects of Ebola in west Africa (Nuri Pashwani, IBM Research Africa); (iii) The Kudu system for market making in Ugandan farm produce distribution via SMS messages (Kenneth Bwire, Makerere University, Kampala); (iv) Telecommunications data for inferring the source and spread of a typhoid outbreak in Kampala (UN Pulse Lab, Kampala); (v) The Punya system for prototyping and deployment of mobile phone apps to deal with emerging crises or market opportunities (Julius Adebayor, MIT) and (vi) large scale systems for collating and sharing data resources Open Data Kenya and UN OCHA Human Data Exchange.

African data champions take up SDG challenge, 24/08/2015

Data champions’ from five African countries are taking up the challenge of improving data collection across the continent to enhance progress under the Sustainable Development Goals. Data is abundant on the continent, says Jacqueline Musiitwa, the Zambian-based champion for the Accur8Africa initiative. But it is so disorganized, she adds, that it is difficult to make sense of the information available and use it to inform policymaking. Accur8Africa brings together data scientists from Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Zambia, to improve accuracy, accountability and accessibility to data. In this audio interview, Musiitwa explains that the programme will be looking at economic and public health data to assess where countries stand within their development agenda.

Digging for data on Africa’s climate future, 06/08/2015

Weather data is a precious research tool. But collecting quality data is not a priority in countries where more-pressing issues — such as poverty, healthcare and education — attract most attention and funding. “The lack of digitised data is holding back climate research. It’s a huge problem,” says Sarah O’Keefe, a PhD student at the Environmental Change Institute of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, which runs a modelling initiative called And without this research, uncertainty remains. O’Keefe describes how, during a trip to Kenya, policymakers approached her with many different queries, ranging from “How will climate change affect my country’s economic growth?” to “What should I tell farmers when they ask me if a recent drought has been caused by global warming?”

Data in action: The role of data in humanitarian disasters, 08-2015

Big data and open data are vital for nongovernmental organizations preparedness and response to  humanitarian disasters. The experience of World Vision  has been critical to show how access and use of data, as well as technology can greatly reduce risk factors and save lives. Andrea Swinburne-Jones, communications manager at World Vision International, explained how World Vision leveraged data to help to plan, prepare and respond in the case of cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. She also highlighte that the lack of mobile phones, as compared to other regions hindered communication with the affected population and radio was used instead. New projects, such Project Agos (launched in 2013) combines information from the government and the community to aid in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction e.g. through the development of alert mapping systems. This project, and the experience of NGO’s such as World Vision recognize the importance of technologies and social media to build and communities of experts who can transmit vital information in times of emergency. For this, on the ground training on social media use and tools is as vital as sharing the data. On the ground, data is shared bilaterally or via, a platform provided by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Ffd3 – The devil is in the data, 15/07/2015

At the third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the critical importance of data was underlined time and time again. It was recognized that improving developing countries’ data and statistical capabilities, will be a key step to achieve the much talked about data revolution. Jeffrey Sachs, celebrity development economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University stated, “What is happening here is to try to bring the data revolution to the development process, because the data revolution is taking place all around us in commerce, in advertising, in surveillance, you name it, but not yet in development practice (…)“We have to break the barrier of data as formal reports and data for daily use, and we can do that now. The first rule for every country should be mass broadband network that allows a free flow of data on a real-time basis.” New commitments on data access and use include the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, which has received $3 million from the U.S. and U.K. governments, and $2 million from the Hewlett Foundation. Additionally, CEO Dana Hyde of Millennium Challenge Corp.received praise from the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew also highlighted efforts at the MCC to deliver more sex-disaggregated data, so countries can better analyze and confront the barriers to economic growth posed by gender inequality through initiatives like the Data2X partnership.

Work Begins in Anticipation of 2015 Agriculture Census, 20/07/2015

The last agricultural census in Dominica was conducted in 1995. On this backdrop, there is much excitement about the forthcoming 2015 Agriculture Census for Dominica funded through the EU Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) programme. Director of Agriculture, Ricky Brumant, said to stakeholders, “We believe that the census is a fundamental opportunity and tool for us.”  Elgitha Ferdinand, an expert in agriculture censuses from St. Lucia explained, “The purpose of this workshop is two-fold (…) One, to introduce the census items to users and producers of agricultural data more specifically, the data that will be collected. The second objective is to present an outline of the tabulation plan. This is the output expected from the census,” she said. The data from the census shall be used to help the government make more informed decisions about the country’s agricultural development. Many stakeholders were present, including  the Ministry of Agriculture and Trade, the Central Statistics Office, Dominica Export/Import Agency (DEXIA), Inter American Institute of Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Waterfront and Allied Workers Union, Dominica National Fair Trade Organization, Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute, staff of the BAM Office and farmers.

Remote data collection in Papua New Guinea: an aid to policy, 07/07/2015

Given the expansion of mobile phone network coverage and mobile phone use within PNG since competition was introduced to the sector in 2007, this creates potential for the use of technology to collect data remotely. There are two main methods that have been trialled and could be used to good effect in the PNG context: phone interviews and SMS data collection: (I)  Phone interviews provide a number of benefits, versus the expensive, time-consuming, labour-intensive process of sending out field teams to conduct face-to-face interviews around the country. As has been demonstrated in a project in PNG (see paper by Kaski, Mursau and Maybanks), the telephone interview method can generate useful data from all of the provinces of the country in a relatively short space of time (just a couple of months, in this case). As has been found in other developing nations, there can be challenges with getting usable, working phone numbers and also with sampling (for example a possible urban bias, or a bias against people whose phone batteries may not have been re-charged due to financial constraints). Nonetheless, phone interviews can be an effective method of quickly gathering certain types of data. (ii) SMS data collection has been trialled in PNG with two law and justice sector agencies (the trial was conducted by the Economic and Public Sector Program and funded by Australia). What the project showed is that SMS (short message service or mobile phone text messaging) can be a convenient, user-friendly way for people in disparate geographical locations to report data. Most district court clerks involved in the trial were happy to use the system, which involved answering a series of questions via SMS, rather than having to rely on fax machines or the postal system. An article on the project was recently published in the Commonwealth Governance Handbook (from page 34).

Using big data could alert us to risks in the food supply chain, 17/06/2015

This article highlights the disparity between consumer’s expectations of the reliable presence of brands in supermarkets and the reality of the risks of food scarcity and disruption to supplies. It compares the difference between big data use amongst small farmers and other industries e.g. while food production is based on a large number of small farmers using diverse agricultural techniques, the automotive industry, for example, forms part of a global network of information sharin along its supply chain, which results in significant cost reductions, reliability and sustainability benefits. There is hope for the food industry and there are examples of bridging this technology gap – e.g satellite earth-observation data to gather information on crop production and check the validity of farmers’ applications for EU subsidies. Big data can be used to identify risks, as well as future trends, but it would also need to take into account micro perspective (on issues such as soil degradation and water scarcity for yields).

7 challenges agri sector must overcome for data revolution, 08/06/2015

Open data enthusiasts met in Ottawa, Canada, as part of the International Open Data Conference, to reflect on what the data revolution means for agriculture and nutrition. Open data can fill the data gap and provide the solutions to common problems related to food systems and agricultural production. Seven key challenges must be addressed in order to start filling the gaps: I) Open up data –  governments, donors and businesses should make existing data available; II) Identify data users – availability must translate into accessibility, especially for farmers; III) Bring intermediaries into the game; IV) develop new tools for data collection; V) Look beyond technology; VI) Foster cross-sector collaboration e.g. the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative brings together 120 members from the private, public and nongovernmental sectors who reflect on ways to encourage data collaboration and build high-level policy (see their discussion paper); VII) Address the need for disaggregated data.

Senegal: use of big data to diagnose poverty, 02/06/2015

Big Data can generate disaggregated poverty maps for Senegal based on gender, the urban/rural gap, or ethnic/social divisions. Such poverty maps can assist in policy planning for inclusive and sustained growth of all sections of society. The research presented uses generic methodology, which can be used to study other socio-economic indicators of the society. The pilot project in Senegal aims to build a robust example which can later be replicated in other contexts.  Big data can be particularly important in light of the forthcoming  post-2015 development agenda intergovernmental negotiations, where the United Nations would like to ensure the “measurability, achievability of the targets” along with identification of ‘technically rigorous indicators’ for development.

Launch of GODAN discussion paper: open data and agriculture, 2015

 GODAN and the Open Data Institute launched a  new open data discussion paper at the 3rd International Open Data Conference. It shows how open data is helping solve a wide range of problems in agriculture and nutrition. ‘How can we improve agriculture, food and nutrition with open data?’ The  paper is available here.

CTA Working Paper: Open data and smallholder food and nutritional security, 2015

This report was commissioned CTA as a member of the GODAN initiative. It aims to provide a better understanding of the actual impact of the open data movement on the food and nutrition security of smallholders and highlight the areas of potential unfilled opportunity. The Working Paper is available here.

CTA Working Paper: Agricultural open data in the Caribbean, 2015

Open government data and open agricultural data are rapidly emergent focus areas in Caribbean policy, research and development circles. CTA has been investigating open data through different activities to contribute to agricultural knowledge acquisition, policy and value chain development in African, Caribbean and Pacific countires. The Working Paper is available here.

Big data to create new ecosystem of decision-makers, 13/05/2015

Emmanuel Letouzé, director and co-founder of Data-Pop Alliance explains how big data is not data, but rather a new ecosystem connecting a variety of stakeholders, skill sets and mentalities. According to him, big data has the potential to fundamentally change societies much in same the way the Internet has, done. See his video here.

The data revolution: finding the missing millions, 21/05/2015

Elizabeth Stuart, lead author of the ODI report ‘The data revolution: finding the missing millions’, is joined by Rufus Pollock, President and Co-Founder, Open Knowledge, Pali Lehohla, Statistician General, Statistics South Africa and Francesco D’Orazio, VP Product, Pulsar for the launch of this year’s data revolution report. The report shows that empirical fats are all too often mere assumptions and do not reflect an accurate reality. The report suggests that 350m people in the world are literally uncounted – missed out of household surveys. Data currently lacks in several key elements: quality, relevant, accessible, timely data. Only by addressing these gaps, governments can work effectively to treat the root cause of global problems and this has a revolutionary potential. The report suggests that the coming years will necessitate an iterative, adaptive process, changing as evidence emerges what the data reveals. The report is available here.

 Much of the world is deprived of poverty data, 30/04/2015

The recent Data Deprivation, Another Deprivation to End report shows that the world lacks access to  adequate data on poverty. This means that the poor – often politically marginalised – will remain poor so long as adequate data remains unavailable. The report argues that the  lack of data on human and social development should be seen as a form of deprivation, and along with poverty, data deprivation should be eradicated. The report recoomends that countries measure poverty regularly, and have 2 or more poverty data points for every ten year period by 2030 (the target year for ending extreme poverty).Currently,  poverty estimates are available for only half of the 155 countries the World Bank monitors poverty. Furthermore, lack of data can lead to a “denial of basic rights.” according to the recent United Nations IEAG Report “A World That Counts”.

 IDB to laucn new open data portal in Caribbean, forthcoming 2015

The Inter-American Development Bank will launch in early 2015 “Numbers for Development”, an Open Data Portal that will give open and free access to our databases. It is aimed at researchers, students, policymakers, analysts, web developers and others working in development issues and public policy. The goal of “Numbers for Development” aims to be the main open data repository of socio-economic development data for the Latin America and Caribbean region. Thereafter, anyone can access data from 26 Latin American and Caribbean countries gathered by the Bank for more than 50 years.Currently, it is estimated that 84% of the population of Latin America lives in municipalities that have open government data policies.

 The data revolution: finding the missing millions, 20/04/2015

The recent ODI report notes that monumental progress lifting millions of people out of poverty and getting millions more children into schools, and strong economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries, one key element impedes further progress: data. In order for any real commitment to be made on zero extreme poverty and zero extreme emissions, governments need better data to now the target group of their policies. It is estimated that 350 million people worldwide are not covered by household surveys. In other words, this means that a quarter more people could be living on less than $1.25 a day than current estimates suggests. The report highlights that good quality, relevant, accessible and timely data will allow willing governments to extend services into communities which until now have been blank spaces in planning processes, and to implement policies more efficiently, meaning that a data revolution could, in the medium term, pay for itself. The report recommends: (i) increasing investments in the capacity of national statistical offices (NSOs); (ii) using alternative sources of data to fill gaps and building strong administrative systems; (iii) making better use of existing data., 14/04/2015

According to the new information technology and digital humanitarian volunteers, the cyclone-hit Pacific islands of Vanuatu are the latest testing ground for digital aid, which is now an integral part of disaster response. Combined, the network of humanitarian data technicians and traditional aid responders brought online mapping and tracking tools, surveillance drones, and a phalanx of volunteers sitting in their homes and offices willing to sift, crunch, tag and upload data – very rapidly. Andrej Verity, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Field Information Services explains that “Digital humanitarians provide decision makers with a better understanding of a crisis by scouring for additional information – delivering a more rounded, a more complete picture.” open-source, participatory technique responses to disasters have been in continual evolution since the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. The OCHA has mobilized the Digital Humanitarian Network (DHN) and are using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to collect disaster data, which is analysed via Humanitarian OpenStreetMap and MicroMappers.

 Agriculture’s Data Revolution, 25/03/2015

“If we can replace the hand hoe with a smartphone as the most common tool in the hands of an African farmer, then we are halfway towards our dream,” said Theo de Jager, President of the Pan African Farmers Organisation and the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions. That dream is to combat poverty in Africa by helping growers make the most of increasingly abundant data on prices, materials and weather.

The amount of data created through mobile phones, internet use and other digital transactions is growing exponentially. Participants at the 40th Brussels Development Briefing co-organised by CTA, DEVCO, ACP Group and Concord on Data: the next revolution for agriculture in ACP countries met recently to discuss how this so-called ‘Big Data’, including weather reports, online purchase records and GPS information, can assist farmers in developing countries.The potential is vast but so too are the challenges, with much depending on corporations sharing the information they collect, its relevance to farmers, and new technologies’ ubiquity and ease of use.

Data gaps make malnutrition too easy to ignore, 16/03/2015

At the second International Congress on ‘Hidden Hunger’, organised by the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany (3-5 March), experts concluded that the significant data gap on malnutrition continues to make it hard to plan and monitor interventions. Not only is the issue kept out of the public eye but policy-makers are largely unaware of the scale of the problem. ‘Hidden hunger’ refers to the lack of important nutrients a human being needs, but the concept is largely nebulous due to a fundamental lack in coordination of information on the topic. As a result, this area is largely off the radar of both public and private entities, and the key global issue of malnutrition remains largely sidelined. The experts referenced the importance of the Global Hunger Index (GHI), introduced in 2006 by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to monitor nutrition. However, it was noted that data is currently unavailable for several ACP countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Papua New Guinea, and Somalia. Klaus von Grebmer, a research fellow at IFPRI said, “until nutrition data collection and availability are revolutionised, nutrition data cannot be democratized (…) And without the democratisation of nutrition data, it remains too easy to ignore malnutrition.”

European Union to fund first pepper-harvesting robot, 11/03/2015

Wageningen University & Research Centre will launch the  SWEEPER programme to begin research to develop the first pepper-harvesting robot for commercial production. The programme which shall be coordinated by the Dutch, which will work in partnership with Belgians, Swedes and Israelis has received funding from within the framework of the European Union’s Horizon 2020. The robot could revolutionise greenhouse cultivation in Europe,  as it could take charge of the often-tedious pepper harvesting process. The Horizon 2020 report highlighted that due, in part, to the growing opposition from qualified workers to take part in monotonous tasks, there is greater demand for work automation in modern greenhouses. , , according to. It explains that “The patent pending model is able to harvest sweet peppers without the need for precise measurement of the fruit’s position and orientation,” The project will receive €4m of EU aid over a period of three years.

 60% of the World’s Population Will Own a Mobile Phone By 2020, 06/03/2015

“The Mobile Economy: 2015”, a new report published by GSM Association (GSMA) predicts that 60 percent of the world’s population will subscribe to mobile services by 2020. In 2014, it is approximated that around 50 percent of the population uses mobile phones. Growth in new mobile data services will be fuelled, inter alia, by a rapid migration to 3G/4G mobile broadband networks. During the Mobile World Congress, phenomenal figures emerged, which detail the extent of the forthcoming mobile economy:  Between 2013 and 2014, there was a 9 %  increase in investment in mobiles, which is about $216 billion in capital expenditure; between 2015 and 2020, there will be approximately $1.4 trillion investment in the sector; mobile subscribers is forecast to increase by 4% from 3.6 billion at the end of 2014 to 4.6 billion by 2020. While these figures are impressive, mobile penetration differs from region to region e.g. Sub-Saharan Africa currently has a mobile penetration rate of 39% , yet much of the growth in coming years shall be in this region. By 2020, it is estimated that the industry will contribute some 4.2 % of global GDP, equivalent to $3.9 trillion, creating approximately 28.7 million jobs.

Africa: Comparable Units Could Be ‘Quick Win’ for Farming Data, 02/03/2015

Data collection on farming and land use in developing countries can be benefit from the development of accurate ways of turning non-standard measurements such as pieces, heaps, or bunches of agricultural produce into comparable units. This is the central argument of the new publication, ‘From Tragedy to Renaissance: Improving Agricultural Data for Better Policies’ by Carletto, Jolliffe and Banjeree. The authors identify three reasons why agriculture, despite being an engine for growth and poverty reduction, suffers from poor quality and narrow sectoral focus: (1) difficulty of measurement of smallholder agricultural produce, (2) lack of cross-coordination between agricultural data and other sectors, and (3) continued poor analysis undermines demand for high-quality data.

Africa: Is Big Data the Solution to Africa’s Big Issues?, 26/02/2015

Echo Mobile, a Kenyan start-up created in the wake of the Ebola crisis, reported outbreaks of the epidemic to the government via SMS, which in turn, allowed the would the Central Government Co-ordination Unit to analyse the data through a system developed by IBM Africa research lab. The case of Echo Mobile shows that the continent can leverage simple data to respond to real situations and create precise, effective solutions in good time. While the 4Vs threshold captures big data – volume, variety, veracity, and velocity – in mature markets, emerging markets in Africa present a unique challenge. However, this article explains that there are pockets of change across the continent.

One thought on “New! Brussels Briefing 40: Data: the next revolution for agriculture in ACP countries?

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