Expanding Markets and Innovation through Open Data

May 30, 2013

When it comes to agriculture and food security, data is one of the most important commodities in the world. The collection and interpretation of data sets on everything from crop prices, to weather and climate patterns, to genetic breakthroughs on crops and livestock underpin much of Feed the Future’s work to fight hunger and poverty through groundbreaking research, innovation and partnership.

But if we want to see real progress on food security and nutrition at a global scale, it’s not enough for just a few researchers or institutions to work with data. The real power of data is only realized when it is made widely available to users around the world, including farmers, consumers, policymakers and scientists. Making data broadly accessible allows for better decision-making and breaks down barriers between the communities and stakeholders that are most critical to ending hunger. The resulting collaborations also spur innovation and drive economic growth.

This is why a big part of the G8’s commitment under the New Alliance is to share relevant agricultural data with African partners and convene an international conference on open data for agriculture. Last month, this commitment was fulfilled at the G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture in Washington, DC, which brought together G8, New Alliance and other countries that have rich agriculture-related data resources, as well as non-profit, information technology, and private sector representatives. Organized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in partnership with the World Bank, the conference developed options to establish a global platform that would make reliable agricultural and related information available to African farmers, researchers and policymakers, taking into account existing agricultural data systems.

At the conference, G8 and African countries devised action plans to open additional food security data and invest in projects that increase publicly and privately funded global data relevant to agriculture. USDA also announced a new virtual community on Data.gov, which offers more than 300 agriculture-related data sets along with applications, tools and statistical products.

To learn more about the G8’s commitment to Open Data for Agriculture, visit Feed the Future’s page on the conference or read blog posts from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Chief Scientist Julie Howard of USAID’s Bureau for Food Security.