Is open data transforming the development frontier? IFPRI’s “D8” participants think so.

IFPRI's HarvestChoice web portal, built on a platform of open data.

Open data is a public good for the good of the public. Indeed, a growing movement in agricultural development is calling for institutions to open up their data and let it be freely available without restriction, publicly accessible, deliverable and downloadable in desirable and descriptive ways, and easy to mix with other data and tools. Even Bono recently made a call for open data “to turbocharge the fight against poverty.”

Participants in IFPRI’s Data Eight (D8) event, which served as a follow-on side event to the earlier G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, agreed that data is meaningless to most until it becomes a story—and the telling gets better when data is opened up to scrutiny, reuse, and redistribution by a broader pool of thinkers.

Neil Fantom, leader of the World Bank’s Open Data initiative, delivered the event’s keynote. “Open data is good for you,” he said, “because others can do things with your data that you’ll have never dreamed of.” He followed with the top 10 things that the World Bank has learned as part of its Open Data initiative. These include building tools geared for the general public with fast and easy access, making them truly open with non-proprietary formats and clear terms of use, and proactively reaching out to new users, to name a few.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Johannes Keizer then took the floor, demonstrating the innovative ways the FAO has linked its AGRIS program, which dates from the 1970s, to other open data sets.

Six of the eight panelists presented on behalf of IFPRI, giving an overview of tools, methods, and web-based portals built on a platform of open data, such as HarvestChoice, ASTI (Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators), Arab Spatial, and the Food Security Portal, as well as a variety of mashups, tools, maps, and models (such as IMPACT) that help users tap into IFPRI products and craft their own stories or build upon others.

Ask any of the IFPRI speakers about data and you’ll get an earful of open data-speak (API?? RDF datasets?). IFPRI has been speaking this language for years, mandating an open data policy for primary and value-added secondary datasets for more than 14 years and freely encouraging their use in research, donor, and policy analysis.

So what’s next in the data movement? Participants agreed there is need for coherent standardization of open data, data linkages, and more subnational data. But perhaps most importantly, the group cited the need to help build and open up both data and capacity in data-poor countries.

Imagine the never-ending possibilities of connecting datasets wherever data are open. A public good for the good of the public indeed.

For more information about the D8 event, including video coverage and speaker presentations, see http://www.ifpri.org/event/open-data-agriculture-side-event-ifpri.

Related datasets:
Global Hunger Index: http://data.ifpri.org/lod/ghi/

Arab Spatial: http://data.ifpri.org/lod/arabspatial