Using Open Datasets to Fertilize Agriculture Development: Announcing the Catalog’s newest feature

Agriculture is one of the oldest applications of data. For centuries, people have used data to track meteorological conditions, quantify grain yields, and distribute harvest among populations. In modern times, this has not changed. Access to open data still plays an integral role in systemizing and accelerating technical innovation in agriculture, by streamlining agri-supply chains, supporting the monitoring of plant and livestock growth and health, and leveraging geospatial data for insights on rainfall patterns, water cycles, fertilizer requirements, and more.  

According to the World Bank, growth in the agriculture sector is two to four times as effective in raising incomes among the most marginalized communities compared to other sectors. Correspondingly, digitally enabled agricultural transformation – fueled by open, reliable, and timely data – in low- and lower-middle-income countries presents a unique opportunity to drive development.  

Open Data is now in the Catalog and at your fingertips 

The latest feature in DIAL’s Catalog of Digital Solutions is a brand-new tab where you can find links to freely available datasets to help with your own digital transformation initiatives. Key notation on each dataset is also available, including a description of the dataset, the organization which is maintaining it, information on updates and licenses, the sector it provides data for, geographic coverage, and more. Users can find the same filtering interface that they know and love to quickly find the datasets that are most useful for their projects. The entries can be viewed in card, list, or detail view, following the familiar format of other tabs in the Catalog.

Figure 1: The Open Datasets tab in the Catalog features 130+ entries

Why is Open Data useful? 

With support from our partners at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Catalog has continued to focus on deepening alignment between the SDG Digital Investment Framework and Agricultural Development in the past quarter. As a data aggregation tool, the Catalog helps summarize information from different sources under a unified taxonomy, increasing the value of information through the ability to trace the original source of the dataset.  
 
Through this feature, there is now better access to data, particularly for digital agriculture projects, equipping global development actors with tools to make informed decisions with greater accountability and transparency. Using shared data repositories, machine learning and artificial intelligence models can be more precise and play a vital role in a country’s digital public infrastructure (DPI). The Open Datasets tab on the Catalog has launched with 130+ entries that users can access, visualize, use, analyze, share, and redistribute.   

Leveraging data for agriculture can be a key driver for positive development outcomes. As an example, real-time data and crop calendar applications can be used to track the progress of crops over the year to predict annual yield. When combined with weather information, data can provide early warning insights for potential shocks to agricultural outcomes at a global, national, sub-national, and even farmer level. This can lead to gains in overall economic welfare. 

Second, food insecurity is a growing challenge and it is exacerbated by disparity in access to food which in turn has compounding negative impacts to public health. Understanding who is at risk, and to what degree, is an important application of data. Accessible details on approximate prices of staple products available in marketplaces, locations of the marketplaces, as well as geospatial information on routes to each of the markets can enable governments and nonprofits to create policies and programs which are grounded in numbers and can help improve food access for citizens.   

Data can also help address the adjacent challenges of climate change and gender inclusion.  Using data to manage cropland, livestock, forests, and fisheries can mitigate agriculture related greenhouse gas emissions and food loss and waste. At the same time, creating effective information services and farm management systems, can help unlock agricultural value chains for women who have traditionally faced social and structural barriers.

Figure 2: The Catalog allows users to visualize the dataset and view linkages to SDGs, use cases, and more.

Agriculture is not the only sector which can leverage open datasets. The UN Secretary General’s Data Strategy cites data action as a priority that can help unlock value on a wide range of issues including climate action, inclusion, human rights, peace and security, and governance and ethics, among other priority agendas. 

Do you have a dataset you would like to see in the Catalog? The list of datasets continues to grow, and if you have data content you would like to add, you can sign up for an account and submit candidate entries. 

How to stay in touch with us 

As the platform continues to grow and expand, we want to hear from you. How have you found the Catalog useful? We invite you to share your story or to provide feedback, suggestions, or ask us questions. Get in touch with our team at info@solutions.dial.community  

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More details about the latest release of Catalog can be found here.