What is open data?

If data allows for the collation of information and knowledge, then open data has the potential to make this knowledge available to everyone, everywhere, at any given time.

Open Data uses licenses allowing anyone to access, (re)use, and share it freely for any application. Data, once made open, can help shape solutions by enabling more efficient and effective decision-making at multiple levels across the agriculture and nutritional value chain. It can foster innovation via new services and applications and drive organisational change through transparency.

Data is knowledge and knowledge is power. Data informs the way we see the world, allowing us to make better decisions. Knowledge is derived from information. Building knowledge enables better decision making, and increased opportunity and prosperity.



Data is the raw material from which information and knowledge is derived.


Data, once given a context, becomes information.

What characterises open data?

Availability and Access: For data to be open, it must be available at a reasonable reproduction cost in modifiable form, and be accessible to use, modify and share for any purpose.

Re-use and Redistribution: The data must be provided under terms that permit re-use and redistribution including the intermixing with other datasets.

Universal Participation: Closed data practices limit effectiveness from innovation, progress, value generation and the fair distribution of resources. Everyone must be able to use, re-use and redistribute open data, leaving no discrimination against fields of endeavour or against persons or groups. For example, ‘non-commercial’ restrictions that would prevent ‘commercial’ use, or restrictions of use for certain purposes (e.g. only in education), are not allowed.

The Open Data Institute

The Open Data Institute (ODI) defines Open Data as follows:

Open data is data that anyone can access, use and share. Open data becomes usable when made available in a common, easily accessible (e.g. online) format. Open data must be licensed in a way that permits people to use the data in any way they want, including transforming, combining and sharing it with others with no limitations, even commercially.

Open data must be free to use, but not necessarily free to access. There is often a cost to creating, maintaining and publishing usable data. Ideally, any fee for accessing open data should be no more than the reasonable reproduction cost of the unit of data that is requested. This reproduction cost tends to be negligible for many datasets.

Live data and big data can incur ongoing costs related to reliable service provision.

Open data is measured by what it can be used for, not by how it is made available. Considerations such as format, structure and machine readability (Glossary terms) all make data more usable and should be considered. However, this does not make the data more open. (Source)

The Data Spectrum

The Open Data Institute has published the Data Spectrum which clearly demonstrates the difference between closed, shared and open data. Any organisation can decide how open their data should be based on what they collect.

Who might be interested in open data and what can it be used for?

Commercial organisations for product, sustainability, and yield data;

Governments for satellite, weather and data;

Traders and value-added resellers for supply chain and market data;

Science community for labs, clinics and universities (agronomics, chemistry);

Consumers for nutrition data that helps improve lifestyle choices, driving demand for more open data.

Farmers for pest and yield data from precision farming and soil data.

How can Open Data play a role in Nutrition?

With over 500 million children undernourished, nutrition is a growing global problem. Good quality, comparable, timely nutrition data is vital for guiding government intervention, for improving existing initiatives, and achieving the 2030 UN SDGs targets of eliminating hunger and malnutrition.

Open Data initiatives

Encouraging organisations and countries to develop open data policies and build a strong data ecosystem is the key to the future prosperity of agriculture and food production, and ensuring the nutritional value of our produce.

 However, a concept of this magnitude can prove challenging, particularly when no previous open data policy exists.

GODAN realises that the key to unlocking such a bold and unprecedented development in the food production sphere requires a bold blueprint. With this in mind, GODAN has implemented and supported several open data initiatives with the aim of enabling policy change among partners and other organisations, because for the world to change its future for the better, it must first learn how.

GODAN is making key strides towards influencing policy change in academia, recently publishing the Open Access and Open Data at PUSH Universities Report in partnership with the Presidents United to Stop Hunger initiative.

GODAN’s initiatives have successfully led to policy change in three of its major donors: USAID, DFID, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, leading to GODAN and its partners being commissioned to advise on the development of new FAIR guidelines for open data in three countries.


Any organisation that supports open access to agriculture and nutrition data. Our partners include governments, donors, and international not-for-profit organisations and businesses.

Discover some of the ways open data has been used by different organisations:

GOVERNMENT: The GODAN Ministerial Conference in Kenya 2017 One of GODAN’s most successful initiatives was the 2017

GODAN ministerial conference on Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition in Nairobi, Kenya. The event brought together a number of nations to build efforts in Africa and the broader Global South to ensure full participation in achieving the 2030 goals through data.

EDUCATION: Open Access and Open Data at PUSH (Presidents United to Solve Hunger)

Another of GODAN’s initiatives was a study of the development, use and promotion of open data and open access in 99 PUSH Universities in partnership with PUSH.

DONOR WORK: Donor Open Data Policy and Practice

GODAN and Open Data Institute (ODI) published a report on Donor Open Data Policy and Practice, which focused on jointly funded grantees from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK Government Department for International Development (DfID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

GOVERNMENT: Government Open Up Guide for Agriculture

GODAN created the Government Open-Up Guide for Agriculture (previously known as the AgPack) in partnership with the Open Data Charter and Open Data Institute. The project aims to guide governments to identify and publish data sets that may be relevant for the agricultural sector, and could catalyse sustainable agricultural production in support of Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger (SDG2).

FISHING Open Oceans

In South Africa, fishing communities have collaborated with the University of Cape Town to co-design a collection of apps to support and improve the small-scale fisheries industry. Abalobi Fisher is an app that is free to download and provides valuable information about the weather and climate from open sources, plus records data about fishing practices and catch information.


Arable and dairy Farmers in the UK have been able take advantage of new tools and technology that allow them to easily view satellite data of their land, which has been opened up by the European Space Agency (ESA). They use the data to strategically apply precision farming tactics to their land.


Agrocenta AgroCenta was founded to help improve smallholder farmer access to markets and finance. Through the comprehensive supply trade platform AgroTrade, smallholder farmers trade directly with off-takers, whilst financial inclusion platform AgroPay helps them gain access to finance.


Sustainable Technology Adaptation for Mali’s Pastoralists (STAMP) is a project that aims to improve resilience among climate-affected pastoralists. It offers access to geo-satellite derived data as well as data gathered on the ground. Launched in 2017, Garbal provides an information service that improves pastoralists’ access to information. The service can be accessed from a mobile phone.

REGIONAL Africa Regional Data Cube

The Africa Regional Data Cube (ARDC) is a tool that harnesses the latest Earth observation and satellite technology to help Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Tanzania address food security as well as issues relating to agriculture, deforestation, and water access. The data cube makes critical data easier to use, making 17 years of satellite imagery and Earth observation data accessible via an online user interface.

LOCAL Community Council

The Community Council is a Committee made up of champions. It offers advice to the Executive Director and the Steering Committee, which is now called the Donor Committee.


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