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9 Data Sets to Improve Your ICTforAg Programs

By Guest Writer on July 11, 2016


At the recent ICTforAg Conference, the “What Works for Ag Data: Apps, Tools, and Visualizations” session brought together three digital development professionals to discuss data analysis and presentation tools:

Existing Data Sets

One of the more interesting aspects of their session were a number of existing agriculture data sets that Michael Shoag that organizations could use to start their data analysis, or enhance the data organizations already have:

  • World Bank Datasets: Free and open macro-level data about countries around the globe, which can serve as a baseline for analysis.
  • FAO STAT: A plethora of regularly updated global food and agriculture data, including production, trade, prices, food security, emissions, forestry, etc.
  • Green Growth Knowledge Platform: Allows for comparison of a variety of data in green growth, including country, indicators and sectors.
  • USDA Foreign Agriculture Service: The best data for international trade and agriculture data, though the website itself has a very dated look.
  • Food Security Portal: Provides comprehensive and detailed information on crop production and price volatility for 20 countries.
  • Harvest Choice Mappr: Showcases over 300 layers of spatially-explicit, agricultural-related data for sub-Saharan Africa
  • Resilience Atlas: Integrates 60 of the best available datasets related to resilience into custom maps.

Creating Your Own Dataset

Tilly Josephson highlighted several important factors to consider before determining what data analysis product is right for your organization:

  • Is it user-friendly for non-technical staff?
  • Is it vendor independent? Can you tweak it yourself if the form changes?
  • Can it scale along with your needs?
  • Is it proven to work in the development context?
  • What are the ongoing support options? Is in-person training available?
  • What is the cost?

Matthew Cooper spoke about how his organization created two public datasets, Vital Signs and the Resilience Atlas, using Open Data Kit (ODK), a free and open-source set of tools which help organizations author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions (particularly surveys).

ODK can be combined with services like ONA to host survey templates, visualized data, and allow data to be download via CSV files. Another option is CartoDB, which can create interactive maps using JavaScript and PostGIS. An alternative to CartoDB is ArcGIS.

Cloud services such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud can help your organization host its data on the cloud instead of managing your own servers. Matthew noted that if cost is a concern for your organization, Amazon is starting to offer discounts for NGOs.

Kristen Grennan is an emerging digital development professional and ICT4DJobs consultant.

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One Comment to “9 Data Sets to Improve Your ICTforAg Programs”

  1. Edmund Resor says:

    I was surprised to see no mention of these daily rainfall estimates for Africa going back 20 years and updated daily.

    Since rain fall is so critical to farmers and these farmers think about their rainfall in terms of rainy days and the number of days in a row without any significant rain, it seems to me that being able to look back 20 years for their location would be worthwhile. These estimates are generated daily for every 0.1 deg by 0.1 deg grid in Africa.

    In anyone would like to help make this data easier to use that the current service at Columbia University, please let me know. It would also get to get Africans involved in ground truthing these estimates, which can be fine tuned. Continually rainfall records are hard to find, but their is a lot of data for a lot of days and a lot of locations.