Open access
and open data

Issue no. 72
June 2013



In this issue

There has been an increasing focus since the 2000s on the various aspects of the 'openness' of information. This issue explores how this openness is affecting the world of agricultural information and related fields of research and development, and what is being done to further promote open access and open data.

Opening access – views from the South

Initiatives in Africa to open up access to research results are helping countries there face development challenges and bridge the knowledge gap with industrialised countries.

High-quality science benefits all

Open access publishing can help researchers in the developing world to participate more actively in the scientific community. Alexander Brown from Springer shares his experience.

No longer ‘publishing as usual’

Despite the spread in use of ICTs in agricultural research, information is still constrained by the way it is published and the degree to which it is open. Piers Bocock of CGIAR shares how his organisation is addressing this.

Open data and open science

The G8 International Conference on Open Data in April 2013 aimed to make agricultural research more widely available to improve global food security. Carlos Morais Pires from the European Commission discusses the EC’s effort to increase access to data and reviews the G8’s plans.



'Openness also means investing in mechanisms that will increase the visibility of research results'

Stephen Rudgard, chief of Knowledge and Capacity for Development at FAO.



'Every year institutions, researchers and practitioners generate thousands of datasets, reports and articles about development issues. Yet much of this knowledge remains underused, locked away in silos.'

Pete Cranston, ICT, communication and new media specialist.



Toto Agriculture is an online collection of localised agriculture-related information such as weather forecasts, soil health, planting tips and pest management. It is an agricultural content engine that uses more than 750 sources of agricultural knowledge to produce on-demand information in as many as 60 different formats.


The Africa Lead database features a detailed listing of upcoming trainings and open education resources for anyone interested in food security in Africa. It is relevant for government officials, farm leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and policy leaders in agriculture.

A Fiji mobile app workshop organised by the International Trade Centre and the Fiji Crop and Livestock Council used Fiji Makete, a market trading facility, and Alerts, an information distribution system that reach multiple parties via SMS text messaging.

Open source evolution
An analysis of disaster management technologies by IRIN shows a growing number of governments and NGOs are warming to open source alternatives. The potential lack of expert support may well produce ‘explosions of innovation’ where needed.

The new OpenStreetMap editor ‘iD’ will help community knowledge workers in agriculture, for example, rapidly map fields and contribute data. The intuitive interface lets users create vector data and select descriptive attributes. The editor is open source.
offers over 750 free and open college courses for students and professionals, all in a conveniently searchable online courseware platform. The courses span videos, audio lectures and notes and are given by professors from renowned universities.

Modernizing extension and advisory services
This brief compiles key design considerations for effective ICT-supported extension and advisory services. Keeping the end user in mind is crucial for success as is taking into account literacy levels and access to various types of technology.

makes phenotypic and genotypic data generated by cassava breeding programmes immediately available thereby providing researchers and breeders a key reference data source. Datasets can be accessed through the web interface's search tools.

The Africa Portal is an online knowledge resource for policy-related issues on Africa. The portal offers open access to an online library, an opinion and analysis section, an experts directory, an international events calendar and a mobile technology component.

Mobile phones for nutrition
The benefits include lower data collection and transfer costs, faster data transmission, analysis and dissemination, higher-quality data and more transparent collection processes with the possibility of immediate feedback to households and communities.