Open data is one of the most versatile and diverse raw materials of the 21st century. However, many people are currently unaware of the potential of open data and how to use it to overcome the world’s grand challenges. This blog provides an introduction to open data and highlights an opportunity to win $5,000 to use open data for social good.

What is Open Data?

The simplest definition for Open Data is made available by the Open Data Institute. It defines open data as “data that anyone can access, use or share.”

How can you find and use open data?

Open data is made available by governments and organisations (private and public) across the world. Many organisations will make their data available (publish it) via their own website or through a portal. For example OpenDataMonitor shows where open data is being published across Europe. GODAN has recently launched the GODAN Open Data Challenge 2016 and has collected together a number of datasets which relate to agriculture and nutrition. This challenge provides an opportunity for creating innovative solutions to use, create, and/or collect data in a way to improve our food system.

Which countries lead the world in open data?

There are a few global ranking systems that assess the quality and quantity of open data provision across the world. The Open Data Barometer ranks the UK, USA, France and Canada as the top four countries whilst the Global Open Data Index ranks Taiwan, UK, Denmark and Colombia as their top four. What is clear though is that the volume and variety of open data is growing and that this presents a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and researchers. As open data availability increases globally so the opportunity to build practical, accurate, and data driven solutions also grows.

How can you use open data to solve global agriculture and nutrition challenges?

Organisations release and use open data across the world to achieve specific outcomes. Governments, organisations and people will often create programmes to:

  • Increase efficiency - open data can increase collaboration, improve decision making and reduce duplication of work across departments or across a sector;
  • Build trust - through transparency - Open data is being used to inform how California allocates its scarce water resources under extreme drought conditions
  • Drive innovation - sharing data outside your organisation can engage a new audience with a different perspective and new ideas as in the Longitude Prize.

If you’d like some more practical ideas, the ODI collected together these 5 examples to celebrate nutrition and hydration week in March.

What opportunities exist to help me learn about and use open data in this sector?

The GODAN Open Data Challenge is open for submissions until Monday 1 August, midnight GMT. This competition invites you to participate in one of two challenge tracks (explained below) and if you are successful you could win a trip to New York for the GODAN Summit 2016 and up to an $8,000 cash prize.

  • Track A - design a policy or program for your country/organisation that would incentivize government and non-governmental agencies to better utilize, collect, and/or make more accessible open data and will positively impact one of our two challenge themes:
    • Agriculture: The lack of crowdsourced data from rural areas, especially as it relates to helping farmers make better decisions about inputs, pricing, and other factors related to agricultural production.
    • Nutrition: The cost and difficulty of capturing and utilizing consumer open data about daily nutritional intake, with the goal of understanding nutritional risks, opportunities, and constraints.
  • Track B create a practical solution that will allow us to better utilize, collect, and/or make more accessible open data to ultimately improve our food system.

We invite solutions that fit into one of the following categories:

    • Improve Growing Plant Innovations: Using open data to improve how and where we grow our food.
    • Empower the Crowd: Using open data to improve how we leverage the crowd’s actions and knowledge to create a better food system.
    • Improve Nutrition and Health: Using open data to improve how we track, make available, and improve nutrition in our daily diets.
    • Deliver Climate Smart Agriculture: Using open data to improve agriculture’s resilience in the face of a changing climate.
    • Meet the Protein Frontier: Using open data to improve how we address the growing demand for protein, and the opportunity for more sustainable and alternative proteins.