Responsible Data in Agriculture

September 15, 2016 by Lindsay Ferris, Zara Rahman

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The agriculture sector is creating increasing amounts of data, from many different sources. From tractors equipped with GPS tracking, to open data released by government ministries, data is becoming ever more valuable, as agricultural business development and global food policy decisions are being made based upon data. But the sector is also home to severe resource inequality. The largest agricultural companies make billions of dollars per year, in comparison with subsistence farmers growing just enough to feed themselves, or smallholder farmers who grow enough to sell on a year-by-year basis. When it comes to data and technology, these differences in resources translate to stark power imbalances in data access and use. The most well resourced actors are able to delve into new technologies and make the most of those insights, whereas others are unable to take any such risks or divert any of their limited resources. Access to and use of data has radically changed the business models and behaviour of some of those well resourced actors, but in contrast, those with fewer resources are receiving the same, limited access to information that they always have. In this paper, we have approached these issues from a responsible data perspective, drawing upon the experience of the Responsible Data community1 who over the past three years have created tools, questions and resources to deal with the ethical, legal, privacy and security challenges that come from new uses of data in various sectors.