USAID releases open data tools to increase government openness

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The U.S. Agency for International Development announced April 29 the launch of a plethora of new datasets and tools to increase transparency.

The unveiling took place at the G-8 Conference on Open Data for Agriculture in Washington, D.C., and brought together G-8 countries and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to discuss open data for agriculture and to create action plans for food security datasets.

“[B]ig kudos to everyone attending the G8 Open Data for Agriculture conference who has committed to making their troves of data open and available to the public,” said Todd Park, federal chief technology officer. “By liberating data from the vaults of government and the private sector, we can accelerate the use of open agriculture and nutrition data to advance global food security while also fueling the growth of new businesses and jobs.”

At the conference, USAID announced the launch of usaid.gov/developer — its application program interface for the Greenbook dataset, the results from two baseline, household, Feed the Future surveys, and three USAID projects affecting food-insecure countries.

The new website provides customized tools for developers and technologists. It will serve as a resource for major USAID datasets and as a central location for the agency’s APIs. USAID’s API for the Greenbook is a dataset that details all U.S. foreign assistance since the Marshall Plan, increasing government transparency.

USAID further announced the release of two household surveys related to poverty, nutrition and food security in Ghana and Bangladesh as part of the Feed the Future Initiative. The surveys will provide policymakers around the world with the ability to understand and track the progress of poverty and hunger in the two countries.

Three new USAID projects have also had a significant effect in food-insecure countries. The first, MFarm, is an app that gives farmers accurate crop price information, derived from five major markets in Kenya, in real-time, six days a week. MFarm has had a major effect because it allows farmers to make better decisions on what to plant when and how and where to sell their goods.

Toto Agriculture, the second USAID food security project described at the conference, is a free app, offered in more than 100 languages. It allows farmers access to localized information on soil, pests, climate and planting tips. Finally, Digital Green is a project that trains farmers from rural societies to produce free videos of farmers, for farmers. In the videos, farmers share best practices to help boost agricultural productivity.

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data analytics, open data, Tech, Todd Park
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