Hunger, malnutrition and the value of openness

How can open data help to end global hunger? Our CEO Jeni Tennison reflects on her time at the Global Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) Summit in New York, and explores openness as a catalyst for innovation in agriculture and nutrition


A dairy farm in Taranaki, New Zealand. CC BY 2.0, uploaded by Dave Young.

Nearly 800 million people struggle with debilitating hunger and malnutrition across the world. That’s one in every nine people, with the majority being women and children.

Last week, I attended the Global Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) Summit in New York. The summit asked a big question: how can open data help to end global hunger? The summit involved world leaders, researchers, farmers, students and others – public, private and non-profit, united around a collaboration on agriculture and nutrition data openness.

While the summit explored how open data can be published and used to help create a sustainable food supply, I was struck once again by the importance of openness more broadly. At the ODI we often talk about open innovation - ways of working to re-use data, skills, systems and resources with partners and collaborators – and embrace open solutions that arise from anywhere.

What are the benefits of this open approach? Pace, agility and cost savings.

Talking about ‘ending global hunger’ can easily sound over-ambitious. Certainly, organisations and individuals working in isolation can’t solve it; nor can we wait for grand top-down designs. The challenges posed by a growing population – including the supply of nutritious food – can only be solved by pulling down organisational and cultural barriers, and taking an open and iterative approach to innovation as well as data. That work needs to start now.

Jeni Tennison is CEO at the ODI. Follow @JeniT on Twitter.