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Assessment of Farmer-Centric Models of Data Governance and Ownership under Digital Frontiers

Assessing farmer-centric models of data governance and ownership for USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation under Digital Frontiers


Client: USAID, DAI
Dates: April – December 2022
Countries: Global

While the number of digitally enabled agricultural products and services continues to grow throughout much of the world, most of the data collected by the providers of those services remain locked within each provider’s systems.

This results in multiple actors holding fragments of information on agri-food system stakeholders, including farmers, missing the opportunity for all stakeholders in a country to have a common and complete picture of the needs of agricultural communities.

Instead, it increases the burden on stakeholders to contribute their data multiple times to agri-food system stakeholders, not to mention the data that is also collected on them by numerous researchers and development organizations.

In addition, it places the cost burden on each provider to collect the information they need and misses the opportunity for all stakeholders in the country to have a common and complete picture of the state of agricultural communities and the needs of individual actors therein.

Issues of data fragmentation and approaches to addressing them have been well studied. What is less well understood is what models exist – or could exist – to put stakeholders at the center of agriculture-related data governance and ownership while avoiding further data fragmentation.

What is this project doing to help?

Digital Frontiers is a $74.4 million buy-in mechanism implemented by DAI available to USAID Bureaus and Missions from 2017-2022. The Digital for Resilience and Food Security (D4RFS) is the USAID Bureau for Resilience and Food Security’s buy-in to the Digital Frontiers project.

The D4RFS’s Digital Farmer Services (DFS) portfolio focuses on enabling digital technology for innovations in farmer-facing systems and integrating these systems for improved outcomes at the farmer level. It is working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s (BMGF) Agriculture development program which supports small-scale producers to increase productivity and incomes.

This project seeks to better understand what different stakeholder-centric models exist for data governance. It will look at:

  • Their underlying business models
  • The pros and cons of each
  • The underlying requirements for their successful implementation in the countries where USAID and BMGF work
  • What USAID, BMGF and other development actors can do to support each model

A key question for this study relates to farmer and farm data ownership, licensing and informed consent implications for how data collected about a farmer and farm can be used by third parties for value-added services benefiting individual farmers (e.g. tailored credit), private sector (e.g. input marketing), governments (e.g. food security), civil society (e.g. global public goods) and development agencies (e.g. development strategy).

Our role

Itad is working with Development Gateway for the delivery of this program and providing high level technical advisory support on the program.

Outcomes and impacts

This project will result in a better understanding of different farmer-centric data governance and ownership models, the benefits and limitations of each and will provide guidance to USAID, BMGF, and partners for implementing these models when relevant in their work.

The project will also provide overarching recommendations on how to attain more farmer-centric models of data governance and ownership, including those related to policy and regulatory issues, and alignment with existing models of private and public investment.

Team members