Free access to agricultural satellite data
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) announced that it will launch an Open Access portal for agricultural data in October.
The agricultural data portal, once launched, will contain both raw and analyzed satellite data. It will be easily and freely accessible for everyone. The data and information from this Open Access portal will have far reaching impact for water management and improve agricultural productivity. The data portal should contribute towards the creation of sustainable agriculture. According to FAO, countries in the Near East, North Africa and others that are prone to recurrent droughts especially stand to benefit.
Remote Sensing, consisting in part of satellite imagery, is a revolutionary new method of data collection. The collected data can be used to analyze the level of surface and ground water, health of crops, soil moisture and the level of precipitation. All are essential ingredients for agriculture and water management. The information extracted from the satellite imagery can be passed onto farmers in the field for practical application. There will be data on the continental level, the country (river basins) level and the irrigation schemes level.
This is the information era. We know how important information is for almost everything we do on a daily basis. But the power and potential of information can only be realized if access to information is guaranteed. The ultimate goal of the Open Access movement, to facilitate the free flow of information, can only be realized by bringing down the pay-walls which stand in the way of sharing information and knowledge.
Remote Sensing data is an indispensable tool for agricultural development. But it is also prohibitively expensive, especially for real time, up-to-date data. Remote Sensing data has been trapped behind pay-walls, just like other scholarly output, despite it being developed specifically to be used in the field. The FAO took the initiative to launch the project, and as a result now bear the costs for it. The agency did not reveal how much the project costs and how it is going to fund it.
The Open Access movement, started at universities and aimed at liberating knowledge and information from the pay-walls erected by big publishers and data owners, has gradually expanded and reached the agricultural sector. Open Access, by impacting the agricultural sector, has reached a point of directly impacting the day to day lives of ordinary citizens.