Dr Werner Vogels, chief technology officer at Amazon.com elaborated the above example during the 5th International Rice Congress held in Singapore.
Citing the use of HARA – a block chain data exchange platform, Vogels said its rewards system has helped to collect information that was hardly available in the past.
Under the system, points are given each time the farmer provides information. Farmers can in turn use the points accumulated to buy fertilisers and agricultural necessities at discounted rate.
With HARA, farmers’ data, geo-tagging, agricultural activities in the field, weather data, land, satellite, and market information are collected.
“There is an incentive to start contributing data that is actually immediately impacting farmers. This is an amazing system to start creating dataset for understanding the farmers,” Vogels said.
The data collection not only provide ways to raise farmers’ productivity, but also provide farmers with alternatives to uplift their financial status.
This is because HARA provides individual record of the farmers useful for bank loan applications. In this way, the farmers can enjoy easier access to bank credit and reduces the chances of them approaching illegal moneylenders.
“Many of the farmers really have no access to financial resources at all and given that they have no identity and hardly information about the farmers and so it is really hard for them to get access a loan. Most of them would go to the loan sharks.”
“These datasets are increasingly important for everyone in Indonesia because it really drives access to things like insurance and microloans for the farmers.”
Vogels said that there were similar projects in Columbia and he hoped to improve the livelihood of at least two million farmers using similar methods by 2020.
More collaborative research
As data generated becomes larger, collaboration and sharing of data was needed to accelerate research, Vogels said.
“Research in the past often happened on private dataset and maybe the results are published on papers”, however, very people would have access to the dataset for research to be repeatable, he said.
The purpose of open data is thus to drive repeatable research and accelerate research.
“You can outreach your research by working with other people. However, traditional data acquisition was too hard.”
To facilitate collaboration, storing information in the cloud and making them publicly available is required.
“(Cloud storage) significantly lowers cost of research and accelerates research because everybody now has access to the same dataset.”
Amazon currently runs the Amazon Web Services (AWS) open data program which makes data from a number of organisations available, including International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and NASA etc.
For IRRI, a total of 3,024 sequenced rice genomes from 89 countries are made available on the program.
With the data, researchers can identify genes associated with crop yield, climate stress tolerance, and disease resistance.