According to A World that Counts, the 2014 UN Data Revolution Report, new technologies such as satellites or soil sensors are leading to an exponential increase in the volume and types of available data, offering possibilities and innovative solutions for all global societies. This represents an opportunity – for instance to target tailored interventions to a specific group – as well a challenge, particularly in terms of privacy rights and potential abuse. But utilising these new technologies is not just a matter of creating more data; it is about making the best use of accurate, up-to-date and readily accessible data.
Agricultural statistics continue to suffer from poor quality, lack of relevance, insufficient funding and are little used in national policy dialogues. The poorest countries – for which agriculture is a critical source of livelihoods – often have the poorest data in quality and scope, as they are least able to direct limited resources into improving statistical quality for informing policies.
Providing open access to information is paramount to development. But while access to information and technology are important to the development process, they are only part of the equation in finding solutions. A crucial part of the process lies with ordinary citizens who can – and do – utilise the information and data to engage with their communities.
Why use infographics and visualise data for agriculture?
An infographic collects and presents complex data, information and knowledge and turns it into easy-to-understand visuals such as charts, graphs, and or maps. This is extremely important because information is best remembered is through visual impact. Yet most of us have been to workshops or conferences and have had to bear the burden of listening to presenters who are practically reading text from their PowerPoint slides. It is never easy following these presentations but we often let them be, only complaining afterwards and wondering if the presenters were aware of innovative ways of presenting data or information through visualisation.
Presenting data through infographics is more important in agriculture today because we are in an era where access to information is a click away, and millions of people are uploading content to their blogs, tweeting and uploading videos in real time. With this information overload, it is evident that simple visual aids can be a game changer for agriculture.
As part of the GODAN Action project, CTA has taken advantage of this opportunity and has implemented training among media practitioners on how to represent agricultural information through infographics and data visualisation.
Also the Training Centre in Communication (TCC) has been training scientists on how to visualise and produce infographics from their technical data. This was added as part of TCC's web 2.0 training because, while scientists focus on breaking down technical text for various audiences, they often omit to break down technical data. TCC's Joy Owango says that the responses have been very positive so far because the trainees appreciate the value of visualised information.
Mr. Johnson Opigo, a web 2.0 trainer, says that "There are several uses to which we can put infographics and we can identify where they can become handy in agriculture departments or government ministries. But then, for this to happen, these tools may have to find their way into training curricula. Infographics and data visualisation are important tools in modern data presentation and we should keep up with the times."
Opigo adds that in this era of big data and fast-moving information, when a generation of web users surf the web with blazing speed, a picture can tell more than a thousand words and is more likely to keep their attention.
Below are some examples of web platforms that can be used to create infographics and visualise data.
Wordle infographic tool: http://www.wordle.net
GNU Image Manipulation Program: https://www.gimp.org
PaintShop Pro: http://www.paintshoppro.com
Google Chart Gallery: https://developers.google.com/chart/interactive/docs/gallery
Downloads CTA's infographics
About the author
Maureen Agena is an independent consultant from Uganda working in areas ranging from knowledge management to Web 2.0 training and ICTs for agriculture.