In this digital world, the most important component is availability of quality data that is accessible for those who need it the most. In developing regions, data on agriculture will be the most needed because the sector is the basis of livelihoods and national economy. Unfortunately, agriculture is among the least digitalized of all sectors, even in the developed world. There is thus mismatch in availing a technology to those who need it the most. However, the recent surge in digital technologies is transforming agriculture in many places that will facilitate its diffusion and scaling towards the developing regions.

Ethiopia is one of the proponents of digital economy reflected through its “Digital Ethiopia 2025” national strategy, which is set to transform the country's national economy through four major sectoral pathways including agriculture, manufacturing, IT-enabled services and the tourism. There is tremendous effort to not only digitalize sectors and systems but also to benefit from advanced analytics to guide the countries various growth and development initiatives. The recent effort in the development of the “National Digital Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services Roadmap to 2030” is a clear indication of the country’s commitment to transform its agriculture through digital solutions.

However, the expected rapid transformation of the Ethiopian agriculture guided by digital solutions can be challenged. As witnessed during various workshops and based on a recent assessment by the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT and partners in Ethiopia, there is a serious challenge related to the availability of quality and standard data in an organized manner. Because of this gap, there is duplication of effort and wastage of time and resources. In addition, bringing different datasets into an integrated system is complex because of different standards and formats used and in most cases data are not georeferenced. For instance, various organizations and stakeholders in the country have collected voluminous data related to agriculture, environment, and infrastructure. The Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) has collected data on soils. The Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) has been collecting data related agricultural experiment since the 1960s. The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has been collecting data on natural resources and agriculture for more than 50 years. The Central statistical Agency (CSA) has been collecting census data on crop yield and other aspects for many decades. The National Meteorological Authority is the custodian of time-series and predicted climate/weather data. The Geospatial Information Institute (GII) holds tremendous aerial photograph and satellite data.

However, these data are not integrated, are not available in a standardized form to share and even most are not accessible due to different reasons. The seriousness of the matter is that even Directorates within one Ministry do not know what each other has that precludes the possibility to share. For instance, the National Soil Information System (NSIS) at the Soil Resource Information and Mapping Directorate and the National Rural Land Administration Information System (NRLAIS) at the Rural Land Administration and Use Directorate (both at the MoA) are not yet integrated and cannot share dataset efficiently.

Various efforts have been made to harmonize datasets and facilitate storage and data sharing. However, some of them have already failed while some others are still struggling to succeed due to different reasons including lack of champion institution and limited buy-in and capacity of the government to support initiatives, limited cooperation between sectors and among Directorates within sectors, low technological readiness, governance barriers, and data incompatibility.

Against the above background, the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research in Africa (AICCRA) project considered development of integrated ag- data hub as one of its key interventions. The project is expected to co-develop a dedicated, and publicly owned and operated - one-stop-shopping national ag-data hub for Ethiopian government policymakers, agrometeorology experts, ag-extension officers, farmers, value chain actors, and other end users (through consolidation, integration and upgrading of the existing systems) that provides all relevant data, insights and analytics needed to make fact-based decisions when conducting agricultural operations.