Biotechnology and drones may be the most visible innovation areas in the world of agriculture, but there's room for new approaches to data dissemination. Data — which is costly to produce and often complex to communicate — is the key decision support tool for policy-makers engaged in concrete action.
The U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched a new and revamped FAOSTAT website, making the world's most comprehensive statistical database on food, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, natural resources management and nutrition even more accessible for public use.
The updated web-based tool, now in its fourth edition, includes a host of behind-the-scenes technological improvements as well as user-friendly innovations such as full compatibility with mobile devices and superior download options that will significantly improve the overall user-experience.
FAOSTAT offers free, open and easy access to time-series and cross-sectional data for 245 countries and territories going back to 1961. It typically receives around 200,000 visits per month from national statisticians, government officials, researchers, the private sector, international agencies, civil society and media from all over the world, FAO said.
The website now offers a completely new state-of-the-art user interface, accessible by smartphone and tablet as well as by personal computer. Its search options have been enhanced, filters improved and navigation simplified, while the overall system architecture has been made more flexible, allowing quicker publication of new data sets in the future.
Data visualization has been improved with the new tool, and it is now possible to download customized data sets, maps and charts that users could previously only browse.
The new FAOSTAT also introduces a new feature, presenting a set of ready-to-use key indicators — ranging from land use and food production to food access and government budget allocations for agriculture — by country, region and for the whole world.
Some of these indicators are those adopted to assess and measure progress towards the targets set in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. FAO is the custodian of 21 key Sustainable Development Goals indicators, and FAOSTAT will help monitor the international community's pledges to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition by 2030 as well as promote sustainable agriculture and use of natural resources.
Moreover, with the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change, international organizations will help countries to put in place and monitor national actions for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
FAOSTAT's data set on greenhouse gas emissions is already being used to facilitate analysis of where the best mitigation options lie along food system supply chains, helping countries and their farmers to develop faster and more targeted climate-smart strategies that boost resilience and food security as well as enabling access to international climate funding.