27 September 2022, Indonesia: Digitalization has great potential to drive progress towards an inclusive future for the world’s smallholder farmers, and can help galvanize greater productivity and sustainability of agrifood systems, as well as improve livelihoods and options for women and youth, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said today at a side event ahead of the G-20 Agriculture Ministers Meeting in Bali.
“Digital transformation opens an important opportunity for accelerating women and youth business opportunities across agrifood systems, to take concrete steps to ending hunger and poverty,” the Director-General said at the G20 High Level Ministerial Dialogue Session/Global Forum on Digital Agriculture Transformation in Accelerating Women and Youth Entrepreneurship.
Digital solutions can help the world “recover together, quickly, stronger, smarter and greener for sustainable economic growth and development,” Qu highlighted.
The Government of Indonesia hosted the side event to foster the digital agenda as a key pathway in which younger people are often well versed and primed to contribute, particularly as entrepreneurs across the spectrum from production to sales, to the transformation of agifood systems. The event began with opening remarks by H.E. Syahrul Yasin Limpo, Indonesia’s Minister of Agriculture, and featured a high-level ministerial dialogue, as well as interventions from FAO and other international organizations.
Developing digitally skilled rural communities is a cornerstone for progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as it allows for diversification of incomes and can unlock on- and off-farm employment and business opportunities for new generations, FAO’s Director-General said.
Digital technologies are particularly well suited to help the world’s agrifood systems meet the growing demand for safe and nutritious food, better manage natural resources, contribute to higher-quality growth in productivity and ensure economic inclusion of marginalized groups.
Mobile phones today allow small farmers to have real-time data on soil, climate, irrigation, pests and diseases, as well as market prices. They also enable access to loans, customers and input suppliers for commercial transactions even at a small scale.
“Young people are best placed to acquire the knowledge needed to uptake new technologies, make agricultural value chains more tech-savvy and spearhead digital transformation in rural areas,” Qu noted.
Too often youth and women are the first to suffer the consequences of regulatory bottlenecks, affordability issues and structural problems that limit smallholders’ access to digital technologies and the business and development opportunities they catalyze. “They should be among the main beneficiaries of our recovery efforts and actions,” he added.
That means initiatives to combat the digital gender divide, which is substantial and growing in the Asia-Pacific region, where digitalization in agrifood systems is making rapid strides. Some 41 percent of women in the region were using the Internet compared to almost 55 percent of men in 2019, indicating a doubling of the gender gap since 2013.
Digital Public Goods are at the center of FAO’s actions and are designed to use innovative models for knowledge transfer from data platforms and evidence bases to the field. With the help of partners, FAO can help make available better data and models and provide more targeted services to public and private-sector partners to increase inclusion, resilience and adaptation, the Director-General said.
Collaborative, collective and holistic actions that harness science and innovation are necessary, as is a balanced regulatory ecosystem that fosters increased small business opportunities, Qu said. “Digital technologies can be the driving force of the future,” he added.
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