Leaving no one behind in digitization

2022. 6. 27. 20:02
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We hope the digital village innovations and technologies helps lead stakeholders to a world of better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life with no one left behind.

Kim Jong-jinThe author is assistant director-general and regional representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

It wasn’t so long ago that internet connectivity faded the moment one left a populated area like a city or big town. “No service” was the take-away message back then. But thanks to 3G, 4G and now 5G mobile technology — and coupled with the widespread installation of cellular towers in rural areas across the country — the frustrating message shows up much less frequently.

Most importantly, the rapid spread of internet connectivity and mobile telephony has resulted in countless opportunities to help address chronic problems such as poverty, malnutrition and inequality after the service reached into the most remote rural communities.

From farmers to fishers to herders, digital technologies are increasingly relied upon to help transform and enhance livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people each day. From farmers with their smart phones checking optimal conditions to sow a field or band together to rent a drone for aerial assessments, to herders checking the weather, to fishers finding the best places to cast their nets, digital technologies are becoming increasingly accessible, useful and affordable for those in rural areas. This paradigm shift offers great hope to get this region — and the rest of the world — back on track to meet the 2030 SDG deadline.

While this digital revolution sweeping rural areas of Asia and the Pacific holds great promise, not everyone is benefiting equally. Indeed, in some cases, digital technologies can even be disruptive or lead to unintended consequences by widening, not reducing, the digital divide if their implementations result in a loss of decent work. This needs to be addressed, and it’s in everyone’s best interests to do so. Policy makers in countries across the region do understand the added value, and they see the economic benefits from the digitization of rural areas to their nations and people. Hence, investing in creating an environment that ensures equal access is key to ensuring the broader benefits of rural digitization than otherwise.

Indeed, the move to accelerate implementation of digital technologies — equitably across the region’s rural areas — couldn’t come at a more important time. The Covid-19 pandemic hit rural communities disproportionately hard — particularly individuals’ livelihoods. Now, as we try to recover from the devastation of the pandemic, we are facing the highest prices for many basic foods — the highest we have ever seen in decades. Higher food costs hit poorer and marginalized communities the hardest, particularly in rural areas, as they must spend a greater proportion of their disposable income to feed their families.

These challenges are compounding an already alarming situation. Last year, prior to the steep inflation of food commodities, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and partners pointed out that many people at that time couldn’t afford a healthy diet in Asia and the Pacific.

By leveraging the advancements offered by digital technologies, we can find effective ways to counter some of these and other negative effects of the past such as severe weather related events, droughts and floods.

And that is happening. Some countries in this region are well on the road to digitization of even the smallest and most remote villages and towns — and they have good examples to share with their neighbors.

At the FAO, we’ve been following closely these trends, policies and initiatives of our Member Nations in the Asia-Pacific region. We know the full scale of their desire and determination to embrace — and fully harness — the potential of digitization.

For our part, FAO has pledged to assist in bringing together these existing good practices of our Members, and to create a space for others to share their digital solutions as part of FAO’s “1,000 Digital Village Initiative.” A key component of this initiative is the Digital Village Knowledge Sharing Platform for Asia-Pacific that can act as a one-stop solution for those working in the food and agriculture sectors to share their innovations and technologies with others.

A digital village is not a small place, as it is a concept encompassing various types of inclusive, operational, country-led, and fit-for-purpose services aimed at delivering solid benefits to related people. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to make things better for everyone.

We hope the digital village innovations and technologies helps lead stakeholders to a world of better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life with no one left behind.

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