Jakarta: Innovative digital technologies will drive agricultural outputs, fuel improvements to food quality and safety, and reach new heights of profitability in the foreseeable future, according to experts speaking at a joint UN forum in Asia and the Pacific on digital agricultural solutions.
The experts, gathered from around the world, have shared experiences on technologies that are driving agriculture innovations during the Digital Agriculture Solutions Forum 2020, a bi-annual event for Asia and the Pacific, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
As the region slowly emerges from the devastation and disruption of the covid-19 pandemic, it will be more critical than ever to get digital technologies, inclusively, into the hands of a much wider group of food producers, particularly smallholders.
This will mean greater access to timely, accurate, location-specific information and the associated decision-making capabilities to empower all agriculture stakeholders through better market access, improved livelihood and risk management, increased access to financial services and better adoption of climate smart technologies.
The covid-19 pandemic has also brought into sharper focus several opportunities where digital technologies can help mitigate its impact and regain progress towards the sustainable development goals.
Digital technologies will play a significant role, especially in a post covid-19 world, to better address priorities such as water management for agriculture, increased resilience to ensure food security and nutrition, and building sustainable and resilient food systems.
"Hunger, poverty and inequality are exacerbated by a widening digital divide," said Jong-Jin Kim, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, in a press release on Monday.
"We can offset that by bringing digital innovations to smallholders and small-scale enterprises, those that offer a range of solutions to address agricultural challenges in areas of market access, pest management, agriculture-related disaster alerts, financial inclusion, traceability, food safety, and agricultural trade," the FAO official stated.
As countries embrace the digital transformation agenda, emerging technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, data platforms, distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), mobile applications, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and 5G are fast becoming the core engine driving digital innovations.
These offer solutions to the challenges facing agriculture and indeed rural economies in general.