Information and knowledge are crucial in the fight against hunger and rural poverty. Recognizing their importance for development, FAO pays great attention to promoting the application and development of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in agriculture and rural development. The past decade has witnessed a dynamic and rapid growth of ICT infrastructure and capacity in the region, bringing enormous benefits to society at large. The challenge, however, of how to get relevant information and technologies to millions of farmers, in particular to the poorest of the poor so as to provide them with an opportunity to escape the burdens of hunger and hopelessness, is daunting.
It is shameful that – in today’s world of affluence – 854 million undernourished and 1.2 billion people live on less than one dollar a day. It is also morally unacceptable that about 75 percent of the world’s poor and 1 billion of the world’s illiterate people live in rural areas in poor countries. Rural areas, in addition, are home to the vast majority of the 121 million children who do not attend school.
The glaring inequalities that exist between urban and rural people present major obstacles. It is here where information and communications technologies can play a very useful role in bridging the information gap and empowering rural communities to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and our ambitions for a world free from hunger. However, the applications of ICTs must be relevant, appropriate, affordable and available and should not perpetuate existing inequalities.
It is our hope that the exchanges and the networking that took place at the “Expert meeting on rural information networks in Asia-Pacific: Innovative practices and future directions” organized by the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in December 2005, and the findings, conclusions and recommendations generated during the expert meeting will help encourage more appropriate responses and actions at various community levels: regional, national and local. FAO is committed, within its areas of expertise, to pursuing activities both in the field and at the normative level which will continue to contribute to the advancement of ICT applications in the region.
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific