FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Fourth Digital Agriculture Solutions Forum for Asia and the Pacific urges scaling up digital innovations to meet agrifood system challenges

29/09/2023 Bangkok

At the 4th Digital Agriculture Solutions Forum for Asia and the Pacific, organized in Bangkok from 27-28 September, senior government officials, agritech developers, young agritech founders, researchers, and development practitioners from 15 countries have gathered in Bangkok to take stock of the latest digital agriculture landscape, review successful innovations, and exchanged on countries programmes and initiatives.

Under the overall theme: "Digital Agriculture landscape and recent advances in Asia and the Pacific and the urgency for Accelerated actions in Agrifood and Rural Digitalization," the two-day event was held under the shadow of multiple crises facing the agrifood system in the region.

"Against this backdrop, digitalization of all sectors of the economyincluding food and agriculture, has emerged as one of the strategic priorities for most governments in Asia," said Jong-Jin Kim, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative at the event's opening remarks. 

“Digital transformation is key to accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals. I look forward to continuing to bring tangible  impact in the field of agriculture in close collaboration with FAO” said Dr Cosmas Luckyson Zavazava, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau of the ITU.  

Digital transformation is key to accelerating sustainable goals, and the countries of Asia have made huge strides in expanding internet connectivity. "The need to leverage better connectivity with impactful digitalization on the ground requires a whole-of-government approach," according to Atsuko Okuda, ITU Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. "ITU's Smart Villages and Smart Islands and FAO's Digital Village Initiative are important initiatives to holistically deliver digital services to rural and remote areas.”

"Digital technologies will bring innovation, efficiency, and inclusion. But to do this, we need institutions in place," said Maximo Torero Cullen, FAO Chief Economist, who addressed the forum from FAO Headquarters in Rome. "Affordable access to digital networks and digital public goods is paramount to unleash the potential of rural communities and reap dividends of the digital economy. We know that access must improve, and we are working with our partners, including ITU, to try and facilitate that process."

Accelerating digital transformation in agriculture

In Asia and the Pacific, the impetus toward greater investments in innovation and digitalization is growing daily, and the current digital landscape is vastly different from just five years ago. Most countries have established ambitious national e-agriculture strategies for agrifood transformation with the support of FAO and ITU to assess, and many are translating these strategies into actionable programmes and initiatives. 

Countries have also set out to support private digital innovations and promote digital ecosystems to foster greater digitalization and overcome the many constraints and challenges facing the translation of national ambition into practical implementation on the ground. Improving connectivity and building the digital skills of small-scale farmers, entrepreneurs, agricultural value chain workers, and consumers to use digital tools was highlighted at the Digital Agriculture Solutions Forum. 

The Forum featured several highly successful cases of digital solutions from across the agrifood spectrum and reviewed ecosystem conditions for successful agritech startup development. Several solutions focused on lowering barriers to women and young people’s access to digital services, particularly through financial inclusion. 

The Forum also profiled several personal stories of young men and women agritech founders and entrepreneurs from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Thailand, and Viet Nam. 

The Forum also reported on the digitalization and smart island initiatives in the Pacific Islands, including from Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, which featured FAO and ITU collaboration in providing technical support to these countries through an integrated whole-of-Government approach to develop smart villages and smart Islands aimed at delivering connectivity and digital services to unconnected and underserved communities. Exploring strategies for long-term digital agricultural transformation in Asia-Pacific and scaling innovations was also an important area of focus at the Digital Agriculture Solutions Forum.

Closing the gap - building capacities and connections

FAO is building digital capabilities in Asia and the Pacific to benefit small-scale farmers, entrepreneurs, women, youth, and other vulnerable groups. For instance, FAO’s 1000 Digital Villages Initiative (DVI) promotes digital innovations in rural communities, enabling economic livelihoods, social cohesion and building better lives. 

At the Forum, FAO pre-launched the New Digital Village Initiative Knowledge Platform/ Dashboard featuring hundreds of digital solutions initiatives and showcasing digital and smart villages from a dozen countries of Asia and the Pacific. “The New FAO DVI Knowledge Platform, once released later this year, should enable anyone, anywhere, to learn firsthand about hundreds of impactful digital solutions initiatives from across the agrifood system and from many countries of Asia and the Pacific,” said Aziz Elbehri,FAO Senior Economist and Lead Coordinator for the Digital Village Initiative in Asia and the Pacific.

The forum was an opportunity for countries and digital solution providers to foster public-private collaboration to overcome the existing challenges to technology adoption at scale by smallholder producers and entrepreneurs in the region, including mainstreaming the delivery of tailored digital advisory, e-commerce, and fintech services. 

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