Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu

G20 Agriculture Ministers Meeting

Side Event:

Role of Digital Transformation in Accelerating Women and Youth Entrepreneurship

Speech

By

Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General

As delivered

27 September 2022

Bali, Indonesia

 

Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

1.         Today, we look together at the potential that digitalization has for our common future,

 

2.         To enhance the productivity and sustainability of our agrifood systems, in an inclusive manner.

 

3.         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.

 

4.         Today, our world is facing complex challenges, including conflicts and war, humanitarian emergencies, the impacts of the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic - causing economic shocks and downturns.

 

5.         And often overlapping with the persistent challenges of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, which have been worsening over the past months and years.

 

6.         As many as 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021 – 46 million people more than in 2020, and 150 million more from 2019,

 

7.         And globally the gap between women and men has increased - with 150 million more women who are food insecure than men.

 

8.         We need to respond collectively and effectively to these global and regional challenges,

 

9.         And we must work together to make our agrifood systems more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable.

 

10.       Digitalization plays an important role in accelerating progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, by diversifying incomes and unlocking on-farm and off-farm employment and business opportunities, especially for the new generation of farmers and young people.

 

11.       One of the G20 priorities is to ensure equal access to connectivity and digitalization for all,

 

12.       Ensuring that developing countries, and especially women and youth, are not left behind in the fast-paced global digital landscape.

 

13.       FAO recognizes the need for inclusive digital transformation, as well as the importance of ensuring inclusive and equitable access to digital technologies for all by developing digitally skilled rural communities.

 

14.       Through digital solutions, the world can recover together quickly, stronger, smarter and greener for sustainable economic growth and development.

 

15.       Digital technologies should be at the core of our actions as they can help agrifood systems to:

 

•          meet the growing demand for safe and nutritious food;

•          better manage natural resources;

•          contribute to high quality growth in productivity; and

•          ensure economic inclusion of marginalized groups, women and youth, to strengthen their productive engagement in the sector.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

16.       We know that digital technologies can bring further opportunities for smallholder farmers and rural communities, providing them with tools and knowledge products “in hand”.

 

17.       Through mobile phones and other digital tools small-scale farmers can have at their fingertips real-time data on soil, climate, irrigation, pests and diseases, and market prices;

 

18.       The can access loans and connect with buyers and input suppliers, and carry out commercial transactions, even at small scale.

 

19.       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.

 

20.       The Asia-Pacific region is one of the fastest-growing markets for these digital services, which

will contribute to removing barriers to the internet, especially for vulnerable population groups, through supporting initiatives that improve affordability, user capabilities and infrastructure, enhanced transparency and distribution of resources among value chain actors.

 

21.       We must leverage data, artificial intelligence and digital public goods as accelerators to support the agricultural digital transformation.

 

22.       FAO is actively working towards fostering our gathered knowledge and global experiences to accelerate the transition to digital agriculture and the use of digital technologies,

 

23.       For the transformation of our agrifood systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.

 

24.       To ensure that this digitally-enabled transformation is truly inclusive and sustainable, connectivity and capacity in rural areas must be addressed collectively, 

 

25.       For the benefit of smallholders who are faced with structural problems, affordability issues, skill gaps and regulatory bottlenecks that limit their access to digital technologies, as well as to business and development opportunities.

 

26.       Youth and women are the first to suffer from these consequences, and they should be among the main beneficiaries of our recovery efforts and actions, because of the important transformative role they play in global agrifood systems.

 

27.       As rural women face greater constraints than men in accessing technical information, the digital gender divide in rural areas should be addressed as a matter of priority.

 

28.       We need to acknowledge that digital technologies are not gender neutral, neither in design nor in implementation.

 

29.       Reducing the digital gender divide is not only about expanding women’s access to digital technologies, but also about increasing women’s capacity to make meaningful use of these technologies.

 

30.       In the Asia-Pacific region, more than 41% of women were using the internet in 2019, compared to almost 55% of men,

 

31.       And the internet user gender gap has widened 7 percentage points since 2013.

 

32.       This has made women more vulnerable to the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, deepening existing gender inequalities.  

 

33.       We must invest in building digital competences of young rural people, to enable them to be active participants and innovators in agrifood systems.

 

34.       FAO is fully committed to fostering the interest and ability of young people to pursue decent jobs and livelihoods in agrifood systems.

 

35.       Laying these critical foundations will give rise to new emerging markets, youth and women-led small enterprises, as well as regional and local business, in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

36.       This is also at the core of the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31, which will guide our work over the next decade, with specific targeted measures.

 

37.       To enhance the transformative power of digital technologies to the benefit of rural women and youth, we need concrete actions and implementation at the field, institutional and policy levels.

 

38.       We also need to ensure that the security and policy environment provides adequate protection from any abuse of market powers and to ensure they benefit from trade liberalization

 

39.       Digital Public Goods are at the center of our actions,

 

40.       Using innovative models for knowledge transfer from the data platforms and knowledge bases to the field. 

 

41.       We need policies that enable the integration of open data, open models and open content for actionable digital solutions accessible for everyone, for long term results and sustainable success.

 

42.       By working more closely together with partners on better data and models and making them jointly available as Digital Public Goods, FAO can provide more targeted services to public and private sector partners to increase inclusion, resilience and adaptation,

 

43.       For example, through financial services like micro credit and re-insurance schemes that benefit small business models.

 

44.       FAO is continuously developing its inventory of digital public goods and offers them to governments for the benefit of their populations.

 

45.       In this context, I want to mention FAO’s Digital Services Portfolio, 

 

46.       Which was developed to empower farmers, smallholders, women and agrifood systems entrepreneurs in the field with digital public goods to strengthen the use and management of natural resources, and increase agricultural production and productivity. 

 

47.       The Portfolio disseminates updated and timely information, and scaled-up agricultural services, delivering country specific advisory messages directly to the mobile devices of consumers.

 

48.       Working closely with partners on better data and models, and making them jointly available as Digital Public Goods, we can provide more targeted services to public and private sector partners.

 

49.       Constructive dialogues, joint actions, and exchanges of best practices on the use of digital technologies must be key components in shaping targeted policies for the future of our agrifood systems.

 

50.       Another example, is how FAO is working with partners globally to develop rural digital inclusion initiatives on the ground, aiming to bring innovation closer to the needs of small-scale farmers, for increased food security.

 

51.       FAO’s 1000 Digital Villages Initiatives aims to convert villages across the world into digital hubs to support the acceleration of rural transformation and reduce the digital gap, including the gender and rural divide.

 

52.       The 1000 Digital villages initiative focuses on e-agriculture and e-services, as well as on the e-village to holistically link farmers to other economic activities like agri-tourisms,

 

53.       Which provide business opportunities, in particular for women and youth, to diversify income sources, and increase their resilience.

Dear Colleagues,

54.       To enable effective change and harness the potential of digital agriculture, our action need to be collective and holistic in harnessing science and innovation,

 

55.       And we need to increase efforts towards a balanced regulatory ecosystem that will enable private and public collaboration for increased small business opportunities that will enhance an inclusive digital transformation.

 

56.       Digital technologies can be the driving force of the future,

 

57.       Through an enabling global policy framework for wide-scale application of digital agriculture tools.

 

58.       To achieve this, we must work in partnerships to leverage cross-cutting potential and foster synergies to accelerate progress, in a sustainable manner,

 

59.       Ensuring equity, inclusion, safety and security for all.

 

60.       Let’s be efficient, be innovative, and be effective; let’s stay committed to creating changes for a better world, together. Digital world is our future!

 

61.       Thank you.

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