Statement from Mr Samuel Varas, (FAO, CIO Director) on behalf of FAO Director General at WSIS Forum 2017


Statement from Mr Samuel Varas, (FAO, CIO Director) on behalf of FAO Director General at WSIS Forum 2017

The World Summit on the Information Society Forum ran from 12 to 16 of June 2017, in Geneva - Switzerland. WSIS Forum 2017 is an annual event, and this year's edition called for a closed alignment of WSIS and the SDG process. Therefore, the WSIS Forum 2017 served as a platform for discussing how ICTs aid the implementation of the SDGs and their targets.

In this meeting, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations was represented by a team lead by Mr. Samuel Varas (Director, Information Technology Division) who gave a statement on behalf of FAO's Director General, in the High-Level Tracks and discussion. 

This statement was published in the High Level Track report. Below we reproduce the verbatim the speech offered:

Madam Irina Bokova, Chairperson of UNGIS
Ministries of Telecommunications, ICTs and other sectors
My colleagues from the UN System

All WSIS Forum participants,

We are in Geneva this week to take a new step towards a consensus within the SDGs framework. More than to promote the 17 goals and to discuss theoretical problems, we need to collect experiences in order to learn in collaboration with civil society, universities and private companies, the best way to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to face the real challenges.

Today, as stated by our Director General, Mr. José Graziano da Silva, nearly 800 million people are extremely poor and chronically undernourished, while 1.9 billion are overweight, of which 600 million are obese. In the rural areas, reality is most dramatic, considering that 80 percent of the world’s hungry and poor live there. FAO believes that food security can be the common thread that links the different challenges the world faces in building a sustainable future.

In FAO’s case, ICTs focusing on development have strong potential for driving economic growth, promoting climate smart agriculture, improving livelihoods and increasing the efficiency of agricultural value chains. Digital solutions that can be harnessed for e-agriculture may include devices, networks, services and applications. These can range from cutting edge internet-based applications, sensing tools, artificial intelligence and data analysis technologies to others that have been around for much longer, such as radio, telephones, television, telecommunication networks, mobile phones and satellites. We can make a difference if we are able to combine, in an innovative perspective, the best channels, the best processes and the best tools to make a change where it is most necessary.

Improving access to valuable information can help agricultural stakeholders to make informed decisions and use the resources available in the most productive and sustainable manner. In a sector that is becoming increasingly knowledge-intensive, having access to the right information, at the right time, in the right format, and through the right channels can make a crucial difference in the livelihoods of people involved in agriculture and related fields.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Applying innovative ways to use ICTs in the rural domain, with a primary focus on agriculture (including farming, fisheries, livestock, forestry etc.) can boost agricultural and rural development. FAO is developing and deploying new ways of packaging and delivering digital value added services to combat hunger and all forms of malnutrition; reduce poverty; promote food security; increase incomes; improve resilience and mitigate the effects of climate change. The proposed innovative solutions seek to maximize economic, social and environmental impact by finding scalable and sustainable models for the process and networks that bring existing or new agricultural products, processes and practices into social and economic use, connecting promising ideas and impact investment funders. Here, the keyword is “replicable”.

FAO believes that UNGIS and this High Level audience play an important role to build a framework of cooperation and to facilitate collaboration between UN System and other stakeholders in terms of ICT for development. We need to construct partnerships to conceive and to develop policies and programs that help the inhabitants living mainly in the least developed countries to access the best and most suitable experiences with ICTs in order to reduce the lack of information and communication, improving livelihoods and incomes for families in rural communities.


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