Realizing the potential of digitalization to improve the agri-food system: Proposing a new International Digital Council for Food and Agriculture. A concept note

The global agri-food system continues to face considerable challenges in being able to provide enough food of adequate quality to feed an ever-growing, aging, and migrating population. The world is also changing at a fast pace with the emergence of an array of technologies. Digital technologies offer unique opportunities for improving food production and trade, especially to smallholder farmers, and in helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This concept note has been produced in response to a request by 74 agriculture ministers and high level representatives from international organisations in January 2019 during the Global Forum on Food and Agriculture (GFFA). It proposes the creation of a new body, an International Digital Council for Food and Agriculture, to enhance international cooperation and the exchange of ideas and experiences across borders, creating synergies and avoiding duplication of efforts. It will strive to keep pace with rapid developments in digitalization, working with new digital tools and the highest expertise available. In line with this, it will help to tackle challenges of food security, hunger, health, inclusiveness and sustainability in the agri-food system at national, regional and international levels.

With this approach, the Digital Council would provide structured and strategic agricultural policy recommendations on digitalization to governmental and non-governmental actors, and strengthen international cooperation in agri-food systems to identify the challenges and possible solutions. Examples of activities include the organization of international fora to share best policy practices, and promoting interaction among farmers associations from different countries and between national- and international-level stakeholders.

The scope and function of the proposed Digital Council are summarized herein for consideration by government ministers, international organization members, donors and other stakeholders. It was noted among all stakeholders involved in the process of producing this concept note that the proposed Digital Council would have significant impacts on increasing the positive benefits of digitalization in the food and agriculture sector, contributing to improving rural livelihoods and local economies.

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