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Tackling poverty and hunger through digital innovation

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) make a significant contribution to growth and socio-economic development in countries and regions around the globe. The widespread adoption and integration of ICTs has reduced information and transaction costs, improved service delivery, created new jobs, generated new revenue streams, and helped conserve resources. ICTs have also transformed the way businesses, people and governments work, interact, and communicate. 

ICT innovation is also revolutionizing the agriculture and food sectors. In developed economies, innovations such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, data analytics and block-chain are changing the way agriculture does business. Remote sensors collect data on soil moisture, temperature, crop growth and livestock feed levels, enabling farmers to achieve better yields by optimizing crop management and reducing the use of fertilizers, pesticides and water. However, the rapid global revolution in ICT stands in stark contrast to the continuing high numbers of extreme poor and hungry individuals in the world. The new digital technologies and innovative use of ICTs creates enormous opportunities and poses daunting challenges to ending poverty and hunger. On one hand, there is potential to increase productivity and wealth, generate new activities, products and services, and improve livelihoods. On the other hand, such opportunities can lead to further alienation of marginalized communities and an exacerbation of existing socio-economic inequalities. This information note explores these questions and the potential for ICTs and digital technologies to accelerate the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 1 (No poverty) and 2 (Zero hunger) within the context of rural areas.