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Addressing food security with data and information technology

Robert Buergenthal  Senior Director, International Strategy for Thomson Reuters Government Affairs

Robert Buergenthal  Senior Director, International Strategy for Thomson Reuters Government Affairs

How can the international development community harness modern data and information technology tools being used in highly developed markets to effectively address complex global food security challenges?

Given the link between land and food production, development assistance initially focused on improving caloric intake to address global hunger and malnutrition. In recent years, assistance providers also documented the ways in which local, regional and national government decisions were linked to improvements in food production.  Today sustainable agriculture techniques, modern land administration systems, and effective land governance are just a few of the recognized essential enablers of food security.

The private sector is not always invited to participate in the preparation of global frameworks. Notably, the private sector has been actively encouraged to participate in efforts to address global hunger. This is particularly fortunate because modern data collection and information technology tools are already used by most private sector actors and many central governments throughout the world– often in the very same countries that face food security challenges.

Public and private sector collaboration

Public and private collaboration has also been a key feature of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The Alliance has linked policy reforms with efforts to facilitate more responsible investments in African agriculture and food security.  As a result, in a relatively short period, both the number of African countries and private sector companies participating in the initiative has doubled. Moreover, the results achieved include increased food production, employment and investments reaching small landholders and women.

By creating a cooperation framework focusing on national policies and investment commitments, the Alliance has provided a critical bridge between the public and private sector that is delivering strong results.

Global Food Security Act

Building on the Alliance and the US Government’s Feed the Future initiative, in July the United States Congress passed the bipartisan Global Food Security Act which will further encourage these collaborative efforts by specifically identifying the private sector as a “key stakeholder”.

This legislation complements the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which intend “to shift the world onto a more sustainable path”.  Goal two expressly refers to hunger, but all seventeen support or contribute to food security.  Not only can data and technology be used to measure progress made with respect to nearly all the SDG key indicators, they can also contribute to improving how we address many of the root causes of hunger and malnutrition.

Given the pace of technological advancements, the effective use of data and information technology tools will largely determine whether or not sustainable progress toward universal food security can actually be achieved.

Feeding 9 billion people

To facilitate food security discussions, earlier this year Thomson Reuters released an online report entitled How Will We Feed 9 Billion Bowls by 2050 to highlight how our information technology and data tools are already being used to successfully navigate nearly every stage in the food chain.

Our Sustainability Team collects information on topics related to food production and the Thomson Reuters Foundation recently launched a new service dedicated to secure land and property rights.

At the same time, our Aumentum product suite supports both land cadastres and registries in both developed and developing countries. This tool helps jurisdictions not only improve land administration but also achieve the self-sustainable status called for in the SDGs through improved revenue collection.

Other Thomson Reuters tools available through our Eikon platform allow farmers and food related industries to monitor weather; identify supply chains; share crop data; visualize production yields; and forecast local and global demand for essential agricultural products– to name but a few.

On this World Food Day it would be important to recognize the progress that has been made through public-private partnerships, and also consider how other development challenges might be addressed through similar frameworks. It would also be important to consider all the ways that technology can support land tenure and improve food production.

By harnessing the power of the private sector through constructive enabling environments, these global initiatives combined with Thomson Reuters data and information technology tools are helping bring the world one step closer to universal food security.

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