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Technology one of the solutions to the problem of global hunger

By Ute Klamert | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-15 07:53

China partners with UN to address African food security. [Photo/VCG]

The hunt for technological solutions to global problems usually starts with figures. And in the case of hunger, those figures show us that after progress during the past decade we are slipping back. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report 2018 tells us that one in every nine people-821 million human being in total-are hungry; 151 million children below five are too short for their age due to malnutrition and millions of children are at increased risk of dying due to malnutrition.

You might wonder in today's world where we produce enough food for everyone and where technologies have transformed people's lives, why so many people are still suffering from hunger. Conflicts, natural disasters and climate change are among the key drivers behind the rise in global hunger.

Even though it seems like a formidable challenge, in my opinion, hunger is one of the most solvable problems in today's world and one of the solutions is technology.

Let's take a look at the World Food Programme's work to fight hunger. The WFP has more than 16,000 staff working in 83 countries serving people in need. Each day, the WFP has 5,000 trucks, 20 ships and 92 planes on the move, delivering food to the most remote and most dangerous places in the world. Currently, we provide food assistance for more than 90 million people. Our goal is to end hunger by 2030-one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals-and to achieve it we must mobilize hearts and minds as well as resources.

The WFP's scale of work also gives it a unique opportunity to show leadership. Our zero-hunger ambition means we must embrace technology and innovation to become more efficient and more effective. Aware of the need to not only work hard but also work smart, the WFP has embarked on a process of digital transformation. Thanks to technological advances, the way we operate today is light years different from that in 1963 when the WFP was founded.

Let me give you one example. Kenya is home to more than half a million refugees from neighboring countries such as Somalia and South Sudan. Almost all the refugees rely solely on the WFP's food for survival. In the past, the WFP staff relied on paper beneficiary lists, which were time consuming to check. Today, thanks to biometric technology, the WFP can identify people quickly and easily through iris or fingerprint scans as part of our digital beneficiary identity and benefit management system. In 2018 alone, the WFP provided digitally enabled assistance for 19.3 million beneficiaries in 63 countries.

As a 100 percent voluntarily funded organization, the WFP is always looking for new ways to engage donors, big and small. We are also using technology for raising funds, allowing anyone, anywhere to contribute to the fight against hunger.

The WFP is working with Tencent, one of the world's most valuable technology conglomerates, to generate awareness and financial support for the WFP's program both in and outside China through its ability to reach users. In 2018 alone, Tencent's charity platform raised 1.7 billion yuan ($256 million) with more than 69 million individual donations for over 15,000 projects implemented by the WFP and other charities.

The WFP's expertise lies in identifying and providing food assistance to those in greatest need. The technological expertise to help us do our work better is out there in leading technology companies such as Tencent. We are building partnerships with tech companies as part of our digital transformation to speed up the fight against hunger. The WFP has also built in-house technical expertise to ensure we have the knowledge base and skill-sets to engage on an equal footing with our partners and lead the transformation to improve delivery to the hungry people in the world.

It is a pleasure to be invited to Tencent's Internet Good Summit and we are impressed to see so many Chinese and international tech companies' commitment to tackling global issues.

We can only reach our ambitious global goal of a world without hunger if we all pull together. The WFP looks forward to working with our technology partners such as Tencent on the frontlines of the battle against hunger. Together we can provide innovative solutions for humanitarian problems and make our world a better place.

The author is World Food Programme assistant executive director for Partnerships& Governance. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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