Written by David Beasley, World Food Programme Executive Director
Speed is the distance traveled per unit of time. For the World Food Programme (WFP), that’s the distance we still need to cover to reach our goal of zero hunger and the time left to do it; just ten years and counting. That puts us in a race to save the lives of the most vulnerable people on this planet. We need to move faster. Much faster.
Innovation, technology and data boost our power to make that happen by understanding local problems and then scaling up solutions to deliver global progress.
It’s an approach that can ramp up efficiency, expand our outreach and let us make better-informed decisions in real time.
And, critically, it can put more of those decisions into the hands of the governments and people most affected, allowing the humanitarian community to cooperate on tailored solutions before, during and long after disaster strikes.
That’s why WFP started to embrace digital transformation several years ago and why we could seamlessly secure business continuity when COVID-19 hit. Instead of stopping us, we quickly shifted up a gear to adapt existing technologies, develop new ones and switch to smarter online working from wherever we are.
Not only could we quickly see the pandemic would double the number of people facing severe hunger this year, but we could also see new ways to deliver life-saving information and assistance, while minimizing the risk to our staff, beneficiaries and host countries.
This is possible also thanks to new breed of pioneering partnerships with leading tech companies that brings our goal a bit closer with each piece of expertise shared. This isn’t about deploying chatbots, drones, biometrics or blockchain because the kit is cool.
It’s about deploying, connecting and scaling up the practical solutions with the biggest impact, from tracking the distribution of school meals and medical supplies to bringing local farmers into the supply chain, and providing beneficiaries with online shopping apps to encourage social distancing.
Same time, better roadmap
Everyone contributing to this dialogue is in this same race against time and, while we may have different priorities they are inextricably linked.
Yes, to reach all 17 goals in the next 10 years, each of us must play to our strengths. But we must also join forces with all our partners to accelerate progress towards a common, secure digital ecosystem that connects WFP, donors, governments, NGOs, UN agencies, the private sector and individuals.es, to reach all 17 goals in the next 10 years, each of us must play to our strengths. But we must also join forces with all our partners to accelerate progress towards a common, secure digital ecosystem that connects WFP, donors, governments, NGOs, UN agencies, the private sector and individuals.
The Secretary-General’s recently launched Roadmap for Digital Cooperation reaffirms the need to urgently strengthen such cohesive collaboration; to connect our efforts through a portfolio of digital services and tools, which everyone can easily access to coordinate more holistic assistance.
Such an ecosystem not only lets us better know and serve the people who count on us, but also empowers them to address their own needs with greater dignity and choice.
So, technology offers the turbo boost we need to cover enough ground by 2030, but we will only reach our goal of zero hunger by leveraging partnerships to harness its full potential.