Use of digital sensors, drones, e-commerce and better weather forecasts can boost agricultural productivity across the developing world, a new report says.

The report by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) titled Status of Digital Agriculture in 47 Sub-Saharan African Countries observes that digital technologies can transform agriculture. The report gives an overview of such indicators such as access to electricity, ownership of mobile devices, number of apps in the national language, the gender gap in social media use, and regulatory frameworks. 

“Digitalisation helps in improving livelihoods through better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life,” said Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa. 

According to Dr Gabriel, agricultural modernisation and rural transformation provide real opportunities for maximum impact on growth and shared prosperity for countries in Africa.

Digital revolution 

According to the report, coastal countries benefit from fast internet, thanks to undersea cables, and 4G mobile networks are expanding rapidly across the continent. The report says Nairobi is referred to as the “Silicon Savannah” of Africa because of its buzzing digital economy. Ironically though, even with digital transformation stories coming from Sub-Saharan Africa, the report warns that much of the continent remains unconnected. About one-third of the population is still out of reach of the mobile broadband signals, with just 28 per cent having access to the internet. With the largest area of arable uncultivated land in the world, a youthful population (almost 60 per cent of its people are below the age of 25) and vast natural resources, sub-Saharan Africa is uniquely positioned to double or even triple its current agricultural productivity. The report notes that a digital transformation of the food and agriculture sector is needed. For this to happen, existing barriers such as limited infrastructure in rural areas, insufficient funding for agricultural and insufficient funding for agriculture and inadequate investment in research and development, agro-innovation and agricultural entrepreneurship must be addressed.

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