Bill Gates on data collection to fight world hunger

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food and agriculture organization

Philanthropist and digital technology guru Bill Gates has highlighted the role of improved data collection in the battle against world hunger.

In talks with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome last week, Gates “addressed the need to make sure the benefits of the digital revolution and scientific innovations reach poor farmers worldwide and are used in gathering and analysing data”,​ according to an FAO statement.

Gates discussed with José Graziano da Silva, FAO director-general, the use of information and communication technologies to benefit food production in general and small-scale farmers in particular.

The FAO has long advocated the need for greater access to information, innovation and co-operation in the agricultural sector to reduce hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty.

The balance of power

Meanwhile, in a podcast recorded last month, Dr Alan Renwick, from the Scottish Agriculture College’s (SAC’s) Rural Policy Centre told that the balance of power in global food supply was switching away from governments towards large corporations.

As state intervention in the food industry declines, trans-national corporations (TNC) are stepping in to fill the gap, he said.

Dr Renwick, SAC head of land economy and environmental research, said the growth of TNCs could be both an opportunity and a threat for food manufacturers.

While TNCs could improve market efficiencies, through their economies of scale, and boost competition. there was also potential for the abuse of market power in forcing down prices to suppliers and inflating prices to consumers.

But, Dr Renwick cautioned against a witch-hunt against giant multi-nationals.“It’s too often simplified into a polarised debate about good and evil. But the reality is much more complex than that,”​ he said.

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