Microsoft founder urges digital revolution against hunger
ROME - Agence France-Presse
Bill Gates. REUTERS photoMicrosoft founder Bill Gates on Thurdsay called for a "digital revolution" to alleviate world hunger by increasing farm productivity through satellite systems, seed genomics and video technology.
"We have to think hard about how to start taking advantage of the digital revolution that is driving innovation including in farming," the billionaire philanthropist said in a speech at the UN rural poverty agency IFAD in Rome.
"If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture. We believe that it's possible for small farmers to double and in some cases even triple their yields in the next 20 years while preserving the land," Gates said.
He gave as one example of innovation the genetic sequencing that allows cassava farmers to predict how individual seedlings will perform, shortening the time it takes to develop a new variety from 10 years to two.
Gates said even information videos of farmers talking about best practices could help others as well as satellite technology developed by defence departments that can document extensive data about individual fields.
"If we don't do this, we'll have a digital divide in agriculture," he said.
Gates also unveiled $200 million (150 million euros) in new grants from his foundation to finance research on a new type of drought-resistant maize, a vaccine to help livestock farmers and a project for training farmers.
"Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty," he said, adding that his charitable foundation had committed $2.0 billion for farmers and was increasingly focused on agriculture.
Gates also called for a new system of "public scorecards" on agricultural productivity for developing countries, UN food agencies and donors.
The current food and farming aid system was "outdated and somewhat inefficient," he said.
"It's something that can be pulled together over the next year," he added.