Digitalisation – Transforming agriculture and improving policies

Digital technologies – Internet, mobile technologies and devices, data analytics, artificial intelligence, digitally-delivered service and apps – are changing agriculture and the food sector. Also, the new technologies and digitalisation can help governments improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing policies and programmes, and more precisely to design better ones.

For instance, freely available and high-quality satellite imagery dramatically reduces the cost of monitoring several agricultural activities which allow governments to move towards more targeted policies (i.e – penalise farmers based on observed environmental outcomes). Also, digital technologies enable automation of administrative processes for agriculture and the development of expanded government services, such as advisory services.

New technologies and digitalisation can also help governments to support trade in agriculture and food products, by connecting private sector suppliers to new markets, and enabling new ways for governments to monitor and ensure compliance with standards and to provide faster and more efficient border procedures that are essential for perishable products.

The main benefit of the proper adoption of these technological advances is support the goal of achieving more resilient, productive, and sustainable agriculture and food systems to better meet the consumer needs.

Finally, to ensure that governments reap the benefits of digital technologies for the agriculture sector they need to:

  1. Recognise the potential benefits, costs, risks and understand the factors affecting technology uptake so that interventions can be targeted to where there is a market failure or a public interest – Create tailored policies and programmes that facilitate the adoption of digital technologies;
  2. Understand how technology can help in different components of the policy cycle and may require government bodies to expand their skills, invest in technology and training, or even partner with other actor (both government and non-government) – Design and deliver better agricultural policies;
  3. Understand how new technologies and digitalisation change the roles of governments – on one hand, this may create new roles or responsibilities for governments, including to enable the digital infrastructure, but on the other hand if technology can reduce information asymmetries and transactions costs, less government intervention may be needed.