Tech firms and humanitarian organisations partner to create famine-predicting technology
The UN, World Bank, and other humanitarian organisations have partnered up with global technology firms in an effort to prevent future famines by using technology. Although generally considered “slow moving disasters”, famines are notoriously hard to predict and can have a number of complex causes aside from food shortages.
According to a press release from the United Nations, more than 20 million people across north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen faced famine or famine-like conditions in 2017. The report also highlights that 124 million people still live with crisis levels of food insecurity around the world.
Microsoft, Google, and Amazon Web Services are the main technology companies that are developing analytical models using Artificial Intelligence that will provide early warnings to identify when food crises threaten to turn into famines. The project is called the Famine Action Mechanism (FAM) and is the first global mechanism dedicated to preventing future famines.
The goal of this initiative is to use the predictive power of data to trigger funding through appropriate financing instruments, working closely with existing systems, the FAM coalition said.
Instead of trying to address famines after they occur, the FAM coalition believes this AI technology will allow them to save more lives by detecting early signs of food shortages, like crop failures, droughts, natural disasters and conflicts.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim discusses the FAM in a recent UN Press Release:
“We are forming an unprecedented global coalition to say, ‘no more.’ The Famine Action Mechanism is a preventative approach that knits together innovative technology, early financing, and strong partnerships on the ground in an effort to prevent famine.”
The FAM will initially be launched in a few small, famine-vulnerable countries before it is rolled out on a global scale. On 13 October, the leaders of this initiative will gather as part of the IMFWorld Bank Annual Meetings to discuss further implementation of the FAM.
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Photo Credit: Peter Holley