With the latest tech, U.N. seeks to end hunger Silicon Valley-style

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From a smartphone app delivering market prices to Guatemalan farmers to online nutrition tips in rural Colombia, the push to end hunger has entered a new era with the U.N. food agency deploying the latest technology to fight it.

The United Nations headquarters building is pictured though a window with the UN logo in the foreground in the Manhattan borough of New York August 15, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/Files

The World Food Programme’s (WFP) new innovation hub, launched in Munich this week with the support of the German government, will seek out new technologies to help reach the goal of zero hunger faster.

In September the United Nations adopted an ambitious new set of global goals, called the Sustainable Development Goals, to end hunger, poverty advance equality and protect the environment by 2030.

“(But) if we continue progress at the same rate, we are not going to be even close to eradicating hunger by 2030,” Robert Opp, head of innovation at WFP, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Although the number of people going to bed hungry has fallen by 167 million over the last decade, almost 800 million people worldwide are not getting enough to eat, according to the United Nations figures.

South Asia, where as many as 281 million people do not have enough food, bears the highest burden of hunger. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hunger with 23 percent of the population not getting enough to eat.

The launch of WFP’s ‘Innovation Accelerator’ is one element in the drive to end hunger, said Opp.

“Of course innovation is not the only answer, there’s political will and there’s everything else that’s involved in fight against hunger but innovation is one of the levers,” he said.

Among the ideas Opp’s team is already developing is AgriUp, a low bandwidth application for smallholder farmers in Guatemala, which provides location-specific information including farming tips, market prices and weather forecasts.

Another is NutriFami, an interactive online platform designed to boost nutrition knowledge in rural Colombia, available through a network of government-run internet cafes.

For now WFP is mainly relying on ideas generated within the organization, but in future may look at crowdsourcing new innovations to help end hunger, Opp said.