Ever since I established digital transformation as a priority for WFP four years ago, we have led the way in harnessing the power of cutting-edge technologies to meet the needs of the people we serve. This means much more than a simple set of targets or impressive-looking apps. It means weaving technology into every aspect of our work across more than 80 countries.
Today, WFP has the capabilities and know-how to tap into mobile technology and artificial intelligence to monitor food security; use satellite technology to locate and track communities in need; and offer digital finance via blockchain technology to put consumer choices in the hands of our beneficiaries.
Our commitment to embracing digitization also paid huge dividends when COVID-19 swept the globe last year. We were able to scale up our assistance, rapidly and efficiently, in response to soaring needs. And we took care of our own people by launching a worldwide program to improve connectivity for teams out in the field while shifting large numbers of employees to remote working.
Even before the pandemic hit, WFP was committed to spending every last cent we receive from our donors as responsibly and efficiently as possible – and digital transformation is helping us do just that.
In 2020 alone, we achieved more than US$138 million in cost savings partly attributable to digital transformation, with automation and a major connectivity upgrade saving hundreds of hours of employee time. Every dollar we save can mean an added four meals for a child. This is a tremendous incentive for us all to go even further and be even better.
I am proud that our leadership in data, innovation and technology has been recognized on a global scale with multiple awards, most recently when WFP’s Innovation Accelerator was named in FastCompany’s Best Workplaces for Innovators 2021. It is hard to imagine that the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to WFP for our efforts to use food as a pathway to peace, would have been possible without the game-changing power of technology and innovation.
But this is just the beginning of our exciting journey. With cash transfers, we will open even more doors to financial inclusion so people can continue receiving help from digital financial products long after WFP payments end. We will refine our systems for monitoring hunger, and enrich our research by fine-tuning data collection and analysis. And dynamic data from WFP operations will help us make smarter, faster and more targeted decisions to ensure we fulfil our life-saving mission.
Meanwhile, our Munich-based Innovation Accelerator is leading more than 100 projects worldwide, backed by two regional innovation hubs and four country-based hubs. There is no limit to how much more we can achieve, and how many more great ideas we can scale up and operationalize, by embracing the endless potential of technology and innovation.
The best is yet to come – and the creativity and dynamism which power WFP’s digital transformation will fuel our progress as we go all-out to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030.
David M. Beasley
WFP Executive Director