Toward a digital One CGIAR: strategic research on digital transformation in food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis
The global research consortium CGIAR is restructuring itself to build a more integrated global organization that fully leverages its strengths and refocuses its research strategy through 2030 in service of a renewed mission: End hunger—through science to transform food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis. The CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture led strategic research in support of this effort, looking into digital trends that have the potential to transform global agriculture in the coming years, the roles public-interest organizations should play in the digital agriculture landscape, and the capabilities CGIAR must have if it is to use data and digital technology to their full potential in the service of its mission. The team conducted 165 surveys with researchers and an array of stakeholders in the agricultural research-for-development ecosystem; 80 semi-structured interviews with experts in agribusiness, food companies, development funding and finance organizations, large information technology firms, consultancies, life sciences organizations and start-up firms; and 10 internal CGIAR focus group workshops. These were complemented with literature research. There is unprecedented innovation at the intersection of digital technologies and life sciences that—if harnessed and applied—can provide the tools humanity needs to adapt to or mitigate some of its most pressing food security challenges. The research points to four broad intervention areas where CGIAR can play a key role in achieving this: advancing responsible data sharing, standards, and intermediation; applying artificial intelligence responsibly; partnering to expand digital services to reach the most vulnerable populations; and developing digital trust and digitally-enabled collective action. An action plan is suggested for building a more unified, digitally-enabled CGIAR that will be able to fully develop this role in the sector, noting key capabilities in digital leadership and governance, data management and use, digital skills, engagement with a wider digital ecosystem, unified information infrastructure, and digital innovation strategy and management in support of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.