Alibaba Group and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) will launch a digital map to track food-security issues across the globe, they said Wednesday.
The “Hunger Map LIVE” will leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics to predict and track the magnitude and severity of hunger in close to real time in more than 90 countries, they said.
The map will allow the WFP, humanitarian-aid organizations and global leaders to identify negative trends early and enable better decision-making to improve response times and cut costs.
“The Hunger Map LIVE is a visual wake-up call every day, showing us a real-time snapshot of the problem and reminding all of us that we must do more to defeat hunger,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley, speaking on the sidelines of this year’s UN General Assembly in New York.
The map will bring together publicly available information on food security, nutrition, conflict, weather and macro-economic data to show a holistic picture of the food-security situation, using machine-learning technology to make informed predictions on food security even in areas where data is currently limited, according to a release. Advanced data-visualization tools then display the information on an interactive map at the global, country and subnational levels.
“We are excited to provide our leading technology and resources to join WFP in the journey to fight hunger. Launching Hunger Map LIVE is only the first step,” said Alibaba Partner and Alibaba Foundation Chairman Lijun Sun. “This aligns with our vision of using technology to create a better world.”
The Hunger Map LIVE will launch on Oct. 16, World Food Day. The map will be available for anyone to use.
Arif Husain, WFP’s chief economist, called the map a “global public good,” emphasizing the importance of its real-time capability.
“Food insecurity is usually measured in a static way even though we know that it is dynamic because it changes all the time,” Husain said. “With the application of this technology, the global community has access to daily food insecurity estimates, and that is revolutionary.”
Alibaba and the WFP began their partnership on the map last year, signing an agreement to use advanced technologies to eradicate hunger, one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Among these goals, eliminating hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and developing sustainable agriculture – called the “zero hunger goal” – are priorities for WFP. According to the UN’s The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 report, there are still nearly 821 million people facing starvation and malnutrition.
“We started this strategic partnership with Alibaba in 2018 because we know that in the digital age cooperation with the technology sector is critical,” Beasely said. “We need to continuously explore the latest technologies, newest ideas, and build lasting synergies with partners to help us reach those furthest behind.”
In 2017, Alibaba and WFP worked on a poverty-alleviation project that connected farmers in China’s eastern province of Anhui with consumers through e-commerce. The project allowed the farmers, all of them small and independent growers, to reach a larger addressable market than their local area and obtain better prices for their produce, Alibaba said.