Digital business models, such as fintechs, e-commerce platforms and online marketplaces, became the cornerstone of the economy out of sheer necessity in 2020. Within the space of a few weeks, major cities around the world went into lockdown at the beginning of the year. Social interactions, work and business transactions migrated online en masse.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of video conferences and mobile apps to stay connected with colleagues, family and friends. Companies that had embraced digital technologies were better prepared to cope with the disruptions. More importantly, Covid-19 accelerated the digital transformation in key sectors — and highlighted the need to do so in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.
One of the world’s greatest climate-related challenges is meeting the future demand for food. The pandemic exacerbated the issue of food security and increased poverty levels in developing countries, such as Indonesia. However, the rapid emergence of agriculture technology companies, or agritechs, hold the promise to revolutionise sustainable farming, especially for small farmers. Technology is also enabling the use of climate-smart agricultural measures that can dramatically increase productivity and resilience while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Agritechs in Indonesia are reshaping the agriculture value chain by attracting greater numbers of young people to the sector, which is essential to ensure food security in the future. Companies like TaniHub Group are using technology to improve the agriculture supply chain through the promotion of sustainable practices, improved operational efficiency and waste reduction.
Another example is e-Fishery, which is focused on climate-smart agriculture to increase productivity of fish farming in a sustainable way through the use of internet of things sensors and artificial intelligence. This is still a nascent market and will need to grow. It would benefit from the creation of public–private partnerships that focus on innovative use of data and platforms. The International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank, is using the group’s global reach and knowledge network to identify and invest in companies working on precision farming: companies that develop soil moisture sensors, solar water pumps or rain water harvesting equipment for efficient irrigation.
The World Economic Forum’s Great Reset initiative is calling on the world to rebuild the foundations of our economic and social system. We should look towards a fairer, more sustainable and more resilient future. Countries and companies that promote the adoption of technology that harnesses the power of data will be in a better position to face the challenges of the future.
Lesly Goh is a fellow at Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance and the World Bank's former chief technology officer.