miércoles, 24 de mayo de 2017

Digital transformation of sectors (II): Farming

Human beings and societies depend on agriculture for its survival. Without this rural activity, we would not have the nourishment needed for our subsistence. Nevertheless, the rural population is decreased year by year puting in risk having the needed workers at hand. The World Bank estimates that while rural population was 2/3 of the world population at the begining of the 60´s in 2015 was less than half of world population.  At the same time, estimates that the global population will rise to more than 9.7 billion in 2050 and exceed 11.2 billion by 2100, which demands and increase in agriculture production.

The dramatic decrease of population in the rural areas while we need more production calls for an automation of the farming activity. It also calls for it the diminishing public budgets dedicated to promote and support agriculural activity, so needed in developed countries due to its excessive costs. For instance, in Europe the agricultural budget has decreased from 70% to 40% since 1980.

The benefits of the application of digital technologies to farming activities was analysed in the report "Precision agriculture and the future of farming in Europe". It contributes both to food security and safety and promote more sustainable  ways of farming. Precision agriculture may also help to completely reshape the social profile of the rural areas, as it eases the working conditions and paves the way to new business models.

However, the barriers to overcome to achieve the automatisation of agriculture are similar but bigger than in urban areas. On one hand, the adoption of broadband is smaller in rural areas. From the 300 million EU citizens living in rural areas, only 25% are covered by fast or ultra-fast broadband, compared to around 70% coverage in urban areas. On the other hand, the lack of digital skills is more acute.  

To sum up, while farming looks an ideal scenario for showcasing the main virtue of computer technologies (enabling doing more with less), there are structural burdens to overcome before unleashing digital transformation in rural areas.

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