Nutrition in a digital world
This publication (PDF) by the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN) examines the complexity of the digital world for improved nutrition from a range of food-system perspectives: from food production, transformation and distribution to digital food marketing and retail; from behavioural change and capacity-building, to the generation, processing and use of data; and from the protection of vulnerable groups to issues of inequality and human rights. Digital technology cannot fix the world’s food and nutrition problems. However, digital technologies are important tools. The potential of digital technologies to improve nutrition is considerable, but so are the risks that these technologies might entail. The digitalization risks include increased inequality due to unequal access to digital technologies and digital literacy, cybersecurity breaches and ethical and human rights concerns about data privacy and ownership. Another hurdle is infrastructure, both physical and in policy, which disproportiantely effects middle-income countries. In addition, current methods and tools are not foolproof. Limitations of tools need to be considered as technologies improve. Concerning nutrition, knowledge gaps and varying degrees of digital literacy deepen the digital divide. Political, regulatory and budgetary support are often lacking. Digital channels are increasingly used to disseminate nutrition messages to bring about behavioural change. These channels facilitate greater, faster and cheaper audience reach, but widely shared misinformation and disinformation on food and nutrition is a major concern. Furthermore, the fact that digital technology does not replace human interaction and impact of automation on employment have become major development challenges. Therefore, the potential of digital technologies to improve nutrition must be analysed. In conclusion, potential benefits and adverse impacts of innovative digital technologies in helping to achieve sustainable healthy diets and progressively realize the right to adequate food.