The Internet and other digital technologies have dramatically changed the world as we knew it just ten years ago. Information and data are being produced, shared, and consumed at prodigious rates, and people are connected in previously unthinkable ways. Digital economies are rapidly replacing traditional modes of production and exchange. Nutrition is no exception, with the proliferation of “food techs”, “agri techs”, “edu techs”, “fin techs” and even “gov techs” covering a broad spectrum of agriculture-, food systems- and nutrition-related activities. The potential benefits may be vast, and so may be the dangers. We are only now starting to grasp the scale of change this new digital world is bringing.
The benefit-risk duality can be exemplified with digital influence in food consumption. On one hand, educational games and web- or media-based digital nutrition education tools have shown potential to improve nutrition literacy and encourage healthier eating practices. On the other, digital marketing is shaping a digital food environment that promotes overconsumption of foods high in salt, sugar, unhealthy fats and additives, which is very challenging to address.
The reach and impacts of the digital world in nutrition, however, go far beyond demand side and food consumption issues. Digital processes and technologies are reshaping almost every industry and human activity, and the implications of such changes for health and nutrition are not yet sufficiently investigated, let alone understood. Increasing digital competence, overcoming the digital divide generated by inequalities, as well as the impacts of automation on the job market, have become major development challenges. The digital world potentially affects not only underlying and immediate causes of malnutrition in all its forms, but also its root causes, and our ability to address them.
The UNSCN Nutrition 45 aims at better documenting and sharing experiences, enhancing knowledge and promoting the debate on potential positive and adverse impacts of innovative digital technologies in people’s nutrition. It is also expected that it will contribute to the ongoing debate on establishing an international Digital Council for Food and Agriculture that will advise governments and other relevant actors, drive the exchange of ideas and experiences, foster innovation and help harness the opportunities presented by digitalization.
There is an intrinsic complexity in the digital world given its fluidity and speed of change that makes it difficult to grasp in its full extension and potential. This Call for Contributions welcomes conceptual thinking and academically rigorous examples of how the digital world is affecting people’s nutrition along, but not limited to, the following perspectives:
- What are examples of use of digital technologies that are changing nutrition action and food systems for more sustainability and improved nutrition?
- What are some specific examples on how digital technologies are changing food environments for the good or for the bad? How can the potential of digital technologies be leveraged to improve food environments?
- What has been the impact of digital technologies on food literacy and consumption practices? What examples are there of digital literacy and training on food and nutrition issues?
- How do digital technologies influence the quality and accuracy of available nutrition information? How can we best communicate nutrition in the post-truth age where there is an overload of information from multiple and varied sources?
- How is digital technology changing our relationship with food and affecting food cultures and traditions around the world?
- How are digital technologies affecting food production, biodiversity, food transformation and food distribution?
- How does digital technologies impact inequalities? Are they deepening the divide? Or, are they expanding access to information, goods and services?
- What is the potential of digital technologies in addressing the root causes of malnutrition in all its forms?
- Are digital technologies facilitating the design and implementation of nutrition-related activities within new development paradigms, such as shared and participatory economies?
- Are digital technologies influencing financial investments in nutrition? What are the modalities?
- What does innovation in nutrition look like, especially in low- and middle-income countries?
Open until 30 January 2020
Contributions can be submitted on the following categories:*
Feature articles: 3,000 word articles related to the general topic of the publication. The articles will be submitted to peer review and can include conceptual contributions, original research or practical examples.
Speaker's Corner: 1,500 word articles with the authors’ views regarding the perspectives listed above. The section sometimes features a counterpoint by another author holding an opposite opinion to stimulate debate.
Publications: 200 word notes on recent publications of relevance to global nutrition, including manuals, tools and guidelines that are usually not found in regular bookstores. We welcome publications related to the overall topic of this issue of UNSCN Nutrition but not limited to it.
*Please note that at the Secretariat’s discretion, contributions that promote commercial digital products will be considered unsuitable for publication in this issue.
Please submit your contributions by using the UNSCN Publications and Events Manager here. If you encounter difficulties in using the system, please inform the UNSCN Secretariat by sending an email to SCN@fao.org with the title “Publications and Events Manager malfunction”. You will then be assisted in using the system.
For editorial information, please refer to the UNSCN Nutrition Guidelines for Contributors available here.