At a time when global food prices are on the rise in the aftermath of the worst months of the pandemic, the APEC App Challenge was held in-person for the first time in two years to address issues impacting the future of sustainable agri-food business.
This year, the challenge focused on the 2022 APEC theme, “Open, Connect, Balance”-which aims to promote long-term growth that is resilient, inclusive, balanced and sustainable. Fourteen teams of developers from APEC member economies assembled in Bangkok on Friday to participate in a 24-hour app development competition.
Their objective was to explore how technology can help farmers and potential entrepreneurs in the Asia-Pacific access knowledge on bio-circular-green (BCG) production techniques, connect with more market opportunities in the BCG economy, and access local and export markets for products that embody this vision for a green economy.
“The APEC App Challenge is a creative way to showcase, in a tangible manner, the positive role that youth and digital technology can play in addressing the region’s challenges,” said Thani Thongphakdi, Thailand’s Chair of the APEC 2022 Senior Officials. “This year’s theme of ‘Digital Solutions for Sustainable Agri-food Business’ embraces the core idea of the BCG economy to advance stronger, greener and more resilient economic growth through the use and sharing of green innovation and digital tools.”
Developer teams were encouraged to think creatively about the challenges faced by local farmers in the region, the opportunities offered by online tools and marketplaces, and the viability of developing and implementing their new product.
The ultimate goal was to come up with solutions that will support producers or potential entrepreneurs of agricultural products, from foods that have a positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition to plant-based protein or plant-based meat, and foods that have distinctive nutritional needs or organic foods.
“This is the first year the APEC App Challenge will tackle issues affecting sustainable agri-food businesses. Thailand is leading the way on this issue, and we asked software developers from across APEC to bring their best ideas to Bangkok to compete,” said John Karr, Senior Director of Digital Media and Technology Programs of The Asia Foundation, which supports the App Challenge this year, alongside APEC 2022 Thailand, the APEC Secretariat and Google.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear how much of a difference innovative digital applications can make,” said Dr Rebecca Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat. “We must provide more room for digital innovation as we emerge from economic challenges. So we must build on the ideas generated here at the App Challenge.”
Each year, the competition centers around a unifying theme. From helping micro, small and medium-sized enterprise owners expand their businesses through cross-border trade to strengthening the role of women entrepreneurs in the regional economy to reviving the tourism sector by promoting a safe and trustworthy travel environment, the theme is reflected in a new mobile or web solution designed and built by young innovators from the Asia-Pacific region.
“Every year, we’re so amazed to see the creative solutions that APEC’s young developers come up with. This speaks to the tremendous talent in the region, and also bodes well for the region’s digital future,” said Michaela Browning, Google’s Vice President, Government and Public Policy for Asia-Pacific. “Digital technologies can play a helpful role in solving important global challenges and helping to foster more inclusive and sustainable growth across APEC.”