Alibaba, UN food agency harness ML to fight hunger

Alibaba Group and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced the launch of “Hunger Map LIVE,” a global hunger monitoring system that uses artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and data analytics to predict and track the magnitude and severity of hunger in over 90 countries in close to real-time.

Hunger Map LIVE brings together streams of publicly available information on food security, nutrition, conflict, weather and a variety of macro-economic data – including from WFP all in one place to show a holistic picture of the food security situation.

The map uses machine learning technology to make informed predictions on food security even in areas where data is currently limited.

Advanced data visualisation tools then convert the resulting analysis of food insecurity at the global, country and subnational levels, and display it on an interactive map.

By having the most up-to-date information on food security on one central platform, WFP, the broader humanitarian community and global leaders can monitor progress and identify negative trends early, ultimately enabling better informed decision-making to improve efficiency in response time and curtailing costs.

“The Hunger MAP LIVE is a visual wake-up call every day, showing us a real-time snapshot of the problem and reminding all of us that we must do more to defeat hunger,” said WFP executive director David Beasley.

Beasley said WPF started this strategic partnership with Alibaba in 2018, recognising the need to continuously explore the latest technologies, newest ideas, and “build lasting synergies with partners to help us reach those furthest behind.” 

Lijun Sun, chairman of Alibaba Foundation, said the launch was only the first step in Alibaba’s efforts to provide their technology and resources to join WFP in the fight against hunger.

“Across the Alibaba Group we have developed a leading technological ecosystem, and by working with the experts from WFP, we can really see it in a new perspective,” Sun said. “This aligns with our vision of using technology to create a better world.”