CGIAR Gender News

Equitable digital tools can boost small-scale fisher livelihoods

Phone technology Photo: Sayma Islam/WorldFish

Information and communication technologies are supporting fisherwomen’s livelihoods with improved data and increasing their financial independence through mobile banking apps.

While some specific applications of mobile technologies are well understood, their role in governance and development requires further investigation. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTS), such as smart-phones and their applications, cloud storage and data analytics, have the potential to advance human well-being and ecological sustainability, but, if applied incorrectly, they can lead to larger socioeconomic disparities. In low- and middle-income countries, ICTs can be used to assist small-scale fishers and fish workers, but illiteracy and unreliable internet connectivity need to be addressed to ensure marginalised fishers are not left behind.

A report produced by WorldFish and FAO, Information and communication technologies for small-scale fisheries (ICT4SSF), evaluates the opportunities and challenges presented by ICTs in forging a more equitable world, with a focus on fisheries and aquatic foods value chain actors.

The ICT4SSF report reviews six case studies from across the globe to present evidence for how these digital tools might enable and support development outcomes, specifically the UN Sustainable Development Goals and FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines).

The principles of the SSF Guidelines are based on international standards of human rights and responsible fisheries, with particular attention paid to marginalized groups. The most vulnerable people tend to be the least represented in digital data, and the report seeks to understand the influence of ICTs on rural livelihoods.

“I hope this report will be a reference tool for development officers and NGO workers to leverage investment in ICTs to support vulnerable fisheries actors while reinforcing the importance of homegrown, locally relevant ICT design and implementation,” said Alexander Tilley, WorldFish senior scientist and the report’s lead author.

The communities dependent on small-scale fisheries are often characterised as some of the world’s poorest and most marginalised groups, but digital technologies can be leveraged to alleviate obstacles to their inclusion and wellbeing. While small-scale fisheries are already a key source of employment, income and nutrition for many rural communities in low- and middle-income countries, their full potential has yet to be harnessed.