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This report considers how digital technologies can be used to support agricultural policies within different stages of the policy cycle, with a particular focus on policies to improve agricultural sustainability.

Analysis in this report draws on the relevant literature, expert interviews, the ten in-depth illustrative case studies (Part IV) and the results of a detailed questionnaire sent to OECD members on the use of digital technologies by agencies responsible for designing, implementing and monitoring agri-environmental policies (Annexes A and B).

Chapter 1 provides an overview of the report’s findings and policy recommendations.

Part I (Chapter 2) describes recent advances in digital technologies which are the focus of this report, and discusses the drivers of digitalisation in the agriculture sector.

Part II (Chapters 3 and 4) provides an overview of the opportunities of new technologies for better decision-making, policy design and monitoring. It provides a conceptual framework for analysing how digital technologies create opportunities for better agricultural policies. Using the example of agri-environmental policies as a subset of agricultural policies more generally, Chapter 3 then discusses the potential for digital technologies to improve policies within all components of the “policy cycle”, and how technologies can enable new policy approaches which were previously unfeasible. Chapter 4 discusses the challenges to successful uptake of technologies by policy-makers and programme administrators and provides practical guidance in addressing them.

With a view to ensuring that the use of digital technologies to support policies is well-integrated with the use of these technologies in the broader agriculture and food context, Part III (Chapter 5) provides a high-level overview of the benefits of digital technologies for agriculture and considers the governance and regulatory environment needed to enable the use of data and digital technologies, for policy-making but also for other purposes, while addressing risks. Chapter 5 briefly discusses several issues related to digitalisation of the agriculture sector which are relevant beyond the sphere of using digital tools to improve policy. The OECD is pursuing further work on some of these matters, in particular, on regulatory aspects relating to data governance in agriculture.

Part IV brings together ten case studies developed as background for the rest of the report. Their purpose is illustrative rather than comparative. The case studies focus on different types of digital technologies, and how they are used or managed by public authorities, sometimes in co-operation with the research and private sectors. Together they highlight the diversity of use of technologies for policymaking and implementation, as well as illustrating potential roles for governments in the development of a data infrastructure. The case studies were taken from six countries and regions: Australia (2), the European Union (1) Estonia (1), the Netherlands (2), New-Zealand (1), and the United-States (3). The country and region coverage was not intended to be comprehensive across all OECD countries; the overall selection was based on judgement by the OECD Secretariat and guided by the objective to include a diverse range of relevant examples. The intent is not to provide a systemic review of public bodies’ initiatives in relation to the use of digital technologies for the design and implementation of agri-environmental policies; this more systematic view was obtained via the use of a Questionnaire designed for this (Annex A). For comparative results, please consult the questionnaire analysis.

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