Digitalization Challenges, Opportunities
- The UN Conference on Trade and
Development (UNCTAD) released a report that cautions that, while digitalization
and information and communications technologies (ICTs) are helping a growing
number of small businesses and entrepreneurs in developing countries to connect
with global markets and create new income streams, they also bring the risk of
widening income inequalities.
- Digitalization, Trade and Development’,
explains that the digital economy is expanding fast in the global South,
especially in developing economies like China and India, with digitalization fueling the
rise of 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of things,
cloud computing and big data and automation. The report (‘Information Economy
Report 2017) also highlights growing disparities in
internet and digital access, observing that only 16% of individuals in LDCs use
the internet and only 4% of the world’s 3D printers are used in Africa and
- However, the UNCTAD report cautions,
productivity gains from digitalization generally accrue to a few, already
wealthy and skilled individuals. The publication explains that “winner-takes-all”
typical in Internet platform-based economies, as network effects benefit first
movers and standard setters. Within this context, the report
identifies a series of development challenges:
- only 16% of individuals in least developed countries (LDCs) use the Internet, which is far from the target of universal access to the internet for these countries set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
- the urban–rural divide is enormous, with 3G networks covering 89% of urban areas but only 29% of rural areas, and an even wider gap in low-income countries;
- the Internet gender divide is most pronounced in developing countries;
- in LDCs, e-commerce use is below 2% of population, compared with more than 50% in many developed countries;
- only 4% of the world’s 3D printers are used in Africa and Latin America; and
- in Africa, less than 40% of countries adopted data privacy legislation, while in Oceania, only the Cook Islands has such legislation.
- while recognizing the transformational
power of digitalization, UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi
stressed that “the Internet is not a panacea.” He recommended setting in place
national and international policies that ensure that the gains are spread
evenly across as well as within countries.
Click http://sdg.iisd.org/news/unctad-report-looks-at-digitalization-challenges-opportunities/ link to open resource.