The line-up of emerging digital solutions for life after the pandemic is likely to be worth over $3 trillion by 2025, with an estimated market value of $350 billion at present, as per UNCTAD’s Technology and Innovation Report 2021.
The report that evaluates the crucial issue of technological changes and inequalities warns about serious implications for developing countries if the new technological wave overwhelms poorer communities.
The UN economic development experts at United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) suggest that developing countries must adopt ground-breaking technologies that have been a critical tool in tackling the COVID-19, or else face even greater inequalities than before.
“Very few countries create the technologies that drive this revolution most of them are created in China and the US but all countries will be affected by it. Almost none of the developing countries we studied is prepared for the consequences,” says UNCTAD’s head of Division on Technology and Logistics, Shamika Sirimanne.
The findings, which is highlighted in a new UNCTAD report which relates to all things digital and connective, so-called “Industry 4.0” or “frontier technologies”, that include artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, 5G, 3D printing, robotics, drones, nanotechnology and solar energy.
With the accelerated development of the coronavirus vaccine, Gene editing also got into one of the fast-evolving sectors across the globe. In developing countries, digital tools can be used to monitor groundwater contamination, deliver medical supplies to remote communities via drones, or track diseases using big data, said Ms. Sirimanne.
However, most of these facilities remain at the top level, without ever being scaled-up to reach those most in need, the poor. Ms. Sirimanne explained that to be successful, technology deployment must fulfill the five A’s and they are availability, affordability, awareness, accessibility, and the ability for effective use.
“Most Industry 4.0 technologies that are being deployed in developed countries save labor in routine tasks affecting mid-level skill jobs. They reward digital skills and capital,” Ms.Sirimanne stated, pointing to the notable increase in the market value of the world’s leading digital platforms during the pandemic.
Expressing optimism about the potential for developing countries to be carried along with the new wave of digitalization rather than be deluged by it, the UNCTAD economist downplayed concerns that increasing workforce automation risked putting people in poorer countries out of a job. This is because not all tasks in a job are automated, and, most importantly that new products, tasks, professions, and economic activities are created throughout the economy.