Are emerging economies already engaging with Industry 4.0 technologies?


By Michele Delera, UNU-MERIT, Carlo Pietrobelli, UNU-MERIT and University Roma Tre, and Elisa Calza and Alejandro Lavopa, UNIDO[1]


There are many controversies among economists but one fact is undisputed: long-run productivity growth depends on the absorption and deployment of new technologies. Some estimates indicate that differences in technology diffusion account for a quarter of cross-country differences in per capita income. In the midst of a new Industrial Revolution driven by artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communication, cloud computing and additive manufacturing, countries’ capacity to catch-up will likely depend on the speed with which they absorb these technologies. The implications for emerging economies are profound. New technologies may undermine the viability of labour-intensive development. Yet they may also open up new ways for developing countries to integrate in the global economy.

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How migrants can best benefit from the use of digital tech


By Tim Unwin, Chairholder, UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, Royal Holloway, University of London


UN agencies, donors, and civil society organisations have invested considerable time, money and effort in finding novel ways through which migrants, and especially refugees, can benefit from the use of digital technologies. Frequently this has been through the development of apps specifically designed to provide them with information, advice and support, both during the migration journey and in their destination countries. All too often, though, these initiatives have been short-lived or have failed to gain much traction. The InfoAid app, for example, launched by Migration Aid in Hungary amid considerable publicity in 2015 to make life easier for migrants travelling to Europe, posted a poignant last entry on its Facebook page in 2017: “InfoAid app for refugees is being rehauled, so no posting at the moment. Hopefully we will be back soon in a new and improved form! Thank you all for your support!”

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In with the old and with the new: Meeting mountain farmers’ technological needs


By Filippo Barbera, Professor of Economic Sociology at University of Turin and member of Forum on Inequality and Diversity


In 53 countries of the world, mountainous areas cover more than 50% of national surface, in another 46, they cover between 25% and 50%. And in many other countries they play key roles, like serving as water reserves. In agriculture, modernisation has whittled away at the scale of assets held by individual farmers or local communities, such as land, labour and local knowledge. The voices of marginal mountain farmers have not been able to find space in this process. However, by combining traditional methods with modern tools and techniques, technology that is place-based and socially embedded can help meet mountain farmers’ needs and make governance more inclusive of mountain areas.

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Developing an Artificial Intelligence for Africa strategy

By François Candelon, Senior Partner & Managing Director at BCG, and Global Director of the BCG Henderson Institute; Hind El Bedraoui, Ambassador at the BCG Henderson Institute; Hamid Maher, Partner and Managing Director   

Africa has a unique opportunity to develop its competitiveness through artificial intelligence (AI). From agriculture and remote health to translating the 2,000-odd languages spoken across the continent, AI can help tackle the economic problems that Africa faces.

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Post-COVID-19 Development and Global Governance: The Emerging Role of Science and Technology

By Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


The current COVID-19 crisis has triggered important discussions highlighting the role of science, technology and innovation (STI). It has also revealed a number of gaps and shortcomings in terms of global governance. In this context, it is worth looking more closely at the specific issue of biological threats post-COVID-19, as well as related challenges in terms of governance.

Today, in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, over 300 scientists are working on 120 efforts for vaccine development across globally convened platforms. Fortunately, internationally and at regional and national levels, there is a consensus on the role of science, technology and innovation (STI). Most OECD countries have stepped up international collaboration to face the crisis, through new programmes and by increasing spending on STI. Regarding non-OECD countries, UNCTAD has emphasised the need for more support to international collaboration in this area: “A global pandemic is a textbook example of a critical problem where the sum of isolated efforts by national governments provides much inferior outcomes than international collaboration. The positive externalities of STI investments in such a situation could be huge and decisive in the effort to ensure that the most vulnerable members of the international community are not left behind”. Other international actors like the G7 Ministers for Science and Technology, UNESCO, The World Academy of Sciences, etc. have also repeatedly acknowledged the crucial role of STI in tackling the crisis, calling for increased co-operation.

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Resetting the state for the post-COVID digital age

By Carlos Santiso, Director for Digital Innovation in Government of the Development Bank of Latin America and Member of the Global Future Council on Transparency and Anticorruption of the World Economic Forum


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


glob-digital-colorsIn Brazil and elsewhere, the coronavirus crisis is accelerating the digital transformation of governments and govtech start-ups are becoming unexpected allies in the race to digital resilience.

Press reset and fast forward

The COVID-19 crisis is putting our global digital resilience to the test. It has revealed the importance of a country’s digital infrastructure as the backbone of the economy, not just as an enabler of the tech economy. Digitally advanced governments, such as Estonia, have been able to put their entire bureaucracies in remote mode in a matter of days, without major disruption. And some early evidence even suggests that their productivity increased during lockdown.

With the crisis, the costs of not going digital have largely surpassed the risks of doing so. Countries and cities lagging behind have realised the necessity to boost their digital resilience and accelerate their digital transformation. Spain, for example, adopted an ambitious plan to inject 70 billion euro into in its digital transformation over the next five years, with a Digital Spain 2025 agenda comprising 10 priorities and 48 measures. In the case of Brazil, the country was already taking steps towards the digital transformation of its public sector before the COVID-19 crisis hit. The crisis is accelerating this transformation.  Continue reading “Resetting the state for the post-COVID digital age”

Least developed countries can become authors of their technological revolution

By Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director of the Enhanced Integrated Framework Executive Secretariat, World Trade Organization and Fabrice Lehmann, Associate, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF)

SIGI-Digital-Human-RightsThe fourth industrial revolution is charting a new and uncertain course for the world economy. Least developed countries must prepare for the opportunities and risks that it brings. It is characterised by the confluence of new technologies, fusing the digital, physical and biological spheres.

Rapid technological change is expected to have a profound impact on economic and social development in countries at all levels of income. Opportunities include harnessing the possibilities of digitalisation for sustainable development and social empowerment. Risks involve marginalisation and a widening chasm between poor nations and their emerging and industrialised partners.

Can countries in the early stages of development reap the benefits and become authors of their technological revolution? Continue reading “Least developed countries can become authors of their technological revolution”

How do Nations Learn? Why Development is First and Foremost About Learning

ForumAfrica2019_Banner_Web 1140x137px_EN

By Dr Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia 


This blog is part of a series marking the upcoming 
19th International Economic Forum on Africa 


Photo-by-Nathan-Dumlao-Unsplash
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Policy makers and academics alike puzzle over why some countries achieve economic ‘growth miracles’ while others lag behind. Of the 100 middle-income economies in 1960, fewer than a dozen transitioned into high-income economies. Economic history and empirical observations show that progress is linked to how nations learn and more specifically to the processes of technological learning, industrial policy, and catch-up. By looking at the cases of Japan, the United States, China and Ethiopia, I argue that commitment to learning by governments and dynamic technological learning by firms are key to economic catch-up. How these and other nations learn can provide valuable insight for African countries.

How did Japan overtake Europe in the mid-20th century?

The key driver of catch-up in Japan was technological learning and an active industrial policy. Japan’s learning experience involved the transfer of skills and knowledge, the importation of equipment and the acquisition of turnkey projects to develop technological capability. Japan also developed industrial infrastructure, including railways and the telegraph, by deploying state-owned enterprises. Continue reading “How do Nations Learn? Why Development is First and Foremost About Learning”

Should firms in developing countries pursue independent R&D or adopt technology to innovate?

By Dai Jianjun and Yang Jianlong, Policy Research and Advice, OECD Development Centre (on secondment from the Development Research Center of the State Council of China)

Research-and-developmentInnovation promotes the global economy’s sustained growth, and innovation in developing countries can be achieved through two main means: independent research and development (R&D) or technology adoption. It is generally believed that developing countries can achieve development at a lower cost and faster by adopting technology. Even though enterprises are subject to certain restrictions in their technology adoption, such as mergers and acquisitions (M&As) that may be rejected due to national security factors, is it still relevant to depend on the adoption of technology for innovation to achieve continuous development?

To help answer this question, two companies in China, Huawei and Lenovo, offer perspectives in analysing different innovation models and their achievements. Both companies are engaged in the information technology industry and were established basically around the same time in the 1980s, experiencing first-hand the process of China’s implementation of the reform and opening-up policy to achieve economic catch-up. Currently, both are Fortune 500 companies, leading in their segmentation and having adopted different innovative approaches. Given the good comparability between the two companies, they offer relevant inspiration and analysis on innovation strategies and performance. How?

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Innovation Driving the City

By Ms. Theresa Mathawaphan and Ms. Yaowarat Kekina, National Innovation Agency (Public Organisation), Thailand


Check out the 28 March 2019 EMnet meeting on
“Global Challenges for Business in Emerging Markets”
with a special focus on Smart Cities in Asia


Bangkok-CyberTech-District-Development
Bangkok CyberTech District Development

Innovation and technology currently play an increasing role in developing the urban city by tackling multiple challenges. Many cities in the ASEAN region have set-up urban development strategies by creating an innovation ecosystem to elevate the area’s economy and investment, reaching a global level. This makes the “innovation city” concept more recognised and used as a new way of driving the development of cities.

Proof of this is the Innovation Cities Index 2018. This report evaluates the city innovation ecosystem capability of 500 cities worldwide, reflecting the vision that a city can grow and be sustainably driven when citizens and corporations are capable of generating innovation. This index measures three main aspects, namely cultural assets, human infrastructure and networked markets, and has a total of 162 indexes. Continue reading “Innovation Driving the City”