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Technology and innovation report 2021 From United Nations Conference on Trade and development

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Economic development experts from the United Nations Conference on Trade and development said today that developing countries must adopt the breakthrough technologies of the fourth industrial revolution, which are also key tools to cope with the new crown pandemic, otherwise they will face greater inequality than before.

Shamika Sirimanne, director of the technology and logistics division of the conference, said that few countries had created the technologies that would drive the fourth industrial revolution – most of them in China and the United States – but that all countries would be affected by the revolution.

She pointed out that almost none of the developing countries studied were prepared to deal with the consequences.

The report released today by UNCTAD covers digitization and all the technologies associated with it. This so-called “fourth industrial revolution” or “cutting-edge technology” includes artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, 5g, 3D printing, robots, UAVs, nanotechnology and solar energy.

Gene editing is another rapidly developing industry. With the rapid development of new vaccines, gene editing has shown its value last year.

UAV assistance

In developing countries, digital tools can be used to monitor groundwater pollution, drones can deliver medical supplies to remote communities, or big data can be used to track diseases, Slimani said.

However, she pointed out, “most of these examples are still at the pilot level, never expanding, and can not benefit the most needy people: the poor. In order to be successful, technology deployment must meet five requirements: availability, affordability, awareness, availability and effective use ability. “

Widening income gap

Sri Manny said that the market value of China’s emerging digital solutions today is estimated at $350 billion. By 2025, the value of a series of digital solutions after COVID-19 will probably exceed $3 trillion – so developing countries need to invest in training and infrastructure as part of this trend.

Most of the fourth industrial revolutions deployed in developed countries have saved labor for intermediate skilled jobs, she says. These countries reward digital skills and capital. In addition, during the new crown pandemic, the market value of the world’s leading digital platforms increased significantly.

Innovation dividend

Mr. Slimani points out that Amazon, apple and Tencent are the biggest earners. “It’s not surprising considering that a few very large companies offer most of the digital solutions we use to deal with all kinds of blockades and travel restrictions,” she said

She also expressed optimism about the potential of developing countries to follow the new wave of digitization, rather than being overwhelmed by it, which played down concerns that increasing automation of the workforce could lead to unemployment in poorer countries.

This is because “not all tasks in the work are automated, and the most important thing is that new products, new tasks, new occupations and new economic activities are created in the whole economy,” Slimani said.

Work polarization

Slimani pointed out that low wages and skills in developing countries, coupled with demographic trends, will not generate an economic incentive to replace manufacturing labor at present.

The expansion of high – and low wage jobs – a phenomenon known as “job polarization” – over the past 20 years has resulted in only a small decline (4% and 6% respectively) in medium skilled jobs in developed and developing countries, according to data from UNCTAD.

As a result, low-income and low-income developing countries are expected to be less exposed to the potential negative effects of AI and robotics on employment polarization, she said.

Nevertheless, it cautions that in the new digital age, there seems to be little sign of a slowdown in fast-growing inequality. Data show that the real per capita income gap between developed and developing countries is US $4749, higher than US $17000 in 1970.

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