VIENNA, 14 September 2018 – The international community, the United Nations and its specialized agencies in particular, need to work together to ensure that technological progress is accompanied by the necessary structural changes to provide a “voice for the voiceless”. This was one of the points made by Supachai Panitchpakdi, former Director General of the World Trade Organization and Secretary General of UN Conference on Trade and Development, at a special lecture on the topic of Industry 4.0 and structural transformation. The event was organized by the Permanent Mission of Thailand and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) at the Vienna International Center.
The event focused on the global challenges brought by the fourth industrial revolution, which will leave no sectors, disciplines and economies untouched. Drawing on his experience, Panitchpakdi highlighted that some of these challenges will be particularly difficult to meet in developing countries.
Introducing Panitchpakdi, Philippe Scholtès, Managing Director of UNIDO’s Programme Development and Technical Cooperation, said: “The rapid pace of digitalization and exponential technological change puts many countries and their policymakers at risk of being unprepared to address the challenge.”
Exponential technological changes were at the centre of the discussion, as they may further marginalize developing countries. As an example of the speed of this technological change, Panitchpakdi highlighted that WeChat only needed months, rather than years, to build up 50 million customers, whereas the aviation industry needed almost 70 years to achieve that number. More recent examples have undercut WeChat and achieved the 50 million mark within days.
It was agreed that harnessing the potential of Industry 4.0 for inclusive growth can only be achieved when countries move decisively to coherent, tailor-made industrial policies. Panitchpakdi noted that the challenge for governments is to prepare societies for that rapid change and also urged for approaches that do not stifle innovation.
See the event Flickr album here.
For more information, please contact,
Chief, Business Environment, Cluster and Innovation Division
UNIDO Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation (TII)