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UNIDO, EIF and UNTBLDCs highlight potential benefits of Fourth Industrial Revolution for least developed countries

13 December 2021


VIENNA, 13 December 2021 - Least Developed Countries (LDCs) comprise 13% of humanity worldwide, yet they account for just 1.2% of global GDP, according to a new publication released by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in cooperation with the United Nations Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries (UNTBLDCs) and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF).

Propelling LDCs in the Digital Age: A 4IR Perspective for Sustainable Development finds that LDCs are disproportionately affected by a number of global megatrends which are impacting on the achievement of inclusive and sustainable industrial development globally, such the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

In view of these pressing challenges, UNIDO is cooperating closely with policymakers, the private sector, academia and civil society to upscale the capacities of LDCs. This is a particularly urgent concern in view of the upcoming fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5), to be held in Doha, Qatar, 23-27 January 2022, which will elaborate a successor framework to the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPOA), which has guided multilateral development priorities for LDCs for the past decade.

The policy document makes a compelling case that the uptake of new and emerging technology solutions that underpin the 4IR is critical if LDCs are to achieve rapid economic growth that leaves no one behind, and meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while remaining carbon-neutral.

The publication addresses the following key issues for LDCs:

  • Chapter One provides an overview of key issues in subsequent chapters, including digital transformation and Society 5.0; how science, technology and innovation can be critical enablers of achieving the SDGs; and the multidimensional challenges for 4IR in LDCs.
  • Chapter Two provides an overview of approaches that LDCs can take to absorb 4IR technologies, i.e. cluster approaches, technology transfer and diffusion, retrofitting, and innovation districts.
  • Chapter Three highlights the path LDCs could take to become global leaders in the race for climate action by leveraging 4IR technologies.
  • Chapter Four stresses the growth opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through 4IR technology adoption, and the applications of associated technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, drones, the Internet of Things and Big Data, and cloud computing.
  • Chapter Five makes actionable recommendations for LDCs in several areas, i.e. skills development and capacity building; digital transformation at firm level; innovation ecosystems; partnerships, access to finance, investment and infrastructure; and governance, technologies and innovation policies.

Read the publication in full in English here and in French here.

Further to the priorities identified in Propelling LDCs in the Digital Age: A 4IR Perspective for Sustainable Development, UNIDO will lead a dedicated side event at LDC5 from 17:15-18:45 (Doha time) on 25 January 2022, again in cooperation with UNTBLDCs and EIF.

For further information, contact: Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento, Managing Director, Directorate of Digitalization, Technology and Agribusiness, UNIDO. Email: