ABU DHABI, 5 November 2019 - The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) launched its 2020 Industrial Development Report (IDR) on Industrializing in the digital age at an event held on the sidelines of the eighteenth Session of the UNIDO General Conference.
The emergence and diffusion of advanced digital production (ADP) technologies clustered around the fourth industrial revolution is radically altering the nature of manufacturing production, increasingly blurring the boundaries between physical and digital production systems.
Advances in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing and data analytics generate significant opportunities to accelerate innovation and increase the value-added content of production in manufacturing industries.
Yet the significant requirements of ADP technologies—particularly in terms of digital infrastructure and human capital—are leading some observers to question whether industrialization is still a feasible or even a desirable strategy to achieve economic development.
The 2020 IDR contributes to this debate by presenting fresh quantitative and qualitative evidence on the future of industrialization in the context of a technological paradigm shift. One key finding of the report is that industrialization continues to be the main avenue for successful development. The main findings of the report were presented and discussed with a panel of leading experts in the field of industrial development.
“This report brings an original perspective to the analysis of new technologies and the fourth industrial revolution, and reaffirms the role of industrialization as a driver of development,” said DG LI. “It is precisely through industrialization that countries can build and strengthen the skills and capabilities needed to succeed in the new technological paradigm”, added DDG Kuniyoshi.
The report looks closely at the interconnections that exist between the absorption of ADP technologies, the transformation of productive structures and the role of industrial development driving this process.
This is done in a sequential manner, moving from the broad picture of the global generation and diffusion of new technologies around the world to the specific absorption and exploitation of these technologies at the country and firm level and the policy responses that are being implemented to support this process.
“Full access to quality and affordable power and internet connectivity will be critical for the developing countries,” said Phyllis Wakiaha, CEO of Kenya Association of Manufactures.
According to the report, the impact of ADP technologies on developing countries will ultimately depend on their policy responses. There is no “one-size-fits-all” policy strategy to make the new technologies work for inclusive and sustainable industrial development. Still, IDR 2020 provides some strategic policy directions as the fourth industrial revolution deepens in the coming years.
Three areas that deserve particular attention are: (i) developing framework conditions, in particular digital infrastructure, to embrace the new technologies; (ii) fostering demand and leveraging on ongoing initiatives using ADP technologies; and (iii) strengthening required skills and research capabilities. The report provides several examples of specific policies currently implemented in different countries to address each of these dimensions.
The presentation of these findings stimulated a lively discussion among the members of the panel. The Industrial Development Report series is an established source of reference on industrial development. Earlier editions examined the driving forces of industrial development. They also described the reasons why industrialization is a major engine of economic development and key for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
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UNIDO Research & Industrial Policy Advice Division