Image Cover
Image Cover

The post-pandemic world will be digital: implications of 4IR for developing countries

  • General Information
  • Background
  • Key messages
  • When: 1 December 2021 at 1:50 – 2:50 p.m. (CET)

    Where: The event will be hosted on Zoom and will be accessible to all interested participants via a dedicated link. Participants registered for the Conference will receive a direct link. Those not registered to the General Conference who wish to participate in this event are requested to click here.

    Target participants: The session will be virtual and public, and expected audience include all participants in the UNIDO General Conference (170 Member States).  

    registration button

  • The emergence and diffusion of advanced digital production (ADP) technologies—artificial intelligence, big data analytics, cloud computing, Internet of Things , advanced robotics and additive manufacturing, among others—is radically altering the nature of manufacturing production, increasingly blurring the boundaries between physical and digital production systems. Under the right conditions, the adoption of these technologies by developing countries can foster inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID) and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

    The creation and diffusion of ADP technologies, however, remains concentrated globally, with only weak development in most emerging economies. The Industrial Development Report (IDR) 2020 finds that 10 economies—the frontrunners—account for 90 percent of all global patents and 70 percent of all exports directly associated with these technologies. Another 40 economies—the followers—actively engage in these technologies, though with much more modest intensity. The rest of the world either shows very little activity or fails to take part in the global creation and use of these technologies.

    Greater engagement with these technologies is associated with higher rates of growth in manufacturing value added (MVA), driven mainly by faster productivity gains.  New technologies are at the core of successful ISID. They enable the creation of new goods, which leads to the emergence of new industries. Moreover, they support an increase in production efficiency, which brings prices down and opens consumption to the mass market —or increases profits, with possible follow-on effects for investment.

    Recent technological breakthroughs seem to be pushing yet another wave, in what is commonly called the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). The concept is based on the growing convergence of different emerging technology domains—digital production technologies, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies and new materials. The shift to smart manufacturing production is expected to leave a long-lasting mark on the industrial landscape.

    While the frontrunners and followers are in a position to integrate themselves further the 4IR, the developing world continue to face challenges to transition to this new industrial model. The vast majority of developing countries are far from becoming established players in this field because they face specific challenges in engaging with the new technologies.

    • The Fourth Industrial Revolution has a key role to play in enabling sustainable and inclusive industrial development. Innovation and digital transformation are not only a source of quality employment and the backbone of any knowledge-based economy, but they also enable vulnerable groups (women, youth, MSMEs, LDCs, MICs and SIDs, among others) to increase their participation in productive activities and develop and implement innovative and more sustainable solutions to today´s challenges.
    • In order to achieve an inclusive and sustainable digital transformation, four enabling elements are necessary: innovation, digital infrastructure, digital skills, and digital cooperation. Without addressing these critical factors on a large scale, it will be impossible to achieve the sort of transformational effect we aim for through digital technology upscaling and capacity building.
    • Under the guidance of its Member States, UNIDO is developing a Strategic Framework for the Fourth Industrial Revolution aimed at mainstreaming a digital, gender-responsive, sustainable transformation and scaling up digital capabilities in its Member States.