Harnessing Emerging Technological Breakthroughs for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

15 January 2016

Effective global partnerships, sufficient financing and close cooperation between Governments and the private sector will be indispensable to harness the evolving global innovation and technology landscape and deliver the policy response required to achieve prosperity for all while preserving the planet, says UNCTAD in its latest Policy Brief.

Leveraging innovation is central for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals agreed by the international community in September 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The expansion of the digital revolution into production processes, exemplified by what some have come to call the fourth industrial revolution, promises far-reaching development benefits, but also poses new challenges to inclusiveness.

Achieving the Goals will require realizing the potential of these new innovations not only for transforming economies, tackling vulnerability and building resilience (Goal 9), but also for attaining economic growth and decent work (Goal 8) and reducing inequality (Goal 10).

To harness these benefits, a strengthened and revitalized global partnership (Goal 17) will be crucial, supported by policies that address a host of emerging issues, from translating innovation into investment to safeguarding universal benefits from productivity growth.

Key points:

  • Expanding the digital revolution into production promises far-reaching welfare and productivity gains.

  • Robotization in developed countries erodes developing countries’ traditional labour-cost advantages, while robotization in the latter reduces the potential of manufacturing to absorb surplus rural labour, the basis on which industrialization strategies have traditionally relied.

  • Effective innovation policies and stepped-up capital investment can help capture benefits from digitization and tax reform may replace lost fiscal revenue from a robotized workforce.

  • Enhanced social protection for freed labour, and innovation that complements the digital revolution, can help ensure inclusiveness.