Frontier tech to hit $3.2T, but equal access a challenge

Dubai - Developing nations face challenges, including existing technological gaps, low economic diversification and weak financing mechanism

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By Alvin R. Cabral

Published: Fri 26 Feb 2021, 8:43 PM

Last updated: Fri 26 Feb 2021, 8:44 PM

Frontier technologies, which are already the biggest innovators in recent memory, will play an even bigger role in a post-Covid world and will see its value spike in the near future.

The latest study from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) shows that by 2025, these technologies — 11 in total — will see its cumulative market spurt to over $3.2 trillion globally by 2025.

These innovations are artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, Big Data, blockchain, 3D printing, robotics, drones, gene editing, 5G, nanotechnology and solar photovoltaics. However, Unctad pointed out that while only a handful of nations are currently creating these frontier tech, all countries must be prepared to use them.

“The report also calls for strengthened international cooperation,” Antonio Gutierres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, said in an accompanying statement to the report.

He stressed building innovation capacities in developing countries, facilitating tech transfer, increasing women’s participation in digital sectors, conducting technological assessments and promoting in inclusive debate on the impact of frontier technologies on sustainable development as critical to this endeavour.

Technology and Innovation Report 2021 also pointed out the gap between countries when catching tech waves, calling for more access to innovation.

In terms of readiness, Unctad ranked economies in North America as the best, with sub-Saharan Africa at the bottom.

Developing nations also face specific challenges, including existing technological gaps, low economic diversification and weak financing mechanisms.

The report also sought to highlight the way technology has also impacted inequalities through its effects on jobs, wages and profits. To benefit from frontier technologies, it said, countries need to promote their use, adoption and adaptation, while addressing their potential adverse effects.

“All countries will need to pursue science, technology and innovation policies appropriate to their development stage and economic, social and environmental conditions,” Gutierres said. “New technologies hold the promise of the future, from climate action and better health to more democratic and inclusive societies.”


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