by Mia Mikic

Digital transformation is happening in every sector and every economy, but at a very different pace and not taking the same path.  We assume they will converge taking part in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), build smart economies and a better future for all.

4IR is defined by advances in frontier technologies (such as AI, robotics, 3D printing, IoT, big data). These technologies offer a multitude of opportunities. In the economic area they are expected to bring higher and more of growth, productivity, innovation and job creation.  In terms of social impact, 4IR could transform public services delivery, reduce inequality and support inclusion. It may prove to be the last hope for the environment by offering evidence-based, real-time and pre-emptive solutions for ecological problems.  

However, there are challenges which may well slow down or divert societies to partake in 4IR. These challenges come in a form of digital divide, uncertainties about future jobs and work, ethical issues including security considerations.

To overcome these challenges, we need responsible policies in the following areas: ensuring inclusive ICT infrastructure; developing “fit-for-future” workforce; developing innovative regulatory frameworks; incentivizing responsible development of frontier technologies in the private sector; identifying the role; and encouraging multi-stakeholder dialogue, regional and multilateral cooperation.

One activity which is already undergoing wide-spread changes under 4IR is international trade. In addition to ordinary trade in goods and services, trade increasingly covers transmission of knowledge, and ideas in many different forms of data flows. International trade of future will be different not only because of how technology will change production but even more so due to consumption changes as consumers move from goods and services to experiences; from ownership to access and from anonymous to tailored and personalized demand. To enable solid digital environment for trade, a dramatic change in regulatory frameworks would be most likely needed sooner rather than later.