Technology and innovation report 2021

Recent developments in frontier technologies, including artificial intelligence, robotics and biotechnology, have shown tremendous potential for sustainable development. Yet, they also risk increasing inequalities by exacerbating and creating new digital divides between the technology haves and have-nots. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed this dichotomy. Technology has been a critical tool for addressing the spread of the disease, but not everyone has equal access to the benefits. It is time to ask how we can take full profit from the current technological revolution to reduce gaps that hold back truly inclusive and sustainable development. The UNCTAD Technology and Innovation Report 2021 examines the likelihood of frontier technologies widening existing inequalities and creating new ones. It also addresses the national and international policies, instruments and institutional reforms that are needed to create a more equal world of opportunity for all, leaving no one behind. The report shows that frontier technologies already represent a $350 billion market, which could grow to $3.2 trillion by 2025. This offers great opportunities for those ready to catch this technological wave. But many countries, especially the least developed and those in sub-Saharan Africa, are unprepared to equitably use, adopt and adapt to the ongoing technological revolution. This could have serious implications for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

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