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Will knowledge systems matter in the Fourth Industrial Revolution? The comment from Beatriz Kira from the Pathways for Prosperity Commission in the UK on our new discussion paper.


Klaus Schwab defines the Fourth Industrial Revolution as ‘the confluence of technological breakthroughs, covering wide-ranging fields such as Artificial Intelligence, robotics, internet of things, nanotechnology, biotechnology, energy storage, and quantum computing.’ It will change economies and societies. Some write that Everyone Must Get Ready For The 4th Industrial Revolution

Together with Maria Malho at Demos Helsinki, Vanesa Weyrauch at Politics and Ideas, Fred Carden of Using Evidence, Andrea Ordoñez at Southern Voice, Luis Carrizo at UNESCO Latin American and the Caribbean Office, and Helvetas we have co-produced a discussion paper State Capability, Policymaking and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: do Knowledge Systems Matter? to identify the key questions we need to ask about the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for policy processes, governance system and the ways knowledge will inform policy decisions. The discussion paper is a concrete step into co-designing a project with partners in different parts of the world. You can find more information here, including the date for a webinar that we are planning in early March.

In the meantime, we have reached out to colleagues in our networks to provide us with a comment and feedback on the paper. 

Today I post the comment from Beatriz Kira. Beatriz is a Senior Policy Research Officer at the Pathways for Prosperity Commission at the University of Oxford where she works with the team responsible for content development, policy analysis, research, and outreach. Prior to joining the University of Oxford, Beatriz worked as a researcher in Brazil, conducting research on a wide variety of topics in the intersection of law and technology, such as privacy and data protection, freedom of expression, regulation of sharing economy platforms, and copyright. She has also acted as a consultant for the Brazilian Competition Authority, providing advice on competition policy and the digital economy.

Here is Beatriz’s comment.

‘This discussion paper explores a pressing question in the developing agenda: what are policy priorities for middle-income countries as they transition to a knowledge economy during the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The issues addressed in the paper are closely related to our work at the Pathways for Prosperity Commission, a two-year commission on inclusive technology headed by Melinda Gates, Sri Mulyani, and Strive Masiyiwa devoted to making frontier technologies work for the benefit of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people

Recent research published by the Commission identified that global discussions about technology policy are often dominated by a small number of countries and lack a more nuanced understanding of the reality facing developing countries. Advancing towards tech-enabled development, thus, requires stimulating research on the impacts of the 4IR in developing contexts. ‘State Capability, Policymaking and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Do Knowledge Systems Matter?’ is a welcome contribution to these efforts, exploring opportunities and concerns in middle-income countries.

As the authors highlight, the 4IR is unique in terms of the breadth of its scope. While the pace of change will undoubtedly bring significant change across a wide range of areas, none of the policy implications associated with ‘job destruction’ from accelerating automation are certain. Governments, citizens, civil society organisations, academics and the private sector all play important roles in identifying opportunities for inclusive growth and determining how the transformation will affect our societies and economies. This is in line with our work at the Commission, which has emphasised that there are pathways that developing countries could adopt for future inclusive growth and jobs for people living in poverty.

Grounded in extensive review of recent literature, the paper discusses the importance of strong capabilities in order to enable the use of technology to address policy problems. Indeed, policymakers are often faced with the need to balance various and sometimes competing interests, but they often lack the capabilities to do so. The report also identifies that many of the issues arising from innovation and technological advances are transnational in nature. Harnessing the potential of new technologies for inclusive growth will be a global endeavour, which may require internationally or regionally coordinated responses.

Overall, the paper provides relevant contributions to the discussion on the changes that the 4IR will bring to bear on the economy, human agency, and knowledge systems. As argued by the authors, developing countries face multiple challenges to get digital ready and to adapt policymaking to cope with emerging technologies. Our work at the Pathways Commission echoes this diagnostic. We believe crafting solutions will be a joint effort, gathering multiple stakeholders to co-design country-level solutions for inclusive growth.’

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