Karishma Banga (Senior Research Officer, ODI)
The digital economy is here, and is rapidly growing, ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Though definitions have evolved over time, it is broadly agreed that the digital economy describes a worldwide network of economic and social activities enabled by digital technologies, including mobile and communication networks, ‘Cloud Computing’, Artificial Intelligence, ‘Machine Learning’, ‘Internet of Things’ and ‘Big Data’. Such new and cutting-edge technologies have led to creation of ‘smart machines’, such as driverless vehicles and cognitive robots, as well as widespread adoption of ‘smart platforms’ like Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alibaba. Digitalisation of the economy, through the increasing use of digital technologies, is changing the global landscape of manufacturing, presenting both challenges and opportunities in less-developed countries. Often an alarmist approach is taken while discussing the future of manufacturing-led development in African economies, which have traditionally used manufacturing as a first step towards economic transformation and employment generation.