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How can developing countries take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution?

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) now well underway, many developing countries have a golden opportunity to make huge progress over the coming years. However, if the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) want to take full advantage of the 4IR they will need to start laying foundations to get involved sooner rather than later. Technology and education are two major areas where LDCs could benefit from the 4IR, while macro and micro economic and social policies for development are other factors to consider.

Read on as we look at how developing countries can benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Harnessing new technologies

Infrastructure issues often prevent LDCs from taking advantage of the emergence of new technologies, but there are already signs that things are changing.The Swiss-based Cardano Foundation has worked with the Ethiopian government to develop a brand-new cryptocurrency that will help to facilitate secure digital payments.

In addition to allowing for easy payments of energy bills and other utilities, the coin will also be hugely useful to the country’s coffee industry.Blockchain technology has already proved beneficial to coffee merchants in Venezuela and it is hoped it will have the same effect in Ethiopia.

Cardano’s lead developer, Charles Hoskinson, believes that the introduction of the cryptocurrency could be a game-changer for Ethiopia as a whole.

“It has potentially six million users,” he said. “Should this be successful, we will have brought six million people into our space, with a real product that has real demand.

“It’s not just a made-up thing – an aspirational which we hope will acquire customers. It’s a government-sponsored monopoly in that respect.”

Improving education for youngsters

Lots of people take digital literacy for granted, but it’s a very different story in many of the LDCs around the world.Many countries are unable to provide even the most basic education to youngsters, relying heavily on external support from the private sector or charitable organisations. The Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) has done its bit to make a difference by launching a huge digital skills programme in Rwanda.

In conjunction with the World Economic Forum, they have employed 5,000 young Rwandans to provide practical digital literacy training to five million citizens. By using publicly available tools like the best STEM sites for kids and other online resources, they are providing children and adults with valuable knowledge about the wider world.

The DOT also provides support for people to launch sustainable social initiatives that create positive change within their country.Youth leadership programs, digital ambassador schemes and youth business competitions are amongst the other ways that the 4IR is having an impact in Rwanda.

Building powerful partnerships

“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

Those were the words of Charles Darwin and they certainly ring true when it comes to identifying how the LDCs can take advantage of the 4IR. Pro-active governments can undoubtedly help to facilitate this by building partnerships at both national and international level, thus providing a platform for improvements in infrastructure. International organisations such as the International Trade Centre, the World Bank Group and the World Economic Forum can also play their part.

Provision of vital software and hardware resources will help to provide a platform for LDCs to flourish in a manner which is sustainable. While the developed world continues to thunder along a breakneck speed, it is vitally important that the LDCs are not left trailing in their wake. Any entity is only ever as strong as its weakest link, so it is imperative that everyone plays their part to bring the LDCs along for the ride to ensure that planet Earth thrives.

Technology is the way forward

While technology has had some negative impact on manufacturing in the LDCs, the opportunities it provides for development far outweigh these issues.New technologies are expected to have a major influence on the agricultural industry in Africa, potentially fuelling massive financial growth in the sector. With the ability to operate on a much more level playing field, the LDCs could make significant advances over the next few years that would help them catch up with their wealthier counterparts. According to a 2019 report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the 4IR could be the catalyst for real change if organisations pull together.

“If the right investments are made now in Africa’s digital infrastructure, with the right external engagement to foster innovation and support for their government’s adaptability in responding to emerging sectors, Africa could leapfrog into the 4IR the way that China leapfrogged into the twenty-first century,” the report read.

“Africa presents the last untapped and growing market. The continent can and should be viewed as an opportunity to be seized and cultivated by the international and global corporate community.”