New UNCTAD report explores how countries can build digital skills to support sustainable development

14 June, 2019

A new report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), for which Professor Xiaolan Fu was principal consultant, examines how developing countries can build digital competencies to ensure they benefit from frontier technologies in a way that supports sustainable development.

Recent technological changes, particularly driven by the rapid development of information and communications technologies (ICTs), offer the potential to transform economies and improve the living standards of many people.

However, they also have strong potential to disrupt productive sectors and markets, including through technological convergence and recombination.

This study explores ways in which digital skills can be developed and harnessed to ensure that they support sustainable development.

The report comprises the following:

  • Chapter I provides an introduction to technological change and its impact.
  • Chapter II discusses the types of skills that countries need to prepare future workforces for the changing world and to maximize the development opportunities offered by existing and emerging technologies.
  • Chapter III examines the potential of existing and emerging digital technologies in building and enhancing digital skills, particularly in developing countries. The chapter discusses the promise of technologies for education, specifically, massive open online courses (MOOCs), remote learning, and opportunities of open access.
  • Chapter IV focuses on the environment to enable skills development. It addresses aspects of shaping education in school, on-the-job and throughout life, and the importance of developing an enabling environment to support skills development.
  • Chapter V presents key findings and policy considerations that can help countries to develop digital competencies.

UNCTAD (2019) ‘Building Digital Competencies to Benefit from Frontier Technologies’, Geneva: UNCTAD

Xiaolan Fu is Director of the Technology and Management Centre for Development (TMCD) at ODID and Professor of Technology and International Development.