Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are fast embracing the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies and the coronavirus pandemic has fast-tracked the adoption of such technologies. At the same time, the pandemic has adversely impacted the advancements towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While many developed and some developing countries are harnessing the benefits of 4IR technologies to achieve their SDGs, there is a risk that many developing and least developed countries (LDCs) could be left behind.
Given this situation, this paper presents an overview of the status, opportunities and challenges related to 4IR technologies for sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific and draws some lessons for regional cooperation. It presents a comparison of the countries with respect to the adaptation of 4IR, their strengths and the opportunities that they bring to the countries in the region. It presents cross-country examples of enabling policy mechanisms to promote 4IR technology, innovation and its applications for sustainable development; both at the national level and at the regional level. It outlines select initiatives related to facilitating innovation; 4IRbased partnerships/collaborations and transfer of technology.
The paper then presents the key challenges related to innovation, development and transfer of 4IR technologies. These include low research and development spending, digital infrastructure and access gap, regulation and policy gaps, and skill and education gaps. These gaps are more prominent for the developing countries and the LDCs and are accentuated by the barriers related to cross-border technology transfer, investment and trade. To overcome these challenges, the paper makes recommendations on (a) how countries in the region can jointly harness the benefits of 4IR (b) work together to address their common concerns (c) learn from each other’s best practices (d) work together to reduce the digital divide and achieve SDGs and (e) how the Asia-Pacific region can utilize the platforms of South-South cooperation and Triangular cooperation for accelerating the adoption of 4IR technologies. The paper presents a ‘regional roadmap’ to accelerate innovation and transfer of 4IR technologies in Asia-Pacific to achieve SDGs by 2030.
Click here to access the publication on the UN ESCAP website.