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Digital Technologies, Services and the Fourth Industrial Revolutions

Submitted by Jane Drake-Brockman, Christopher Findlay, Yose Rizal Damuri and Sherry Stephenson

 

From 3D printing (3DP) and artificial intelligence (AI), to cloud computing, 5G, and the Internet-of-Things (IoT), digital technologies are prompting radical new business models offered through digital platforms, that promise unparalled productivity gains and global increases in standard-of-living.

Adoption of new technologies is also impacting traditional demand and employment patterns in highly disruptive ways and radically altering the nature of consumer and business transactions. The changes underway raise major questions for traditional domestic regulatory settings and for trade, investment, innovation and industry policies for the digital age. They point to an urgent need for reform of international trade governance especially at multilateral level. Digitally-enabled trade - lets call it e-commerce - is the big global trade growth story. We are on the cusp of a structural revolution, which ushers in the digital age. The trading system needs to get ready fast.

Services are integral to the industry transformations underway and their cross-border tradability is growing as a result. Recent estimates suggest 50% of traded services are already digitally-enabled compared with 15% of traded goods. Just as services are critical inputs into production of both manufactures and services, trade in digitally-enabled services (digitised services or e-services) is dependent on and underpinned by cross-border data flows. These are growing exponentially, now contributing more to global GDP than traded goods flows1.

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