Philip Jennings on BBC Radio 4

Philip Jennings on BBC Radio 4

How will digitalisation affect the developing countries? Listen to the BBC Radio 4 debate featuring Philip Jennings with a range global and national experts from Kenya, Tunisia, Indonesia & India

Philip Jennings offers the labour perspective in this interesting BBC Radio 4 debate about robotisation, digitalisation and disruption in the developing countries.

The discussants mention the growing importance of new digital skills, the unacceptable high youth unemployment despite good levels of education, the potential polarisation of work, and the potential disruption of jobs and tasks by robots. 

Yet, Deepak Mishra responsible for the World Develop Report 2016 titled "Digital Dividends" describes a slow uptake of digital technologies in the developing countries and explains that persistent low wages and plentiful labour supply in some sectors is offsetting digital investments. 

He explains: "Go to an Amazon fulfilment centre in Bangalore and you won't find a single robot. Go to one in Phoenix and you won't find a single human."

The world is simply not prepared for the scope of the change that we are seeing

Philip Jennings, UNI

In Kenya, digital technologies in the banking sector, Mobile Money, have increased inclusion of the Kenyan people enabling many more citizens to have a bank account. New online markets have allowed farmers to take home better profits by eliminating third party services and trading directly via the web.

Jennings comments on the developments and cautions:  

"We have to be worried when half of all jobs in the US are susceptible to automation and more than two-thirds in Africa and Asia are. 3D-printing will have a significant impact too but not necessarily for the better for the developing world. The lower costs will mean that multinationals will want the products printed closer to home. The low-wage premium will disappear. With over 60% of the world's population without access to the internet, you can just imagine the investments needed. Countries must invest in the digital infrastructure, in education, in vocational training and in human capital. UNI is trying to have a much more nuanced debate about digitalisation. The world is simply not prepared for the scope of the change that we are seeing"