Background paper

Technology Forward Scan

Buston, O., Fenech, M., Strukelj, N. (2018). Technology Forward Scan: future applications for digital technology in low and middle income countries. Pathways for Prosperity Commission Background Paper Series; no. 14. Oxford, United Kingdom

This report examines the future opportunities and risks of set of emerging technologies when they are deployed in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Based on our review and interviews with technology experts in a dozen countries, we explore the potential impact of the following seven emerging technologies by 2040:

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

2. Internet of Things (IoT)

3. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

4. Drone technology

5. Blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies

6. Quantum computing

7. Brain-computer interfaces

We also review how established ‘infrastructure’ technologies (data storage, and network connectivity) may change to allow advances in other technologies to be made. For each of these technologies, we discuss the potential applications in three areas: inclusive economy; human development; and quality government. Our conclusion includes a ranking of the impact of potential applications of each technology according to current stage of development, from those that are already being piloted, to those that are at initial experimental stages, to those that are purely speculative. We also make recommendations for policymakers based on some of the overarching challenges that stand in the way of the application of these emerging technologies, and urge them to keep sight of the people who the technology was designed to help, and their needs.