Opening access to technology is the key to development

Technology is either perfecting the world or destroying it. There is nothing in between. At least, that’s what I used to hear.

But lately, the tech debate has taken a welcome turn towards pragmatism. Now we ask, what new opportunities does the digital revolution offer? And what are the risks? Perhaps most important is how we think about technology not in isolation, but as part of the economic, political and social context in which we use it.

Answering these questions is especially urgent in developing countries. We are already seeing signs that digital technology is closing off some of the old routes to economic development. In a digitised world, it will be harder to rely, as many east Asian countries did, on unskilled labour and export manufacturing for economic growth. What happens to garment industries when T-shirts can be 3D-printed rather than shipped 10,000 miles?

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