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Some Brief Reflections on Digital Technologies and Economic Development

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 June 2019


Among the many disruptions caused by artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital technologies (including automation, cyberwarfare, surveillance, loss of privacy, fake news, infrastructure vulnerability), the effects on development pathways are likely to be significant and complex. AI will enable low-income countries to leapfrog in several sectors, including e-governance, e-finance, e-health, and e-education. Yet AI will also lead to automation, reducing the demand for labor, especially unskilled labor. Labor-intensive sectors such as apparel will provide fewer jobs, and lower export earnings. Development strategies will need to adjust accordingly.

Roundtable: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Global Affairs
Copyright © Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 2019 

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1 “World Urbanization Prospects 2018: Data Query,” United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division,

2 Vitor Gaspar, David Amaglobeli, Mercedes Garcia-Escribano, Delphine Prady, and Mauricio Soto, Fiscal Policy and Development: Human, Social, and Physical Investments for the SDGs, SDN 19/03, International Monetary Fund, January 23, 2019,; Jeffrey Sachs, Vanessa Fajans-Turner, Taylor Smith, Cara Kennedy-Cuomo, Teresa Parejo, and Siamak Sam Loni, Closing the SDG Budget Gap, Sustainable Development Solutions Network, December 2018,

3 “World Population Prospects 2017: Data Query,” United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division,

4 Ibid.