Poland’s international connectivity – through trade, investment, migration, communications, and transport – is among the highest in Europe, which helps the country’s firms become more productive through knowledge and technology transfers, says a new World Bank report, “Critical Connections: Promoting Economic Growth and Resilience in Europe and Central Asia.”
“Our analysis shows that increased international integration, through a network of connections, facilitates the transfer of technology and ideas between countries, firms, and people – which is essential for boosting long-term growth and shared prosperity,” says David Gould, World Bank Lead Economist for the Europe and Central Asia region and lead-author of the report.
Poland is listed among the most connected countries in Europe, mainly because of its strong infrastructure transport links, which spur international trade of goods and services. During its economic transition, Poland also boosted its links with Germany, the best connected country in Europe. Additionally, Poland leveraged its growing ties to Germany to develop connections with that country’s trading partners and expand trade to broader markets within Europe and beyond.
The new World Bank report measures connectivity by creating a new indicator, the Multidimensional Connectivity (MDC) index, that combines several channels of international connections, including: trade, FDI, migration, information and communication technology (ICT), and transport links. According to the report, the best connected sub-regions are Western Europe, followed by Northern, Central, and Southern Europe. The Western Balkans, Central Asia, and the South Caucasus have the lowest levels of overall connectivity.
“The ‘neighborhood effect’ of bordering Germany has helped Poland integrate into German networks and thus participate in global value chains. At the same time, however, in the case of an economic shock in Germany, Poland would be the most affected country in the European Union due to its high reliance on connectivity with Germany,” says Carlos Piñerúa, World Bank Country Manager for Poland and the Baltic States.
To maximize their exposure to international knowledge flows and benefit from integration, countries should maintain low barriers to international transactions, keep minimal constraints on inward and outward FDI and participate in deep multilateral trade agreements that support integration of services markets. Adopting international best practice for standards governing product markets, worker protections, and the environment would also encourage international connectivity.
EU plans to invest €9.2 billion in key digital technologies
The Digital Europe Programme is a new €9.2 billion funding programme whose goal is to ensure that all Europeans have the skills and the infrastructure needed to meet a full range of digital challenges.
It is part of a strategy to further develop the digital single market, which could help to create four million jobs and boost the EU’s economy with €415 billion every year while increasing the EU’s international competitiveness.
“For too many years, Europe’s tech sector has lagged behind third countries such as the US and China. We need a coherent Union-wide approach and an ambitious investment to secure a solution to the chronic mismatch between the growing demand for the latest technology and the available supply in Europe,” said Austrian ALDE member Angelika Mlinar, one of the MEPs repsonsible for steering the plans through Parliament.
A part of the budget would be allocated to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises and public administrations to use technology more often and better, while other parts will cover strategically important fields such as supercomputers, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.
“We can count on European excellence when it comes to research and innovation, but our businesses, especially SMEs, still found it difficult to access and take advantage of new solutions,” said Milnar. “This programme has been crucially designed to tackle the low take-up of existing testing technologies. We are on track to deliver one of the most promising and necessary funds for Europe’s future.”
UNIDO and Iran to develop ICT value chain
The Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), LI Yong, today met with Javad Azari Jahromi, Minister of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who announced a self-funded project to be implemented by UNIDO within the framework of its 2017-2021 Country Programme.
The US$1 million project will seek to boost the Iranian ICT value chain with the aim of creating local employment opportunities as well as to promote the regional economic integration of Iranian start-ups and SMEs. The project was designed to support the country’s sixth 5-year development programme that places a strategic focus on ICT.
“The partnership between Iran and UNIDO builds on the Organization’s track record in boosting the performance of private sector producers through the promotion of industrial linkages and diversification, including by creating a favourable investment climate and a conducive environment for start-ups and fast-growing organizations,” said Director General LI Yong.
Minister Azari Jahromi added: “Taking into account the rapid progress achieved by the Islamic Republic of Iran in different aspects of ICT during the recent years as well as swelling number of very talented and well-educated specialized Iranian young generation in this field, it is due time to boost our regional cooperation with neighbouring countries. To that end, we intend to develop an effective partnership with UNIDO as the UN agency with the primary mandate to enhance industrial development. I trust that UNIDO’s vast technical expertise and capacities and policy advisory services will ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the aforementioned programme, which at the end will be beneficial for our whole region.”
The current UNIDO-Iran Country Programme covers a range of cooperation areas to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development in the country, including business development and sustainable job creation, the integration of local industries in global production networks and investment promotion, the development of agricultural and industrial value chains and support to meeting commitments under the Montreal Protocol as well as other international agreements for safeguarding the environment.
Harnessing the potential of Industry 4.0 tech to improve e-commerce
“Cutting-edge technologies and institutions can empower manufacturers to customize their products and services to their customers’ needs; as ‘smart’ ecosystems are being established, e-commerce connects smart factories with smart societies,” said Frank van Rompaey, Representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Geneva, at a thematic session on “Industry 4.0 and E-commerce” held during UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week 2019.
Organized by UNIDO, the thematic session explored how Industry 4.0 can enhance e-commerce services and benefits. The panelists touched upon the potential economic and social transformations arising from the Fourth Industrial Revolution; identified applications of Industry 4.0 technologies in e-commerce; and shared best practices, experiences and solutions to enhance consumer experience when engaging with e-commerce.
“E-commerce will be a key driver for both the Fourth Industrial Revolution and seizing the opportunities of the African Free Trade Area,” said Alastair Tempest, CEO at Ecommerce Forum Africa. “The union of e-commerce with Industry 4.0 technologies can address the logistical flow of goods in Africa, promote financial technology solutions, enhance customer service and facilitate the growth of digital businesses.”
Taking the example of Brazil, the CEO of ENEXT Gabriel Lima, said: “Only 2 per cent of Brazil’s industrial sector is prepared for Industry 4.0, but this sector is gaining traction,” pointing to the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the iFood platform to provide customers with customized restaurant recommendations and increase the efficiency of order approvals. “E-commerce is asset light and cheap, and therefore a very good starting point to drive Industry 4.0 development in Brazil as well as globally,” added Lima.
Speaking from a consumer’s perspective, Julien Grollier from CUTS International discussed the risks brought by the Internet of Things for consumers related to personal data protection, digital rights management, competition effects, and liability and responsibility chains. “Consumers must play an active role in policy dialogue formulation, increase awareness of their rights; improve their digital literacy,” said Grollier.
Experiences and lessons learned from the private sector relevant to standardization, digital manufacturing, transparent logistics and information interconnection were also discussed during the session.
The Vice President of Sinopec Europa GmbH, Suoyu Zhang, presented the example of China: “Early adoption of e-commerce has now resulted in inclusive development in most sectors within the country. E-commerce has supported the digitization of enterprises and consumers and led to the implementation of efficient and effective digital supply chains.”
Under the theme “From Digitalization to Development”, UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week emphasized the necessity to break down silos among institutions, government representatives and policy makers for an effective contribution of e-commerce towards sustainable development.
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