Catching technological waves
The great divides between countries
Human development has been spurred by changes in technology. But so has inequality. Today’s staggering inequalities began to appear with the industrial revolution. The pace of technological change is accelerating due to digitalization and frontier technologies. New technologies can have severe downsides if they outpace a society’s ability to adapt.
Every spurt of progress has been associated with sharper inequality between countries.
Between 1820 and 2002, the contribution of between-country inequality to global inequality rose from 28% to 85%. The outcomes for one generation have affected the opportunities for the next – resulting in intergenerational transmission of inequalities.
Inequality between countries
Inequality within countries
The Technology and Innovation Report 2021 critically examines the possibility of frontier technologies such as AI, robotics and gene-editing widening existing inequalities and creating new ones. Frontier technologies are essential for sustainable development, but they also could accentuate initial inequalities. It is up to policymakers to reduce this risk and make frontier technologies contribute to increasing equality. Low-and middle-income developing countries and the least developing countries cannot afford to miss the new wave of rapid technological change.