Driving South Asia’s Growth with Services and Digital Platforms

9:15 am
 – 10:30 am

South Asian countries emphasize the manufacturing sector in their economic development plans, but breaking into manufacturing export markets at large scale may be an elusive goal.

How can South Asia unlock the potential of services-led developments through digital technology to drive sustainable growth and shared prosperity in the post-COVID world?

Join our LIVE expert panel to discuss these issues. Submit your questions to [email protected] before the event and be part of the conversation.

Thursday, September 9th | 6:15 AM PT | 9:15 AM EDT | 5:45 PM (Kabul) | 6:15 PM (Male, Islamabad) | 6:45 PM (New Delhi, Colombo) | 7:00 PM (Kathmandu) | 7:15 PM (Dhaka, Thimphu)


South Asia has developed many pockets of modern industries quite successfully, but much of the labor force is still involved in low-productivity small businesses providing to the domestic market. Many national plans emphasize the importance of developing the manufacturing sector. But ICT, business and professional services inputs comprise a growing share of the value added of manufacturing globally, reflecting how knowledge and innovation are increasingly at the core of value creation and thus economic development. Meanwhile, the services provided by e-commerce and other types of digital platforms are helping firms access bigger markets.  How can South Asia better leverage this “servicification” of economic activity to increase the productivity, product quality and global value chain presence of its firms? The post-COVID acceleration in the growth of the digital economy has added to the urgency of better understanding these potential impacts of servicification. Is the service sector an engine of growth, or is its expansion a corollary of growth in South Asia?

Against this backdrop, the World Bank and the South Asia Economic Policy Network invite papers addressing one of the following (or related) questions:

  • How important are services, particularly business and professional services, in the value creation of South Asia, and what will the post-COVID new normal look like in this regard?
  • How are digital platforms affecting South Asia’s firms? What barriers do firms face in using digital platforms, ICT, professional and business services?
  • What is the impact of the transition from manufacturing to services amid digitization on growth and productivity in South Asia?
  • What reforms in trade, FDI and regulatory policies are needed to enable South Asian firms to benefit from servicification and digital platforms?
  • How is the increasing automation and digitization of production likely to affect South Asia’s structural transformation? Will moving ‘too quickly’ from agriculture to services stunt the acquisition of capabilities that are key to the economic development of South Asia?