• Digital twins – virtual representations of real-world objects or systems – allow manufacturers to run tests and learn as if they are testing in a real-world scenario.
  • Manufacturers currently focus much of their use of digital twins on improving production processes or sustainability.
  • As digital twins mature, manufacturers should incorporate production and sustainability metrics into a single digital twin to obtain the full benefits of the model.

Although not a new technology, digital twins – virtual representations of real-world objects or systems – are crucial in bolstering the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Ranging in scale from a car to a city, constant real-time data and feedback loops ensure digital twins are accurate virtual representations. This allows manufacturers to use them and learn as if they are testing in the real world.

Currently, manufacturers take advantage of digital twins for a wide variety of purposes with the most common focusing on improving the production process or sustainability. Production digital twins can improve manufacturing through cost savings and improved efficiency. These often have positive yet overlooked side effects. The newly efficient operations tend to reduce energy and water consumption, waste and emissions, leading to a smaller environmental footprint. Similarly, while not the primary goal, sustainability-focused digital twins can lead to cost savings and improve efficiency.

Viewing production digital twins and sustainability-focused digital twins as separate entities is a missed opportunity for manufacturers. Failing to incorporate all aspects of production creates an incomplete model. As digital twins mature, manufacturers should incorporate production and sustainability metrics into a single digital twin to obtain the full benefits of the model.

What is a digital twin?

A digital twin can be described as an information mirror model or an exact 3D virtual representation of real-world systems. Digital twins often simulate how a “twin” will fare in a wide range of scenarios, identify operation bottlenecks and compare expected results with real-time production.

Digital twins receive data from various sensors monitoring the real-world twin. In a manufacturing setting, for example, sensors can measure a wide range of information, such as performance outputs (number of holes drilled, energy consumed and so forth) or environmental information (weather conditions, for example). This information is then analysed with the help of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

The beauty of the digital twin system is it allows for continuous improvement: the real twin feeds data to the digital twin, and the digital twin identifies areas for improvement and provides solutions. These suggestions are adapted and the cycle begins again. The Hitachi Digital Twin Solution is a prime example: a digital twin is created for each machine at its manufacturing site and receives a constant flow of data. The digital twin allows the factory to identify problems early and often, preventing more significant issues from arising.

Another adaptor of the digital twin is the automotive industry. BMW has digitized many of its factories and created the BMW iFACTORY, a digital tool that looks similar to Google Street ViewAccording to BMW, this digital twin promotes international collaboration between factories. The production team uses the BMW iFactory to visit any factory worldwide to gain quantitative data from the factory floor and compare best practices.

Digital twins in manufacturing: production vs sustainability

Many manufacturers worldwide use digital twins to improve production efficiency. A recent white paper by the World Economic Forum’s Global Lighthouse Network (GLN) highlights factories leading the way in digital transformations. Many of these factories emphasize process-focused digital twins as critical enablers for success.

One example is the LG Electronics factory in Changwon, Korea. The factory transformed its assembly line visual simulation tool into a digital twin by continuously integrating real-time production data into the system with updates occurring every 30 seconds. As a result, they improved productivity by 17%, product quality by 70%, and reduced energy consumption by 30%.

Another example is Procter & Gamble’s factory in Guangzhou, China. The factory employed a digital twin to improve warehouse operations. Within a three-year period, the digital twin led to 99.9% of deliveries on time, a 30% reduction in inventory and a 15% reduction in logistic costs.

These examples and many other production digital twins have overlooked sustainability as a side effect. The newly efficient operation reduces energy consumption and waste, leading to a smaller environmental footprint. As mentioned above, the LG Electronics factory minimized energy consumption by 30%, while the Procter and Gamble factory reduced inventory by 30%. These mark a drastic reduction in resource consumption, making its processes more sustainable.

In an interview with the World Economic Forum in 2022, Peter Herweck, the CEO of Schneider Electric, stated: “Effectively integrated digitalization and sustainability drive deeper, broader change when they are aligned.”

Moving forward: a singular digital twin

How Western Digital achieved a major sustainability impact Image: World Economic Forum Global Lighthouse Network 2022

Although small in numbers, the dual-focused digital twin is not an idea of the future. Western Digital in Penang, Malaysia, has used digital twins to create a “lights-out automation” system. “Lights out manufacturing”, where a system operates without lights, transforms the entire process by integrating sustainability and efficiency goals. While the site has grown with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 43% in the last four years, the lights-out automation has reduced energy consumption by 41%.

Sustainability and production efficiency reinforce one another. Failing to incorporate all aspects into the digital twins model creates an incomplete digital picture and prevents continuous improvement. If sustainability or efficiency is viewed as a byproduct rather than a result, the information is not fed into the model. As a result, it is impossible to build off these insights to facilitate further improvement. As digital twins mature, sustainability and production efficiency should be viewed as integrated components of a complex system or as core components of the industrial metaverse.

Veronique Adenis, Project Fellow, Advanced Manufacturing and Supply Chains, World Economic Forum, contributed to this article.

Each year on 17 May, we dedicate the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) to a specific topic where digital development needs extra attention.

None of them is more urgent than this year’s WTISD theme – bringing the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) into the digital era. More than just an economic opportunity, this is also a moral imperative.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has helped shape the development of numerous technologies over the years – like radio, television, satellites, the Internet, and mobile communications – that have become part of the fabric of our lives. With artificial intelligence (AI) and today’s emerging generative AI, the pace of tech innovation is accelerating yet again.

We must – both as the United Nations agency for digital technologies and as a global society – ensure these technologies are safe and developed responsibly. We also need to bring the benefits of these technologies to everyone, everywhere.

This means looking to the digital future with confidence in who we are, and in what we can do together to bend the arc of tech history towards inclusion. LDCs must not be left behind in our new digital era.

We can no longer define them only by what they lack. Instead, let us define LDCs by what they can be.

Mobilizing partnerships for connectivity

ITU has prioritized LDCs, and so has the fast-growing ITU-led Partner2Connect Digital Coalition. Out of some USD 30 billion mobilized in Partner2Connect pledges so far, more than one third directly targets at least one LDC.

Pledges already received – from governments and companies around the world – show what we can all do, together, to address some of the most unjust digital inequalities. The challenges facing LDCs range from unaffordable Internet access to a digital gender gap that shows no sign of narrowing.

Of course, these issues are too big for any one player to face alone. Partner2Connect needs more players and champions; partners who think big and are bold.

Our next big goal – which I announced at ITU Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on WTISD 2023 – is to reach USD 100 billion in pledges in the next three years.

To keep up the momentum, I am calling on the public and private sectors to step up their pledges for universal connectivity and sustainable global digital transformation.

Digital rescue for the SDGs

For both ITU and the wider Partner2Connect digital coalition, success rests on our collective commitment to reach the hardest-to-connect communities, many of which are in LDCs. Doing this goes hand in hand with rescuing the Global Goals – the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.

Today, at the halfway point in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, just over 10 per cent of the original SDG targets remain on track. As of now, the SDGs are failing, and we need to rescue them.

Through game-changing digital technologies, we can mobilize greater action on the SDGs where it matters most.

SDG Digital Day, taking place on 17 September in New York, will put data and digital technologies front and centre during the upcoming SDG Summit.

This is our opportunity to create lasting digital justice, prosperity, and sustainability for all. What we do now will matter for generations to come in LDCs and beyond.

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD), celebrated every 17 May to mark ITU’s establishment in 1865, highlights the benefits of digital technologies and raises awareness about the global digital divide.

The International Trade Centre, a joint UN and WTO agency, with the support of the European Union, helps small businesses from five Central Asian countries sell artisanal products through e-commerce marketplace NOVICA.

(Almaty) E-commerce platform NOVICA launches the Silk Road region Artisan Empowerment Hub and Artisans Connect online store in Central Asia to support small businesses to sell handmade goods online, as part of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project funded by the European Union and implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC).

Access to international marketplaces is not equal across the world, and online platforms play a key role in strengthening the e-commerce ecosystem. With this launch, artisans from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will be able to access new online sales channels to target international customers.

“The European Union’s Ready4Trade Central Asia project is a project of cooperation. We believe that Central Asia will be stronger together, too. The Ready4Trade project supports e-commerce for small businesses in Central Asia. Using NOVICA, Artisan Empowerment Hub businesses of Central Asia will be stronger, better visible internationally and more resilient,” said EU Ambassador, Kestutis Jankauskas.

Onboarding businesses, making sales

The Artisan Empowerment Hub will help manage the complexities of international trade and shipping, while overseeing all aspects of end-customer satisfaction. To start, the Hub will select 40 artisans from the Ready4Trade project, manage their onboarding onto the NOVICA online channels and handle all aspects of showcasing, selling, packaging and express shipping their wares. The Hub provides access to the NOVICA store and other platforms that are not directly accessible to artisans. These include the UNICEF market, Kiva Store, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Road Scholar World Bazaar, and NOVICA stores on Amazon, Overstock and Wayfair.

“The rich arts and handmade jewelry traditions of Central Asia will impassion millions of fairtrade customers,” said Roberto Milk, co-founder and CEO of NOVICA, adding, “We are working hard to help preserve and strengthen the region’s incredible decorative traditions, in which ornate amulets and talismans still rule – and where the jewelry arts are passed down from generation to generation.”

The e-commerce store, Artisans Connect, highlights goods from businesses that have received e-commerce capacity building and one-on-one coaching as part of the four-year project. In Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the project supported 34 trainers and 155 artisans and businesses (of which 98 are women-led). ITC-trained national coaches hosted over 1,200 one-on-one tailored sessions in 28 regions in the three countries.

In addition, 50 artisans and businesses in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan received customized support to adapt to these countries’ e-commerce ecosystems. As of 2022, over $2.5 million in sales were achieved through online channels opened or optimized by the project, in advance of the permanent Artisan Empowerment Hub launch. In Kazakhstan, the capacity building and coaching initiatives were implemented in partnership with QazTrade Center for Trade Policy Development JSC and the Union of Artisans of Kazakhstan.

Building on a strong partnership

“For small businesses to trade more in global markets, connecting to online marketplaces is key,” said ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton. “It’s not only about getting online, but having the skills to attract customers, to package and ship goods, and to engage with customers. With the launch of this Hub and e-commerce store with NOVICA, small firms will have the practical support they need to sell more handmade goods to customers worldwide, quickly and smoothly.”

ITC and NOVICA first signed a memorandum of understanding in 2021 and have since been collaborating closely to improve opportunities for artisans globally. The global handcrafts sector has major growth potential: The market was worth $752.2 billion in 2022. Historically, only the smallest percentage of that global sales figure trickles back to artisans and working conditions for many are abysmal. NOVICA and ITC are working together to tackle these issues.

Notes for the Editor

About the project:

Ready4Trade Central Asia is a four-year EU-funded project implemented by the International Trade Centre in close collaboration with national partners, designed to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade in the countries of the region. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and business support organizations.

Four emerging approaches to national data policies, as data is becoming a key component of the digital economy.

Digital technologies are driving major technological shifts in today’s economy. While the impacts of these shifts were initially confined to areas such as e-commerce, media and entertainment, they are having cross-sectoral economic impacts through the digitalization of productive sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture.

New “Industry 4.0” innovations are reshaping models of industrial organization in manufacturing.

These technological shifts are not only disrupting traditional production processes. In services, the rapid growth of digitally delivered services has led to the emergence of new service sectors, such as finance services and cloud computing. In manufacturing, new “Industry 4.0” innovations associated with robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are reshaping models of industrial organization.1

Use of digital technology by manufacturing firms around the world

Building in Paris, France. (Image: Pierre Châtel-Innocenti via Unsplash)
Note: Analogue/simple mechanization (or rigid production) refers to manual production and/or basic electronic stand-alone machinery with no or only specific use of basic digital technologies (e.g. Internet for emails). Automation (or lean production) refers to automated production with the use of some isolated digital technologies (e.g. design software for product development and manufacturing). Digitally advanced (or smart production) technologies entail the use of interconnected and Internet-based digital production technologies associated with the 4IR. Source: Calza, E. & Lavopa, A. (2022) Digitalization and industrial resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the figure above shows, the implications of these technological shifts are not limited to advanced economies.2 While developing countries are seeing rising numbers of digital users, they don’t seem to be experiencing a similar expansion of digital leaders; these continue to be concentrated in a handful of advanced economies (see the map below). The digital economy has the potential to open up new avenues for technological and industrial development, but technological shifts also threaten to widen the global technological divide, exacerbating structural inequalities.

Economies actively engaging with ADP technologies

Note: The map covers the production and use of ADP technologies, which is concentrated in a few frontrunners.
Source: UNIDO, Industrial Development Report 2020.

Data and the data value chain

Data has emerged as a key component of the digital economy. It is a cornerstone of business models, whether in the form of data-driven scheduling of transportation, the monitoring of production or the monetization of consumer data. Consequently, data policies are key for creating and capturing value in the digital economy.

Data policies are key for creating and capturing value in the digital economy.

While data might be seen as a resource just waiting to be exploited, targeted actions, infrastructure and capabilities are needed if data is to generate value. With the growing complexity of data, it is useful to break down the related processes into an illustrative “data value chain” (see figure below). Based on the data value chain, we can investigate the distinct stages through which data are produced/collected, stored, analysed and used to feed into decision-making processes.

Data has emerged as a key component of the digital economy. It is a cornerstone of business models, whether in the form of data-driven scheduling of transportation, the monitoring of production or the monetization of consumer data. Consequently, data policies are key for creating and capturing value in the digital economy.

Data policies are key for creating and capturing value in the digital economy.
While data might be seen as a resource just waiting to be exploited, targeted actions, infrastructure and capabilities are needed if data is to generate value. With the growing complexity of data, it is useful to break down the related processes into an illustrative “data value chain” (see figure below). Based on the data value chain, we can investigate the distinct stages through which data are produced/collected, stored, analysed and used to feed into decision-making processes.

Simplified data value chain

Simplified data value chain
Source: Authors.

Aligning industrial and digital policies in developing countries

Many countries in the technology race are “digital latecomers” and lag behind the digital cutting edge. This group includes emerging and developing countries, but also parts of Europe.3 While policies to support the technological capability development of latecomer firms are well known, less is known about how industrial policies can be aligned with strategies for the digital economy.

Data policies are increasingly incorporating economic objectives.

The underlying reasons for developing a data policy include, among others, cybersecurity, consumer protection and privacy. Yet data policies are increasingly incorporating economic objectives as well, moving beyond a simple binary of “data blocking” versus “free flow of data” to include a broader range of policy tools along data value chains.4

Each stage within the data value chain entails different costs, activities and capabilities. In the data collection stage, revolving around technologies such as IoT and digitisation of machines, policies supporting data standards, data sharing and government data are important. For storage, instead, where distributed systems and databases are key, requirement will centre more closely on supporting digital infrastructure. The analytics stage necessitates a range of capabilities for data processing, data science and machine learning. The final stage relates to the applications, where businesses and service integration will be crucial. Hence, the distinct skills, technological requirements and data policies implemented in latecomer economies will depend on their stage in the data value chain.5

Considering data pathways

National data policies continue to evolve, but we are beginning to see some coherence around four major pathways where governments focus on specific stages within the data value chain.

The first is data sovereignty and localization rules as a foundation for data ecosystems. Several countries are nurturing local data economies by incorporating more targeted industrial policies around data localization and local control. Their efforts are often positioned as digital or data sovereignty. The second is strategic government initiatives to support data economies. Governments in several developing countries are implementing strategies to promote accessibility and use of strategic data as the foundation for building a data economy.

Several countries that are in the information processing and data analytics stage are exploiting opportunities in “low value” data processes. These include activities such as simple analytics, content curation and “clickwork” (routine online tasks). It is not clear, though, whether these low value data activities will serve as a stepping stone to higher tiers in the data value chain.

Finally, some economies are building sector-specific applications linked to data. Policies that drive the adoption of data-rich applications can ultimately lead to new opportunities and demands. The focus here is on data used in key industrial sectors and applications, supported by data capacity-building, industrial data infrastructure and national demonstrators.

These four pathways show that data policies are being integrated into broader sectoral and economic policies, and aligned with broader development goals. These pathways are still emerging, however, and it is not certain whether they will lead to technological catch-up. Yet they provide an important first step for exploring how data policy can be integrated into industrial development strategies going forward.

Data policies are being integrated into broader sectoral and economic policies, and aligned with broader development goals.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the authors based on their experience and on prior research and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNIDO (read more).

46 participants from the Pacific obtained certificates of completion from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) organized course on “Digital Identity for Trade and Development” (DITD) for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Participants that attended the training were from Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Cook Islands.

The course which was delivered remotely from 13 February to 17 March 2023, covered six modules including the Fundamental Concepts of Digital Identity; Data Protection; Digital Identity Usage; Governance; Digital Identity Technology Solutions & Risks; and Digital Trade Agreement.

The course received positive feedback, considering that many countries are seeking to or already progressing their digital identity systems. Participants found the course useful in providing them with the necessary tools to develop their systems, and an opportunity to learn from other countries’ experiences and from experts.

The delivery of the training contributes to the implementation of the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap specifically key priority areas 4 and 6; respectively E-commerce related laws are made or amended based on UNCITRAL model laws as best international standard, plus other best international practices and Digital skills are enhanced for all.

More on: UNCTAD Digital Economy in Small Island Developing States

In March, the ECA Office in North Africa and the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Morocco (AFEM) held a webinar on “Female entrepreneurship in North Africa: the role of finance and digital skills.” This was the first in the series of policy dialogues towards fostering productive female entrepreneurship in North Africa that the Office will organize in 2023, with the next webinar set for June 7th.

Participants underscored the need to seize new opportunities for encouraging female entrepreneurship to ensure inclusive and resilient crisis recovery in North Africa. One such area is the accelerated digitalization that the Covid-19 pandemic brought about. It underscored the importance of digital skills for women’s effective production, marketing and management as well as for use of digital finance and e-commerce.

The webinar emphasized that given the wide spectrum of constraints that women entrepreneurs face, policymakers, financial sector institutions and development partners need to adopt a multiple-pronged approach to address them. A conducive business environment is important, including stable macroeconomic conditions with monetary policy allowing for adequate supply of credit to the private sector.

In addition, all stakeholders should join forces to accelerate the shift in mindsets about the so far underutilized contributions of North African women to the formal economy. Women’s paid work (often informal and less paid than men’s), and female-led firms (mostly micro and small enterprises in services) have been hit particularly hard by the multiple crises that have affected North Africa since 2019. This has led to a rise in female unemployment, exceeding 20% in Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and averaging 23.4% for the North Africa region in 2022, up from 20.8% in 2019.

North Africa’s middle-income countries have a low female entrepreneurship rate

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, despite a high prevalence of entrepreneurial intentions, only about 6% of adult female population (ages 18 -64) in Egypt and Morocco were either starting or operating new firms in 2021. This is less than in most other middle-income countries (MICs), but it also reflects that North African MICs have some of the lowest female participation rates in the labour force globally.

One possibility of encouraging female entrepreneurship is promoting family firms. “Our analysis shows that in North African MICs, family enterprises are a particularly promising avenue for bringing more women into the labour market” said Zuzana Brixiova Schwidrowski, Director of the ECA’ North Africa Office. “These enterprises warrant policymakers’ support, which should be supplemented by childcare infrastructure in support of women balancing household and work responsibilities”.

Bringing more women in North African MICs into the labour force is also a key tool for mitigating emerging demographic trends. “We are underestimating how fast North Africa is aging. By 2050, the majority of the population in North Africa will be aged 64 and more. Against the rising old-age dependency ratio, women’s contribution to the economy is going to be critical,” said Senior World Bank Economist Helena Bardasi.

Access to finance is a longstanding key obstacle for female entrepreneurs in North Africa. The subregion’s 18 percentage point gender gap (the largest in the world) limits the growth of women-led businesses and confines them to the informal sector. Moreover, most female entrepreneurs rely on their or family savings rather than borrowing as their main source of capital. While the lack of financial and digital education as well as soft skills contributes, legal constraints also limit women’s borrowing options especially when collateral is required. Other constraints are the traditional gender roles, family duties and limited mobility due to safety concerns.

Changing laws and mindsets will require a set of complementary interventions

“There is no silver bullet”, said H. Bardasi, who explained that governments need to create an enabling environment for female entrepreneurship to reach their potential. Actions would include, for example, introducing regulations that facilitate women’s access to property or amending the requirements imposed in terms of guarantees to secure loans. To ease social constraints such as women’s traditional roles, there will be a need for both top-down and bottom-up approaches to change and opinion leaders and men will have to be included in the conversation to change mentalities.

In her first presentation of the preliminary results of the upcoming, joint ECA-Oxford Economics Africa report on gender-lens investment, Calle Davis, an economist at Oxford Economics Africa, focused on improving access to financing by women-led SMEs and establishing a more gendered entrepreneurship ecosystems.

The AFEM President Leila Doukkali underscored that while availability of funding is a frequently mentioned issue, how female entrepreneurs apply for it is also a part of the challenge. Insufficient financial education is also an obstacle to female entrepreneurship. The reality on the ground is that the changes we are seeking require financial and digital training, she explained.

AFEM vice-president for digital transformation Souad Tarmidi elaborated that digital technologies give women an opportunity to utilize online trade networks. She insisted that ICT training for women needs to be tailored to their needs, and away from stereotypes that surround women in relation to these technologies.

This help should also translate into additional support and mentorship for female owned businesses, whose exit rates in the region are higher than of those run by men, said Ihssane Iraqui a Women in Business Manager at the EBRD offices in Morocco who currently also prepares with the North Africa office a series of EBRD-ECA training workshops for women entrepreneurs.

The webinar on “Female entrepreneurship in North Africa: the role of finance and digital skills” took place on International Women’s Day and as part of the preparations for the 55th Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development of the Economic Commission for Africa (COM2023) scheduled in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) on 15-21 March 2023 under the theme: “Fostering recovery and transformation in Africa to reduce inequalities and vulnerabilities.”

The next webinar on productive female entrepreneurship will take place on June 7, 2023.

Connect to the Economic Commission for Africa YouTube channel to watch the whole webinar on Female entrepreneurship in North Africa: the role of finance and digital skills

A Sub-regional Workshop on cross-border e-commerce for Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was delivered from 8 to 11 May 2023 at the Sabah branch of the WCO Regional Training Centre (RTC) in Malaysia with the support of the Regional Office for Capacity Building for the Asia-Pacific region (ROCB A/P). The objectives of the Workshop were to raise awareness of the WCO tools and initiatives aimed at facilitating and securing cross-border e-commerce and to discuss challenges and possible solutions in this area.

The event was organized with the financial support of the Customs Cooperation Fund of Japan (CCF Japan) and benefitted from the participation of 13 Customs officials from eight ASEAN Members.

Throughout the event, the Workshop facilitators provided detailed explanations of the 16 standards of the WCO Framework of Standards on Cross-Border E-Commerce and the tools available to support their implementation. In addition, the Workshop agenda included discussions on the WCO Immediate Release Guidelines and the tools developed jointly with the UPU, such as the WCO-UPU Postal Customs Guide and the WCO-UPU Guidelines on the exchange of electronic advance data between designated operators and Customs administrations.

The beneficiary Members delivered presentations focusing on the legislative and procedural aspects of handling shipments imported through postal and express courier services. Presentations were delivered also by the Universal Postal Union, the WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Office for the Asia-Pacific region (RILO A/P), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and DHL. These presentations were the basis for lively discussions and valuable exchanges of information on challenges and good practices.

“While we face similar challenges, each of our administrations has strengths and weaknesses with regard to the solutions we apply to address these challenges. Through the workshop we were able to learn from each other and gain knowledge that will support us in improving the legislation and procedures of our countries” said one of the participants at the end of the workshop.

In her closing remarks the Director of the Royal Malaysian Customs Academy (AKMAL), Raizam Binti Setapa Mustapha encouraged the participants to share the knowledge gained and lessons learnt during the workshop within their administrations and confirmed the readiness of the WCO RTC in Malaysia to host similar events in the future.

WTO members on 16 May shared experiences on facilitating digital trade and electronic transactions and discussed what the WTO can do to address this topic. The discussions took place in a dedicated session under the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce.

Singapore presented its experience with the TradeTrust framework, an initiative connecting governments and businesses to a public blockchain to enable safe exchange of electronic trade documents across digital platforms. This framework relies on digitalisation to avoid difficulties in undertaking transactions and to cut costs associated with paper-based trade across borders.

The United Kingdom made a presentation on trade digitalisation, which focussed on utilising digital technologies to improve trade processes and to make trade transactions easier and faster, especially for small business. It noted that trade digitalisation can be promoted by addressing legal, technical and commercial barriers to the digitalisation of paper-based processes.

Brazil presented its experience on implementing electronic “single window” systems for cross-border transactions and the benefits such a system brings. These benefits include achieving a faster clearance time, increasing government revenue, reducing compliance costs and improving the transparency and efficiency of customs procedures.

Several members shared their practices in free trade agreements in areas such as paperless trading, e-payments, e-contracts, e-signatures, e-invoicing and electronic transaction frameworks. They highlighted, in particular, some specific obstacles that hinder digital trade facilitation.

Ambassador Usha Dwarka-Canabady of Mauritius, the facilitator of the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce and the e-commerce moratorium, welcomed members’ exchanges on their national practices, underlining the broad geographical spectrum of the presentations.

A founding member of the Better Than Cash Alliance, the Philippines has paved the path in transitioning to responsible digital payments, providing many key lessons and insights for other countries embarking on a similar journey.

In 2013, digital payments accounted for only 1 percent of total payments by volume in the Philippines. By 2020, the country had surpassed its original target of 20 percent, with digital payments accounting in 2021 for an impressive 30 percent of total payment volume.

This case study examines the success story of the Philippines by diving into the key decisions made by the government and private sector in accelerating the adoption of responsible digital payments, including:

  1. Continuous evaluation of progress against transparent targets
  2. Proactive policymaking to satisfy evolving needs
  3. Institutionalizing data systems and building internal capacity to collect and analyze data

Dr. Felipe Medalla, Governor, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

“Our strong commitment to accelerating responsible payment digitalization over the last decade has helped broaden financial inclusion and participation in an increasingly digital economy for millions of Filipinos, including women. We hope the lessons from our experience in the Philippines can also offer useful insights for other countries on a similar journey.”
Dr. Felipe Medalla, Governor, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

While the Philippines’ path towards responsible and inclusive digitization of payments is unique, other governments can apply the lessons learned, such as fostering a multi-stakeholder approach:

  1. Build consensus across government and private sector champions
  2. Invest in data-driven policymaking
  3. Be intentional about the subject and cadence of tracking

Ruth Goodwin-Groen, MD, Better Than Cash Alliance, speaks about the social promise of digital money.

“The Better Than Cash Alliance celebrates the Government of the Philippines’ and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ leadership of this remarkable responsible payment digitization journey. It is with great pleasure, we share the key lessons and good practices from their ten-year data-driven success story.”
Dr. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director, Better Than Cash Alliance

  • The World Economic Forum and the Government of Malaysia have established the first Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR Malaysia) in the ASEAN region
  • C4IR Malaysia will focus on the digital economy, the energy transition and digital transformation
  • The Prime Minister of Malaysia and the President of the World Economic Forum open the launch event today
  • For more information on C4IR Malaysia and the Forum’s C4IR Network, click here

The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Malaysia (C4IR Malaysia) was officially launched today by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, and the President of the World Economic Forum, Børge Brende.

C4IR Malaysia will play a crucial role in driving the advancement of the digital economy in Malaysia, with a focus on supporting the country’s energy transition and digital transformation. The centre will serve as a public-private platform, bringing together leaders from government, business, civil society, academia and other sectors to advance new partnerships and initiatives that can unlock the value of technology for Malaysia’s economy and society. The centre is hosted by MyDIGITAL, a national initiative aimed at transforming Malaysia into a digitally driven, high-income nation and a regional leader.

This initiative marks a significant milestone in Malaysia’s journey to becoming a global leader in technology governance and innovation. C4IR Malaysia is the first centre in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region as part of the World Economic Forum’s global C4IR Network. With this launch, Malaysia has now joined a community of 18 centres, where new and innovative approaches to technology governance, adoption and scaling are being developed and implemented at the national, regional and international levels.

Anwar Ibrahim, Prime Minister of Malaysia, said: “Malaysia is honored to be part of the global network of Centres for the Fourth Industrial Revolution with the first Centre for 4IR in Southeast Asia. This is a testament to the critical value of Malaysia’s efforts to become an advanced, digitally-driven, high-income nation and a regional digital economy leader fostering innovation, entrepreneurship and collaborations between stakeholders. The Malaysia Centre for 4IR will further strengthen Malaysia’s human-centered policy towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution and contribute towards our target of entering the Top 20 in the Global Innovation Index. We are confident that a resilience-oriented approach will also improve the nation’s People’s Wellbeing Index score and enhance productivity to create inclusive, balanced, responsible and sustainable economic growth.”

Addressing the leaders at the launch, Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum said: “Malaysia’s leadership in the region and commitment to driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution is commendable. Through the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Malaysia, we are excited to work together with the government, business and civil society leaders to unlock the value of technology for the benefit of all Malaysians. This partnership will not only drive transformation but also help build a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient future for Malaysia and the region.”

Following the official launch, C4IR Malaysia hosted two roundtable discussions to address its thematic priorities, inviting leaders from business, government and other sectors to share key priorities and opportunities for the energy transition and digital transformation. These insights will serve as the foundation for C4IR Malaysia’s core initiatives, informing its strategic planning and programme development.

Fabian Bigar, CEO of MyDIGITAL and Head of Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Malaysia said, “MyDIGITAL team is proud to be entrusted with the responsibility of making Centre for 4IR Malaysia a success in achieving its goals. The establishment of the Centre for 4IR Malaysia aligns with and further fortifies our initiatives to catalyse homegrown technology development by enhancing collaborative opportunities among stakeholders to unlock value in 4IR technologies, with a focus on supporting the country’s energy transition and digital transformation.”

From adoption to transformation to regional leadership, C4IR Malaysia is a critical establishment that will help drive the country’s transition to an advanced digital economy. By joining the global ecosystem of technology governance innovators and leaders, C4IR Malaysia is poised to contribute significantly to Malaysia’s economic and social development in the years to come.

The World Economic Forum’s global C4IR Network is a platform for multistakeholder collaboration, bringing together the public and private sectors to maximize technological benefits to society while minimizing the risks associated with 4IR technologies.