Technology and Inequalities (Ch4 in Inequality in Asia and the Pacific in the era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development)
The relationship between technology and inequality is multifaceted. Technology has enhanced productivity, accelerated economic growth, enabled knowledge and information sharing and increased access to basic services. However, it has also been the cause of inequalities. This chapter examines the role of technology across the three facets of inequality discussed in the previous chapters: inequality of outcome; inequality of opportunities; and inequality of impact, which is concerned with the impact of environmental hazards on the most vulnerable.
The chapter starts by underlining that digital connectivity is a core enabler of the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution – a wave of highly disruptive innovations that will bring new big ideas and trigger additional layers of technological innovations that compel a rethink of all traditional responses, as societies, communities and even what it means to be human, is challenged. These future impacts cannot be underestimated. While digital innovation and the spur of the Third Industrial Revolution helped accelerate economic growth through the competitive participation of the Asia-Pacific region in the global supply chain, a number of low-income countries lagged behind and did not benefit equally from the digital revolution. Therefore, as frontier technologies go mainstream, a key policy concern given the speed, scale and depth of the changes ahead, is that the “digital divide” will amplify the “technology divide” and widen inequalities, across all three of its dimensions, and between subregions, countries and people.