Nigeria, others risk remaining providers of raw data
The first-ever Digital Economy Report 2019, authored by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has revealed that developing countries, including Nigeria, risk becoming mere providers of raw data, while having to pay for the digital intelligence generated using their data.
According to the report, if the gap is left unaddressed, the yawning gap between the under-connected and the hyper-digitalized countries will widen, and inequalities be exacerbated.
Breaking this vicious circle, UNCTAD said requires out-of-the-box thinking. According to it, one way is to consider finding an alternative configuration of the digital economy that leads to more balanced results and a fairer distribution of the gains from data and digital intelligence.
To get some of these issues resolved, the body noted that governments have a critical role in shaping the digital economy by defining the rules of the game. This involves the adaptation of existing policies, laws and regulations, and the adoption of new ones in many areas.
UNCTAD Secretary-General, Mukhisa Kituyi, said a smart embrace of new technologies, enhanced partnerships and greater intellectual leadership are needed to redefine digital development strategies and the future contours of globalization.
Kituyi said policy responses need to consider increased difficulties of enforcing national laws and regulations with respect to cross-border trade in digital services and products, the report recommends.
Further, he said they should explore new pathways for local value creation and capture, and structural transformation through digitalization.
The report further noted that national development strategies should also seek to promote digital upgrading (value addition) in data value chains, and to enhance domestic capacities to “refine” the data.
“Digitalization affects different countries in different ways, and individual governments require policy space to regulate the digital economy to meet various legitimate public policy objectives,” the report stated.
At the same time, UNCTAD noted that several policy challenges associated with value creation and capture in the digital economy can only be effectively addressed at the regional or international level, with the full involvement of developing countries. This includes competition, taxation, cross-border data flows, intellectual property, trade and employment policies.
According to the report, to secure a digital future for the many, rather than the few, domestic and international policies should go beyond enlisting more developing-country users and consumers online; they should also enable the building of domestic capabilities to create and capture value.
The body noted that the development community in this context needs to find more comprehensive ways to support countries that are trailing in the digital economy.
It recommended that more assistance should aim at reducing the digital divides, strengthening the enabling environment for value creation and building capacities in the private and public sectors.
Further, policy actions should seek to enhance trust by supporting the adoption and enforcement of relevant laws and regulations to promote value creation and capture in the data-driven digital economy.