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Mapping the Digital Economy in 2020

In today’s globalized world, falling behind technologically carries major costs. That is why the world need a comprehensive understanding of the digital revolution’s effects on individual and social welfare as soon as possible. 

HANGZHOU – From mobile Internet to artificial intelligence, blockchain to big data, digital technologies have the potential to bring about dramatic improvements in human wellbeing. But they also pose serious risks to communities and individuals in their roles as consumers, workers, and citizens. Reaping the digital revolution’s benefits, and avoiding its pitfalls, will require us to manage an unprecedented structural transformation for which the world is woefully unprepared.  

Given the transformational effects of digitization, it may seem prudent to think through the risks before allowing new technologies to take hold. But, with digital technologies proliferating at an unprecedented rate, that may not be an option. Automobiles existed for 62 years before reaching 50 million users, and electricity took 46 years to reach that level of penetration. But mobile phones took just 12 years, and the Internet seven. The augmented-reality mobile game Pokémon GO had 50 million users after 19 days.

This is partly because, unlike industrialization, digitization is sweeping across the planet practically simultaneously; more than 60% of people in low-income countries already own a mobile phone. And, unlike the advanced economies, developing countries are adopting mobile Internet at the same time as they acquire smartphones, computers, and even electricity.

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