Policy Brief on digital policy for latecomers

I have published a Policy Brief (with Shamel Azmeh) for UNIDO on “Aligning digital and industrial policy to foster future industrialization“. Based on our previous papers, this discusses the importance of digital policy as part of industiral policy. It particularly focusses on emerging policy around data. The policy brief is available here and a shorter summary available on the UNIDO Industrial Analytics Platform

New special issue and publication – Globalization in Reverse

I was recently involved in putting together a special issue of Cambridge Jounal of Regions Economy and Society (CJRES) alongside Huiwen Gong, Robert Hassink, Martin Hess and Harry Garretsen

The SI is titled “Globalization in Reverse: Reconfiguring the Geographies of Value Chains and Production Networks” and looks to examine through its contributions some of the recent deabtes around the reconfigurations of globalization.

This special issue on ‘Globalisation in Reversal? Reconfiguring the Geographies of Value Chains and Production Networks’ aims at showcasing recent work that seeks to contribute to and advance on the debates on economic globalisation and the reconfiguration of global value chains and production networks. Standing at a crossroad, where ongoing slowbalisation coincides with new forces such as the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, heightened geopolitical tensions, the emergence of several revolutionary technologies, and the increasing urgency of addressing environmental challenges, many important questions still remain unsolved regarding the nature and impact of these changes.

The special issue also includes an extended editorial from the editors that discusses some of the shifts occurring, based on the papers in the issue

Blog post: Global transfers: M-Pesa and intellectual property rights

To accompany a short paper I presented at IFIP 9.4 online conference, I have written a blog post “Global transfers: M-Pesa and intellectual property rights” that discusses recent research on M-Pesa and its IPR

In July 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom announced a significant event – the intellectual property rights (IPR) for the mobile money service M-Pesa was finally “moving back into African control”. For this, it paid a sum of £7m to its UK-based parent company Vodafone.

The announcement didn’t receive much commentary at the time, but it raises a number of critical questions – Who controls the IPR of M-Pesa? Wasn’t M-Pesa created in Kenya, so why did Safaricom need to buy the IPR?

See blog post on Manchester CDD blog

New publication: The rise of the data economy and policy strategies for digital development

Recently Shamel Azmeh, Ahmad Abd Rabuh and myself published a paper “The rise of the data economy and policy strategies for digital development” as part of Digital Pathways at Oxford Paper Series. It examines the notion of “data value chains” and how we might use them to understand global regulation and policy making around data

This paper uses the concept of data value chain to analyse the data economy and to examine the different policies states are following in different stages of the data value chain. We examine how these policies could translate into different pathways to achieve digital development by focusing on different stages within the data value chain.

We identify four pathways to digital development: a) active data localisation, b) strategic data sharing, c) opportunities in low income data processes, and d) building sectoral specific application linked to data, and illustrate how different countries and economies could follow different policy pathways.

Full details and paper

Short article: Why we must act now to confront the new global digital divide

Why we must act now to confront the new global digital divide” is short article written by Shamel Azmeh and myself for a one-off publication from Policy@Manchester called “On Digital Inequalities“. It examines the digital divide through the lens of economic inclusion and global platforms, discussing what this means in terms of policies of digital inclusion

Over recent decades, concern has been mounting over the issue of the digital divide – the unequal access to the latest technology and the networks that support it. This issue has attracted growing attention from policymakers and NGOs at national and international levels. Efforts have typically focused on maximising the benefits that come from the digital economy by expanding inclusion, especially in developing countries. This has led to programmes supporting local content creation and the building of internet skills and infrastructure. Many studies highlight the positive impacts of such initiatives, in areas such as financial inclusion, access to information and better government services. Clearly this is an important foundation, but is it enough?

Full article – online | as PDF

New website exploring digital trade and implications for development

Extending our recent research on digital trade, we have launched a website called the “Digital Trade Tracker” that looks to provide better coverage of the implications of Digital Trade in terms of global justice and development.

In our research we have often found digital trade to be a fast moving, technical and confusing area. We also found that much of the public material presented in the mainstream press took a narrow perspective, often rehashing the positions of technology firms and powerful states, such as the US.

As issues around data, digital and trade becomes important there is need for clearer information and commentary on these issues. This is the goal of this website – to provide simple and balanced information for trade negotiators, policy makers, advocacy groups, academics and wider society on issues connected digital trade and how they will shape the future of the global economy.

More details of the Digital trade tracker website can be found here – Digital trade tracker

New paper: Datafication, value and power in developing countries

A new paper has been published that I was a co-author on. “Datafication, value and power in developing countries: Big data in two Indian public service organizations” extends our previous sectoral analysis of big data to explore the implications more broadly.

Datafication—the growing presence, use and impact of data in social processes—is spreading to all sectors in developing countries. But, to date, there are few analyses of real‐world experiences of datafication in developing country organizations

….Big data systems are facilitating a shift in power from the public sector to the private sector, and from labour and middle management to panopticon‐type control by central managers. Big data intersects with politics especially around the imaginaries of wider stakeholders, changing their view of the financial and political issues that technology can address.

You can find more details and a blog post on the publications page

Who’s Really Benefitting From SE Asia’s E-commerce Boom?

Sixth tone, an online website focussing on issues in China and the region, has a short article about some of my early work on E-commerce in South East Asia.

“Chinese-backed startups are evangelizing e-commerce in the region, but they need to be careful not to alienate local merchants.”

Full article on Sixth Tone

Article: Playing catch-up: how latecomer economies joined the digital race

This is a short article on the University of Manchester website to support a new paper by myself and Shamel Azmeh on latecomer economies and national digital policy.

New research from The University of Manchester explores the strategies used by latecomer economies to play catch-up to the digital world.

With the emergence of the Internet, digital companies and capabilities have been primarily concentrated in advanced economies. As digital technologies, data and AI are becoming used across all areas of the economy, these limitations are becoming important barriers to economic development. This has left emerging and developing economies, such as those of Asia and Latin America, at a disadvantage when it comes to entering the digital race.

So how do they close this gap?

According to Drs Christopher Foster and Shamel Azmeh, from the University, there are two paths being taken. The first is open and global trade, and the second is pursuing interventionist policies on a national scale. In their recent paper, “Latecomer economies and national digital policy: an industrial policy perspective”, published in the Journal of Development Studies, they investigated these competing approaches as they are applied in emerging nations.

Full article available from UoM website

Short Article: What can we learn about e-commerce in Africa from Jumia’s IPO filing?

I recenltly wrote a short article for the Manchester ict4dblog. It explores the recent Jumia IPO filing and the insights is gives us about African e-commerce

There has been growing discussion about the potential of e-commerce in developing countries. This discussion intensified recently when pan-African e-commerce firm Jumia went public in the US, becoming the “first African unicorn”.

The IPO prospectus, a 270-page outline of the firm released as part of this filing, has sparked much debate…..I will discuss the insights that the prospectus provides us about e-commerce platforms operating in Africa.

This is especially useful as we have been struggling with a lack of detail on e-commerce, with firms reluctant to share commercially sensitive information

See full post on the ict4d blog