Science & Technology

India an overperformer in frontier tech among developing countries: UN report

Several developing countries showed stronger capabilities to use and adapt frontier technologies above their GDPs, but were lagging behind 

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 04 March 2021

India was the biggest ‘overperformer’ in frontier technologies than the country's per capita gross domestic products (GDP) would suggest, according to a recent country-readiness index released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Frontier technologies include artificial intelligence, the internet of things, big data, blockchain, fifth-generation mobile telephony, three-dimensional printing, robotics, drones (remotely controlled flights), gene-editing, nanotechnology and solar power — the ones that take advantage of digitalisation and connectivity.

The index analysed progress of countries in using frontier technologies, considering their national capacities related to physical investment, human capital and technological effort.

Not only India, but several developing countries showed stronger capabilities to use and adapt frontier technologies above their GDPs, the report highlighted. And yet, most of the 158 countries assessed were lagging behind.

India’s actual index ranking was 43, while the estimated one based on per capita income was 108. This meant that India overperformed other countries by 65 ranking positions. It was followed by the Philippines, which overperformed by 57 ranking positions.

China was at position 25; both India and China performed well in research and development. This was reflective of their abundant supplies of qualified and highly skilled human resources available at a comparatively low cost.

The Philippines has a high ranking for industry—because of high levels of foreign direct investment in high-technology manufacturing, especially electronics.

Overperforming countries relative to per capita GDP. Source: UNCTAD's Technology and Innovation Report 2021

The United States, Switzerland and the United Kingdom were “best prepared” for frontier technologies, the report highlighted.

According to the report:

Most of the best-prepared countries are from Europe, except the Republic of Korea, Singapore and the United States. Some transition economies, such as Russia, also perform well on the index.

Developing countries should align science, technology and innovation policies with industrial policies. New technologies can re-invigorate traditional production sectors and speed up industrialisation and economic structural transformation,” Shamika N Sirimanne, director, UNCTAD's division on technology and logistics, said.

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