Creative industry 4.0 offers vast opportunities for developing countries

A new UNCTAD report provides policy options for developing countries to harness new technological trends for their creative economies.

21 April marks World Creativity and Innovation Day, a day to increase awareness about the role of creativity and innovation in problem-solving and sustainable development.

This year, UNCTAD celebrates this day with the launch of a new report, “Creative Industry 4.0: Towards A New Globalized Creative Economy”, which focuses on the intersection of industry 4.0 and the creative economy.

It’s timely, as the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitalization in every aspect of life.

The report highlights how industry 4.0 technologies transform creative industries and provide policy options for developing countries to harness these new technological trends for their creative economy. 

Creative Industry 4.0 is expected to benefit from the opportunities brought by new technologies. On the design and production side, these are: enhanced efficiency, unrestricted creativity, greater interactivity and flexibility that facilitates cost-effective customization.

“The potential of knowledge-based creative products is not limited to the digital creative industry. It’s also relevant for the most traditional, cultural or heritage-dependent creative activities,” said Miho Shirotori, head of trading systems, services and the creative economy at UNCTAD.

Interaction between creativity and tech

The report examines the economic aspects of the interaction between creativity and technological-business innovations, enhancing understanding on how the fourth industrial revolution, or industry 4.0, has changed the way creative businesses and professionals are practising their activity.

Creative Industry 4.0 has undoubtedly brought benefits,” said Marisa Henderson, who heads the trade and creative economy section at UNCTAD. “However, with the seemingly endless release of new creative products, functions and services, a key policy challenge, especially for developing countries, is how to accurately measure the value of creative goods and services.”

Without access to the internet, Ms. Henderson said, many successful creators would have found it almost impossible to start a business selling their own products or services. 

She said the availability of smaller and cheaper digitalized tools has helped developing countries to move out of low-volume hand-made crafts while at the same time preserving the originality of their cultural designs. 

Commercialization of creative products and services has become easier and cheaper, allowing businesses to enter new niche markets. 

Yet not all segments of the creative economy are ready and able to benefit from this potential. This is particularly so for handicraft producers in rural areas. The availability of technologies to many producers of creative products and services remains insufficient. 

What countries need

The report shows a growing demand for governments in developed and developing countries to provide adequate necessary infrastructure and programmes to empower workers to make the best of new opportunities offered by creative industries 4.0.

They also need to have national, regional and international legal frameworks to support small and medium-sized enterprises and consumers in e-commerce, and modern trade governance systems to protect the know-how and creativity of individual artisans and small businesses. 

Source: UNCTAD

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