Inclusive and sustainable industrialization, together with innovation and infrastructure, can unleash dynamic and competitive economic forces that generate employment and income. They play a key role in introducing and promoting new technologies, facilitating international trade and enabling the efficient use of resources.
However, the world still has a long way to go to fully tap this potential. Least developed countries, in particular, need to accelerate the development of their manufacturing sector if they are to meet the 2030 target, and scale up investment in scientific research and innovation.
Global manufacturing growth has been steadily declining, even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is hitting manufacturing industries hard and causing disruptions in global value chains and the supply of products.
Innovation and technological progress are key to finding lasting solutions to both economic and environmental challenges, such as increased resource and energy-efficiency. Globally, investment in research and development (R&D) as a proportion of GDP increased from 1.5 per cent in 2000 to 1.7 per cent in 2015 and remained almost unchanged in 2017, but was only less than 1 per cent in developing regions.
In terms of communications infrastructure, more than half of the world’s population is now online and almost the entire world population lives in an area covered by a mobile network. It is estimated that in 2019, 96.5 per cent were covered by at least a 2G network.
The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the urgent need for resilient infrastructure. The Asian Development Bank notes that critical infrastructure in the region remains far from adequate in many countries, despite the rapid economic growth and development the region has experienced over the past decade. The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific highlights that making infrastructure resilient to disasters and climate change will require an additional investment of $434 billion per year. This sum may need to be even greater in some subregions, such as the Pacific small island developing states.
Aspects of the prevailing global economic environment have not been conducive to rapid progress on Sustainable Development Goal 9. While financing for economic infrastructure has increased in developing countries and impressive progress has been made in mobile connectivity, countries that are lagging behind, such as least developed countries, face serious challenges in doubling the manufacturing industry’s share of GDP by 2030, and investment in scientific research and innovation remains below the global average.