Two schoolgirls work on a computer at school in Colombia

Networked Economies

Goal

Harness digital innovations that create inclusive economic opportunities and advance democracy in the developing world.

Introduction

Digital innovations are transforming the global South. Sustainable and inclusive economic growth requires developing countries to capitalize on these innovations and address new and pressing governance challenges. While expanding access to the Internet around the world is sparking entrepreneurship, other technological advances are having a profound effect on people’s livelihoods, quality of life and civil rights. For instance, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and digital technologies like sensors are increasingly automating economies. And while this may improve industrial productivity and create demand for highly skilled jobs, it may also displace manufacturing jobs that have been so vital for developing countries. Similarly while innovations such as open government data could make governments more accountable and transparent, the sheer volume of other kinds of data generated from digital networks could increasingly undermine rights to free expression, privacy, and security.

In this context, fostering innovative, inclusive, and rights-based networked economies will require countries to capitalize on digital innovation and address deepening governance challenges. Strong Southern institutions are needed to regulate new technologies and ensure privacy and security are protected. Governing policies that support marginalized populations to adapt to and benefit from digital technologies are critical. And knowledgeable and skilled stakeholders who have the capacity to participate in the digital economy are also essential. The Networked Economies program supports individuals, civil society, governments, and the private sector to leverage digital technologies to stimulate economic growth and improve democracy.

Priorities
  • Test and scale digital innovations to improve entrepreneurship, education, and democracy. Improve social and commercial entrepreneurship, and build an understanding of how digital innovations enhance or hinder democratic governance, education, and economic opportunities. 
  • Connect the next billion to economic opportunities. Ensure the Internet is accessible, affordable, and usable by those at the bottom of the economic pyramid, and support research that identifies gendered and socio-economic divisions of access for the next billion.
  • Improve governance of cyberspace. Advance a nuanced understanding of the challenges of Internet governance and provide evidence-based solutions to the legal, technical, and security challenges of organizations enforcing regulations in cyberspace.  
Funding

The Networked Economies program funds research primarily through competitive calls. Announcements and details on eligibility and thematic focus for funding opportunities will be posted on IDRC’s funding page

Partnerships

Funders:
The UK Department for International Development
Funders:
Global Affairs Canada, The UK Department for International Development, The World Bank