SINGAPORE (July 8): Western attitudes towards digital technology have soured in recent years, as once-celebrated innovations have begun to reveal their downsides. But, like all technological revolutions, the digital one is a double-edged sword, offering substantial benefits alongside daunting challenges — and certainly not only in the West.

For example, studies show that e-commerce and digital finance in China have contributed to both the rate and inclusiveness of economic growth. Very small businesses (with an average of three employees) that could not access conventional sources of credit can now get financing. They can also tap expanded markets through various online platforms, many of which provide tools and data to boost productivity, improve product quality and benefit from business training.

In general, e-commerce platforms enhance financial and economic inclusion if they are open and geared towards broadening access to digital markets, rather than competing with their own users’ product lines. By contrast, digitally driven automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have non-inclusive effects — owing to major labour-market disruptions — that must be countered.

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