IPM Special Issue: Promoting investment in the digital economy

The digital economy – the application of internet-based digital technologies to the production and trade of goods and services – is becoming an ever more important part of the global economy. UNCTAD’s Special Issue of the Investment Policy Monitor shows that, even though promoting investment in the digital economy is a priority for almost all countries, there is a need to strengthen the investment dimension in digital strategies and improve policy coordination.

Many countries and economies have adopted digital development strategies. An UNCTAD survey of the investment dimension in more than 100 digital development strategies shows that almost all such strategies acknowledge the need for investment. However, hardly any strategy contains a specific 'investment chapter' and less than half of digital development strategies explicitly consider foreign investment as a source of finance. Investment promotion agencies mostly do not feature in the plans.

Responses to a separate UNCTAD global survey of IPAs confirm that they are generally not involved in the formulation of digital strategies. Nevertheless, for most IPAs, the promotion of investment in digital infrastructure, digital firms, and the development of linkages in the digital sector, are priority objectives.

The results of the two surveys suggest that policy coordination, between investment authorities on the one hand and ministries and public institutions charged with digital development on the other, could be improved.

Considering the pressing need to increase investment in digital infrastructure and businesses, policymakers in charge of investment, on the one hand, and digital development, on the other, should work synergistically. The forthcoming World Investment Report 2017, on Investment and the Digital Economy, will provide policy recommendations on how to strengthen the investment dimension in digital development strategies.