Global Investment in Digital Economy to Reach $1.8 Trillion in 2017

Two users browse websites on their computers (content blurred for privacy). Photo: ITU/A.Mhadhbi
Two users browse websites on their computers (content blurred for privacy). Photo: ITU/A.Mhadhbi

A new United Nations report reveals that more than 60 of the top 100 successful digital ventures are concentrated in three countries (the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany), leaving much room to grow elsewhere.

According to the World Investment Report 2017: Investment and the Digital Economy, released Wednesday by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), only four companies in the top 100 were based in developing nations.

“The digital economy has important implications for investment, and investment is crucial for digital development,” Mukhisa Kituyi, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, said in a news release announcing the findings. “We need to create enabling policies that close the digital divide in global investment.”

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The divide also held true for affiliates of those top 100 ventures as only 13 per cent were based in developing and transition economies, compared to about 30 per cent overall.

In terms of business and operations, digital multinational enterprises recorded about 70 per cent of their sales abroad but only 40 per cent of their assets were based outside their home countries, resulting in fewer jobs created directly in host countries.

However, such investments can increase competition and spur digital development, argued UNCTAD, emphasizing the need for regulations and policies for the promotion of investment that consider the new cross-border operating models of multinationals as well as those that strengthen digital development strategies.

Digital development in all countries, and particularly the participation of developing countries in the global digital economy, calls for targeted investment policies to build connectivity infrastructure, promote digital firms and support digitalization of the broader economy.

The World Investment Report also pointed out that global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows could rise by about 5 per cent, reaching almost $1.8 trillion in 2017 and this modest increase is expected to continue into 2018, taking flows to $1.85 trillion, and projections indicate that the US, China and India could be the top prospective destinations for FDI.

The Report also showed that the prospects remained moderately positive for most other regions – except Latin America and the Caribbean – with developing countries as a group expected to gain about 10 per cent.

RMN News

Rakesh Raman