The Digital Silk Road and the Sustainable Development Goals

The information and communications technology (ICT) sector has attracted growing interest among stakeholders in countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Chinese investors. A Digital Silk Road initiative within the BRI is growing, as countries are encouraged to work together on production and trade enabled by digital technologies. Digital connectivity and the emerging digital economy can have positive impacts on development, as has been demonstrated in some Chinese cities. However, it is difficult to tell whether the Chinese experience will be transferable. This article reviews what China has done in relation to the Digital Silk Road and the possible contributions made towards delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in investee countries. We conclude that while ICT investment has the transformative power to benefit the world’s poorest, its benefits should not be overestimated. Enhancing activities in the virtual world need to be matched with those in the real world to deliver sustainable outcomes.

Licence Information:

© 2019 The Authors. IDS Bulletin © Institute of Development Studies. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC), which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited, any modifications or adaptations are indicated, and the work is not used for commercial purposes.

Sen, G. and Bingqin, L. (2019) 'The Digital Silk Road and the Sustainable Development Goals', IDS Bulletin 40.4: 23-46

Subscribe to CGDKN

Stay informed with our regular email updates.