September 19, 2018 09:00 AM

Metro Manila, Philippines

Technological breakthroughs and the interplay of a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, neurotech, data analytics, blockchain, cloud technology, quantum computing, biotechnology, Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, and 3D printing, have ushered in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIRe). Three previous industrial revolutions have given mankind steam power, electricity, and electronics, respectively. The FIRe is expected to create a smarter, more connected world, which will affect all disciplines, economies, and industries, as well as challenge ideas about what it means to be human with the “fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres” (Schwab 2016).

One of the biggest concerns foreseen in the era of technological advances is the impact of FiRE on employment as job automation may replace, complement, or completely make obsolete human labor and consequently increase inequalities. While estimates differ, what is clear is that new technologies are able to perform increasingly sophisticated functions.

In terms of trade patterns, López González and Jouanjean (2017) explain that digitalization not only changed how we trade but also what we trade.  New technologies have brought about the age of digitally enabled trade, which covers trade in physical products supported by growing digital connectivity and trade in digital products. Today, global trade includes a larger number of smaller and low-value packages of physical goods, as well as digital services that are crossing borders; goods that are increasingly bundled with services; and new, and previously nontradable services being traded across borders (e.g., transport services).

In addition to these changes, rapid improvements in automation in developed economies have also led to a reversal in offshoring practices.  There has been an increase in reshoring or the transfer of production activities back to the home country particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing, such as garment and footwear, electronics, and automotive production (Chang and Huynh 2016).

Countries, including those far from the technological frontiers, are developing plans to prepare for the impact of FIRe. However, even if developing countries spend more on innovation activities, returns to innovation investments may be low and even be negative, if complementary factors such as skilled workforces and proper regulatory environments are missing (Cirera and Maloney 2017).

Hence, we ask these questions: What are the implications of FIRe for Philippine development policy and strategy? How should the country re-position its economic and labor regulatory environment in the face of this revolution and its implications? What steps must be undertaken to address skills and competencies required for the future labor market? How can the ecosystem for science, technology, and innovation be strengthened and be made more effective? A systematic analysis of these questions is critical to ensure that the country’s economic take-off is sustained in the long run and leads to even faster and more inclusive growth. Thus, this year’s Annual Public Policy Conference (APPC) will focus on the theme "Preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution".

The APPC serves as the main and culminating activity of the Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) held every September pursuant to Malacañang Proclamation No. 247. The DPRM is an annual nationwide celebration that aims to promote awareness and appreciation of the importance of policy research in crafting relevant and evidence-based policies and programs. Started in 2015, the APPC aims to convene experts and researchers in the social sciences to inform policymakers about critical issues that must be addressed in the immediate term. It is envisioned to serve as a platform to further bridge research and policymaking, and enhance evidence-informed planning and policy formulation in the Philippines. On its fourth year, the 2018 APPC will expand the conversation to include experts from the natural science and engineering disciplines.

The conference will bring together researchers, policymakers, and the private sector to share their insights on how the Philippines can take advantage of the benefits of FiRE while managing the risks associated with the scale, scope, and complexity of this fourth major industrial era. 


Chang, J-H. and P. Huynh. 2016. ASEAN in transformation: The future of jobs at risk of automation. Working Paper No. 9, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. Geneva, Switzerland: Bureau for Employers’ Activities, International Labour Organization.

Cirera, X. and W. Maloney. 2017. The innovation paradox developing-country capabilities and the unrealized promise of technological catch-up. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. 

López González, J. and M. Jouanjean. 2017. Digital trade: Developing a framework for analysis. OECD Trade Policy Papers No. 205. Paris, France: OECD Publishing.

Schwab, K. 2016. The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What it means, how to respond. San Francisco, CA: World Economic Forum Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


No images uploaded.