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.
Volume 50 Number 4
Published: December 18, 2019