ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Unpacking the ‘Industry 4.0’ Narrative and Its Implications

Examining the digital technology systems underlying the ongoing industrial transformations towards cyber–physical production systems, this article argues that the “industry 4.0” narrative prevents India from recognising that digital technologies are all mediated by information and communications technology hardware, software and other electronics products, along with other software-embedded devices/machinery. Getting entrapped in the big tech-driven industry 4.0 narrative and its neo-liberal interpretations will severely curtail India’s ability to formulate the combination of policies that will reduce forex drain from our digital consumer economy.

This article is a revised version of the 30th K K Francis Memorial Lecture 2021–22 delivered by the author at St Berchmans College, Changanassery, Kerala, on 2 March 2022.

Following the 5G spectrum auctions, there has been a heightened focus on how India is on the cusp of an “industry 4.0” transformation and excitement about government’s other digital India-related policies. Most news and research articles on industry 4.0 ­begin by animatedly discussing how the “fourth industrial revolution” (4IR) is creating new opportunities for India to catch up with the league of developed countries with their highly advanced manufacturing industries.

It is well known that the term “industrie 4.0” had originated when the German government used it to present emerging “cyber–physical” production systems. But it was the World Economic Forum’s Klaus Schwab, who popularised the usage of industry 4.0 as the 4IR in the history of capitalism. Given the enormous economic interests at stake in the global digital economy,1 the way big tech firms have subsequently been popularising this narrative of industry 4.0—as if ­ongoing industrial transformations were based on a new technology revolution with a radical break from the existing one—may not be an accident.

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Updated On : 14th Mar, 2023
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