Call for Papers | The 8th South Asia Economic Policy Network Conference on The New Services Economy: Servicification and Digital Platforms in South Asia

Conference dates

08 Sep 2021 - 09 Sep 2021




South Asia has developed many pockets of modern industries quite successfully, but much of the labor force is still involved in low-productivity small businesses providing to the domestic market. Many national plans emphasize the importance of developing the manufacturing sector. But ICT, business and professional services inputs comprise a growing share of the value added of manufacturing globally, reflecting how knowledge and innovation are increasingly at the core of value creation and thus economic development. Meanwhile, the services provided by e-commerce and other types of digital platforms are helping firms access bigger markets. How can South Asia better leverage this “servicification” of economic activity to increase the productivity, product quality and global value chain presence of its firms? The post-COVID acceleration in the growth of the digital economy has added to the urgency of better understanding these potential impacts of servicification. Is the service sector an engine of growth, or is its expansion a corollary of growth in South Asia?

Against this backdrop, the World Bank and the South Asia Economic Policy Network invite papers addressing one of the following (or related) questions:
• How important are services, particularly business and professional services, in the value creation of South Asia, and what will the post-COVID new normal look like in this regard?
• How are digital platforms affecting South Asia’s firms? What barriers do firms face in using digital platforms, ICT, professional and business services?
• What is the impact of the transition from manufacturing to services amid digitization on growth and productivity in South Asia?
• What reforms in trade, FDI and regulatory policies are needed to enable South Asian firms to benefit from servicification and digital platforms?
• How is the increasing automation and digitization of production likely to affect South Asia’s structural transformation? Will moving ‘too quickly’ from agriculture to services stunt the acquisition of capabilities that are key to the economic development of South Asia?

We strongly encourage the submission of high-quality and internationally publishable academic papers. The conference on September 8 and 9, 2021 will be virtual consisting of two 3-hour sessions. The sessions will feature paper presentations, a keynote lecture, and a high-level policy panel.

Submission: Please submit your paper to
Deadline: Friday, August 6, 2021
Program Committee: Hans Timmer, Valerie Mercer-Blackman, Siddharth Sharma and Zoe Leiyu Xie (all World Bank). The Program Committee will evaluate all papers in terms of originality, analytical rigor, and policy relevance. Authors of accepted papers will be informed by email on Friday, August 20, 2021.