MSc Global Development (Globalisation, Trade & Industry)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Digital Transformation of the Global Economy

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI60282
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The global economy is experiencing important technological shifts. This is driven by the rise of digital technologies which are transforming all aspects of production, exchange, and consumption. As digital transformation is emerging, it is important to understand the impacts that these technologies are having on the global economy including evolving forms of capitalism, the geographies of production and consumption, the emergence of new business models and the changing nature of work.


The unit aims to provide:

  • An overview of the major theories and processes related to the digitalisation in the global economy
  • An opportunity for students to critically assess the uneven impacts of digital transformation at a global level.
  • An understanding of the implications of digital transformations on inequality with an emphasis on economies of the global south.
  • An opportunity for students to develop a range of competencies in transferable areas, including research, analysis, teamwork and both written and verbal forms of communication


Part 1: Foundations of digital transformation - This would focus on broader conceptual models of digitalization, the digital economy and global production. Examining the key theories and global implications.

Part 2: Key processes and models - This section would examine in more detail some of the transformations occurring in different areas of the economy, critically thinking about the impacts with an emphasis on the global south.

Part 3: Governance of digital transformation - This section would provide a more focused discussion on the development and policy implications of these shifts.


Teaching and learning methods

The principal teaching approach will be as 8 two-hour sessions on key topics.

  • This will be made up of lecture content to introduce key topics (see course content)
  • Sessions will be supported by practice cases or readings
  • Sessions will be supported by pre-readings and pre-recordings

The seminars will be supported by four two-hour tutorials. These will focus on practical activities with a focus on guiding the students towards the two assignments:

1 - Handling diverse perspectives and conceptualisations on technology change

2 - Interpreting the global development impacts of emerging digital technologies: the case of AI

3 - Inequality and technologies – Poster session (see assignment)

4 - Policy debate – global vs national rules for the digital economy

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the key technologies, business models and processes linked to digital technologies that are transforming the global economy
  • Awareness of key analytical frameworks and concepts used to interpret the impacts of the digital economy
  • Evaluate the patterns of global digital transformation in terms of political economy and impacts on the global south
  • Place processes of digital transformation within the wider context of global economic change and development

Intellectual skills

  • Synthesise diverse technical and social viewpoints on digital technologies and consider implications on inequality
  • Apply conceptual perspectives on digital technologies to critically analyse change and continuities in the global economy

Practical skills

  • Evaluate existing digital policy and governance plans in terms of their implications for global inequality
  • Present ideas and findings around digital technologies to peers both verbally and in a variety of written formats

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Ability to present academic perspectives within a policy-orientated format
  • Collaborate with peers including recognising and identifying views of others and working constructively with them
  • Ability to critically reflect on a diverse set of academic and policy discussions
  • Undertake both team-based and independent work to deadlines

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%

Feedback methods

  • Formative feedback and guidance within tutorials
  • Formative feedback on plan in “guidance session” and optional drop-in session
  • Summative feedback through written feedback following assignment

Recommended reading

Azmeh, S., Foster, C.G. & Echavarri, J. (2020) The International Trade Regime and the Quest for Free Digital Trade. International Studies Review, 22(3), pp. 671–692.

Bukht, R. & Heeks, R. (2017) Defining, Conceptualising and Measuring the Digital Economy, Development Informatics Working Paper, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.

Foster, C., Graham, M., Mann, L., et al. (2018) Digital Control in Value Chains: Challenges of Connectivity for East African Firms. Economic Geography, 94(1), pp. 68–86.

Gurumurthy, A., Bharthur, D., Chami, N., et al. (2019) Platform Planet: Development in the Intelligence Economy, IT for Change, Delhi, India.

Jordan, T. (2019) The Digital Economy. Polity Press, Cambridge, MA.

Kwet, M. (2019) Digital Colonialism: US Empire and the New Imperialism in the Global South. Race & Class, 60, 4, pp3-26

Srnicek, N. (2016) Platform Capitalism. Polity Press, Cambridge, UK.

Rahman, K.S. & Thelen, K. (2019) The Rise of the Platform Business Model and the Transformation of Twenty-First-Century Capitalism. Politics & Society, 47(2), pp. 177–204.

UNCTAD (2019) Digital Economy Report 2019: Value Creation and Capture: Implications for Developing Countries, UNCTAD, Geneva, Switzerland.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 16
Practical classes & workshops 1
Tutorials 8
Independent study hours
Independent study 125

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Christopher Foster Unit coordinator

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