E-Commerce Serving Mostly Rich Economies; UNCTAD Launches Online Platform For Inclusivity

Electronic commerce is booming but mostly for high income economies, speakers said at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which is holding a weeklong event on digital trade. Technical assistance is needed for developing countries to hop on the e-commerce train, they said, as UNCTAD launched a platform designed to help developing countries navigate the arcane of electronic trade.

On 25 April, UNCTAD launched its “eTrade for all Online Platform” during one of the sessions of its “E-Commerce Week.” Finland, Sweden, South Korea and the United Kingdom financially contributed to the project. Several developing country ministers praised the platform. Another session presented the work of the Group of 20 on the digital economy.

UNCTAD’s E-Commerce Week is being held from 24-28 April.

The online platform is at the heart of the “eTrade for all,” a “global initiative that helps developing countries to unlock the potential of e-commerce,” launched in July 2016, according to UNCTAD.

UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi underlined the opportunity represented by booming e-commerce but also the fact that the windfall is mostly benefitting developed economies.

Shamika Sirimanne, director UNTACD’s Technology and Logistics Division, said the platform is not just another website, but a resource that works on most electronic devices, and allows users to learn and share with partners and peers. It is just the beginning of a long journey, she said. She described the platform and said countries can learn about trends and best practices, and be informed of upcoming e-commerce events.

Khurram Dastgir Khan, minister of commerce in Pakistan, said e-commerce should be inclusive, and emphasised the timeliness of the platform. It will help build local knowledge, and e-commerce tools, he said, underlining the importance of public-private partnerships.

For Cambodian Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak, the lack of access to relevant and pertinent information is among the key barriers to developing countries making use of e-commerce.

Finland Ambassador Terhi Hakala said the development of e-commerce can have a positive impact on the economy and a driver for job creation in the developing world. Despite the spread of the digital technology, enormous gaps still remain, she said.

Capacity building is needed in several areas, she added, such as regulatory framework and payment solutions.

United Kingdom Ambassador Julian Braithwaite said the digital economy can only strive through a free and open internet. A common understanding of e-commerce-related issues is essential to develop an international trade agenda, he said. The UK said it would continue its financial participation in the new financial year, while Finland committed to the next two years.

Kyong-Lim Choï, ambassador, South Korea, said the platform has unique feature and tools to meet the particular needs of global e-commerce stakeholders. E-commerce provides new opportunities to…

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