This index on Business-to-Consumer E-commerce ranks 137 countries according to four indicators: 1) Internet use penetration, 2) secure servers per 1 million inhabitants, 3) credit card penetration, and 4) postal reliability.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is a UN body responsible for dealing with development issues, particularly international trade.
Its work focuses on the following main areas: least developed countries and special programmes; globalisation, interdependence and development; international trade and commodities; investment and enterprise; and technology and trade logistics. This work often results in analyses and recommendations that can inform the national and international policy making processes, and contribute to promoting economic policies aimed at ending global economic inequalities and generating people-centred sustainable development.
UNCTAD also functions as a forum for dialogue on economic issues among representatives of its 194 member states. In addition, the organisation provides technical assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, helping them to build the capacities they need to become equitably integrated into the global economy and improve the well-being of their populations.
UNCTAD is particularly active in the field of e-commerce, as well as in research and capacity-building focusing on the relevance of information and communication technologies to development. Thorugh initiatives such as the ICT Policy Review Programme, the organisation assists and advises governments of developing and transition economies on how to design and implement ICT policies and strategies aimed to promote information society and a national level and to encourage their increased participation in the global information economy. It assists developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America in their efforts to establish legal frameworks for efficient and effective e-commerce and e-government services. It also works to promote the bridging of the gender digital divide in terms of empowering women to benefit from the opportunities offered by ICTs. In addition, UNCTAD analyses ICT trends and policies and publishes an annual Information Economy Report which assesses the role of new technologies in trade and development.
UNCTAD acts a host for the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD), which provides advice to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN General Assembly on science and technology issues. It also holds the chairmanship for the the UN Group on the Information Society (UNGIS), which serves as an inter-agency mechanism for 29 international agencies to improve collaboration towards the achievement of the objectives set at the World Summit on the Information Society.
UNCTAD has been a regular participant in the annual meetings of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).
This index on Business-to-Consumer E-commerce ranks 137 countries according to four indicators: 1) Internet use penetration, 2) secure servers per 1 million inhabitants, 3) credit card penetration, and 4) postal reliability.
The Global Survey on Trade Facilitation and Paperless Trade was conducted by the United Nations regional commissions, in collaboration with OECD, ITC, and UNCTAD, with the aim to collect data and information on trade facilitation and paperless trade implementation at national level. The survey is intended to enable countries and their development partners to better understand and monitor progress in trade facilitation, support evidence-based policy-making, identify good practices, and define capacity building and technical assistance needs.
The report looks at the status of the electronic commerce market, and shows how information and communication technologies can contribute to support economic growth and sustainable development.
The session on 'Blockchains for Sustainable Development' was opened by Mr James Zhan (Director of Investment and Enterprise, UNCTAD), who explained that UNCTAD is looking for solutions in e-governance, e-regulations and other fields to secure payments of businesses through distributed ledger technologies (DLTs).
He noted that blockchain's best-known application in 2009, cryptocurrency, has made an entry in many different spheres around the world, providing investment opportunities and giving developing countries the possibility to trace money transfers. Nonetheless, he raised concerns about the risks of countries being left behind through a deepening of the digital divide.
The first panel was opened by Mr Jem Bendell (Professor of Sustainability Leadership and Founder of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS), University of Cumbria) who noted that there is a great amount of investments going into startups and other businesses in the crypto-space, and that there is often very divided media coverage regarding the technology. Some media outlets view it as a panacea, while others see it as a technology which causes more harm than good. He pointed out that blockchain is much more than a simple database, and that it is not the technology itself which will provide benefits for humanity, but the way that it is used.
He further stated that today, blockchain applies to much more than just cryptocurrencies. Its application ranges from supporting governmental communication systems to automated payments. He highlighted Kenya’s example where blockchain technology facilitates grass root collaboration, allowing communities to trade among themselves.
As a response to critics classifying cryptocurrencies as threats to the financial system and the environment, Bendell said that a fundamental overhaul of the financial system was long overdue. Regarding the energy efficiency of DLTs, he asked whether blockchain could be designed in a way that is more energy efficient, and that would favour a better distribution of wealth. He pointed out that any technology is about our intention, and that it could be shaped to help and serve our needs for sustainable development.
Mr Louis De Bruin (Blockchain Leader Europe, IBM Digital Operations) spoke about IBM’s contribution to the Linux Foundation, in making the Hyperledger project more sustainable.
In De Bruin’s view, blockchain is a business engineering tool that can enhance efficiency exponentially, as it contributes to making processes in all sectors more efficient, helping reduce waste and support sustainability. He spoke about IBM’s FoodTrust initiative, in which companies are working together to develop a blockchain that shows the carbon footprint of food, where it comes from, etc.
Other blockchain applications help trace the origins of diamonds and other valuable minerals, in order to avoid the illicit trade of blood diamonds and other illegal trading activities.
Ms Vanessa Grellet (Executive Director, Consensys Social Impact) noted that Consensys started its social impact coalition with companies and NGOs working with blockchain. Therein, securing and controlling value chains were one of the identified fields where blockchain could be put to good use. Another field was regarding the environment, as blockchain technology is used to help reduce the carbon footprint of products by reducing mismanagement and waste, and creating new markets. Additionally, blockchain is also used to foster financial inclusion.
The speaker pointed out that new focus areas have surfaced, such as defending human rights and human rights activists, supporting democratic processes, and many other fields.
Consensys is working on bringing more transparency into the charity sector and governmental funding. However, Grellet also warned that proposed solutions cannot be experiments, and outcomes must be foreseeable and measurable. For this reason, she urged practitioners to work with people on the ground who know the situation and dynamics in order to find adaptive solutions, to avoid doing more harm than good.
Mr Sander De Jong (Managing Directort, FairFood International) explained that the goal of his organisation is to help make food without harming the environment. He mentioned that up to 80% of our food comes from small farmers but that consumers are usually unaware of this fact, as well as the origins and conditions of food. For this reason, FairFood International saw an opportunity in blockchain technology which gives farmers agency, access to markets, consumers, and finance. Additionally, it allows people to verify the supply chain of their food
He used Colombian coffee as an example and said that traditionally, consumers only knew that the coffee came from Colombia because it was written on the package. With the implementation of blockchain, the farmers can verify this information themselves, and let consumers know that the coffee was actually produced equitably on their farms.
Further questions asked by the moderator Ms Galia Benartzi (Co-Founder, Bancor), were concerned with how blockchain could impact people and areas of the world with no Internet connection. De Bruin explained that a lot of the technology used to track value chains and products worldwide are operated with crypto-anchors, devices that are installed and set up in places without connectivity, sending information to the blockchain as soon as they reach a connected environment.
Regarding blockchain applications in the context of fighting climate change, Grellet said that DLTs offer opportunities for carbon credit offsets, and that they can be implemented to reduce waste in production lines, and to reduce energy consumption in smart houses. De Bruin added that blockchain technology does not necessarily have to be energy intensive, and future developments will decrease the amount of energy required to operate DLTs.
The second panel was introduced by a keynote speech from Mr Changpeng 'CZ' Zhao (CEO, Binance), who stated that blockchain’s major contribution is transparency: 'With better transparency we can achieve 100 times more results'. According to Zhao, transparency is fundamental and will contribute to all 17 SDGs.
He noted that in the charity sector, up to 80% of donations do not reach beneficiaries, pointing to a lack of tangibility, achievement, and purpose of the funds that are donated. To solve this issue, he advocated for the implementation of blockchain, which he described as an immutable and transparent public record with the potential to track transactions from the source to the final destination.
However, he recognised that blockchain is not easy to use, which is why his company created a website to help users navigate and track their donations. In the case of a fundraiser after a flood disaster in West Japan, Binance was able to raise USD$410 000 in cryptocurrency donations, in addition to an initial USD$1 million donation. These amounts were published and can be verified by the donors through Binance’s website.
He also noted that blockchain depends on how we use it, saying that the tool itself is neither good nor bad. Industry leaders thus need to prove how it can be used for good.
Mr Chris Fabian (Co-Founder, UNICEF Innovation Fund) showcased the example of the lack of connectivity in Mauritania by showing a map of how many schools were disconnected in that specific area. He explained that these types of visualisations might help service providers reorient the areas to prioritise for infrastructure development and show vulnerabilities. The people, especially children in those areas, are vulnerable because they might not benefit from the same advantages as their peers in connected regions.
According to Fabian, there is a potential to utilise blockchain technology as a global public good that pools demand, and holds companies accountable to fair pricing, similar to what the public-private vaccine alliance, GAVI does for pharmaceuticals.
Ms Galia Benartzi (Co-Founder, Bancor) spoke about the way we perceive money, saying that money has the power of unlocking energy or power, but it went through different evolutions. It went from a gold standard to fiat currency, and is now becoming increasingly digital, wherein money can be produced by people.
She mentioned that societies without money are at a standstill, and resort to barter which is why Bancor builds liquid community currencies. Bancor aims to automate the activity of trade by matching buyers and sellers through liquid community currencies. These currencies can be:
Continuously liquid (can always find a buyer for your currency)
Stable and safe (no crashes because information is open and public)
Efficient and affordable (do not charge fees, allows any token creator to access)
Benartzi spoke about a case in Kenya where user-generated money had only very limited use because it could not be traded for other currencies. However, with Bancor’s help, they now can exchange their tokens.
Ms Marta Piekarska (Director of Ecosystem, Hyperledger) mentioned the paradox of blockchain being a technology developed by wealthy societies of the 'first-world', which is trying to find applications for sustainable development. She noted that inventions such as smart fridges, increasingly small microchips and other technologies might be useless for developing countries. However, blockchain allows creating direct connections between producers and buyers, and therefore has the potential to truly bridge the gaps.
She identified the certainty of verification and the traceability of the origin of products; the possibility to make direct transactions; and making sure producers are treated equitably, as some of blockchain's positive effects. She further said that where people usually require certain levels of trust before entering transactions, blockchain does not rely on that initial mutual trust, as it provides a system that is transparent. In the case of fair trade products, blockchain can also help reduce overall prices given that higher prices do not only stem from sustainable farming practices, but mostly from middlemen that certify commodities’ origins and conditions. Piekarska explained that Hyperledger is an open-source technology which everyone can use to build their own company and provide for themselves.
The moderator, Mr Günther Dobrauz (Partner & Leader at PwC Legal Switzerland), asked about the biggest challenge the speakers faced with regards to DLTs, to which Benartzi highlighted the inability to have informed conversations about the technology. Piekarska identified the rush to implement blockchain as an opportunity, but also as a big challenge, especially given the immutable and permanent nature of information stored in blockchains. It is therefore critical to anticipate what will happen to the data and what kind of information is stored.
Ms Eva Kaili (Member of the European Parliament, Chair Science & Technology Options Assessment Body of the EU gave the keynote address for the third panel. She spoke about the EU's Blockchains for Social Good prize which will award €5 million to the five most promising projects for innovation leveraging DLT solutions. She further mentioned that the EU has already spent €340 million for several pilot projects to help countries work together on DLT projects and announced that this sum will be doubled soon.
According to Kaili, blockchain technology can be used in a variety of sectors. It can help decrease international transaction fees considerably or be used in the health sector. Such is already the case with the My Health, My Data alliance working with different countries to share anonymised health data for research, to help find new solutions for infections and improving treatments.
As another example, she pointed to the price volatility in the trade sector, and the need of keeping up with rapid developments and changes in the sector. For this reason, the EU has created the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum.
She further announced the EU’s efforts to overcome crowdfunding issues. Whereas the previous regulations foresaw a cap of €1 million for money raised within one country, new regulations will allow people to fundraise projects with donations from all EU member states for sums up to €8 million.
Considering the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Kaili explained that the regulation was a principle-based legislation. Given this, it is not conceived as a regulation hampering innovation, 'It is principle based and thus stops where innovation principles begin.'
Mr Günther Dobrauz (Partner & Leader at PwC Legal Switzerland) said that blockchain is still at an early stage and that there is no dominant design or a widely accepted standard which would enable the technology to fully take off. Bitcoin is only one possible use of DLTs, but there are many others, and it will take more experiences to fully unwrap the technology’s potential.
On key issues and the potential danger for the conventional finance system, Dobrauz stated that the younger generations are much more aware and concerned about sustainability. Furthermore, they were brought up in the aftermath of the most recent financial crash of 2007, which is why they put more trust in programmes rather than conventional banking systems. He identified blockchain technology as a possible solution to rebuild trust in these systems due to its inherent transparency.
Mr Hans Docter (Director for Sustainable Economic Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands) pointed out that innovative ideas are usually sparked by things that are dear to the developer and that have promising returns of investment.
He spoke about trust and the lack thereof in different environments, but warned that while blockchain can provide solutions, it is not a solution in itself because mistrust can easily be transferred ito the new technology.
Docter introduced the Dutch Blockchain Coalition which brings different actors together in a joint venture between industry, government, and knowledge institutions to contribute to the coalition’s agenda.
Additionally, Docter mentioned generally being in favour of regulations, but warned against the hampering of innovation. He admitted that EU regulations still need improvements, and cautioned against over-regulating technologies at early stages. In his view, policymakers need to intervene and rectify certain developments at a later stage.
Mr Marius Jurgilas (Member of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania) said that blockchain has the biggest potential in environments where obtaining trust for transactions or processes is difficult.
He outlined the Bank of Lithuania’s rationale for regulating blockchain, which is about market failure concerns and potential systemic risks, as well as the catalysation of innovations.
In that context, Jurgilas mentioned initial coin offerings (ICOs) as an opportunity for nascent capital markets. However, consumers are often defrauded during these operations, raising the question of how policymakers can prevent these situations. So far, policymakers inform about the risks and opportunities of ICOs but their engagement is limited.
Another regulatory approach of the Lithuanian bank is the implementation of a technological sandbox. It functions both as a test lab for regulators, and as a catalyst for developers and it is currently supported by IBM and Deloitte. The advantage of this communal approach is that it provides governments with the opportunity to test regulations, while taking away the private sector's fears of damaging regulations. Additionally, the Lithuanian approach provides the central bank with the possibility to do 'in vitro' tests with a central bank digital currency (CBDC) and to lead by example.
Mr Abdalla Kablan (Director of the Malta Stock Exchange) spoke about his prior engagement in helping the Maltese government to draft its blockchain and innovation policies. He emphasised the policies’ holistic approach, and how they tackled regulatory issues from a technological development point of view.
The panellist noted that Malta has already noticed an increased influx of talents and projects to the island thanks to the adopted approach. Kablan also pointed out that an essential element of the framework’s success comes from the legal certainty and opportunities that it provides to investors and companies.
He also announced that the Malta Stock Exchange is currently working on ways to tokenise assets.
The moderator, Mr Jem Bendell (Professor of Sustainability Leadership and Founder of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS), University of Cumbria), asked about the key elements needed for the successful implementation of DLTs. Kaili answered by pointing to the need of establishing more observatories reporting ondevelopments in new currencies, in order to give consumers the assurance that specific types of tokens actually have value. With regards to policymakers, Kaili stressed the importance of the ability to act fast, to be innovation-friendly, and business and technology neutral. She also mentioned the necessity of having common regulations on DLT developments at least across Europe, eventually extending to a global framework.
Kablan said that stimulating economic growth through innovation is very important, but that these developments need to be observed from a macro level as well, in order to intervene in time if needed.
Jurgilas noted that if regulators do not keep up with technology’s fast-paced developments, they will lose relevance.
Docter mentioned that Switzerland’s banking sector benefited from a similarly open approach for regulations as the path taken by Malta regarding innovative technologies, and the fact that legal stability has the potential to attract investments. He also cautioned against the risk of policymakers’ inaction regarding DLTs, due to the risk of missing out on investments.
The session, organised in partnership with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), gave the representatives of investment promotion agencies from implementing countries a chance to present an overview of their experience with the guides. The online investment guides (i-Guides) have been recognised as helpful tools by investment promotion agencies to attract investors. The event continued with an open discussion driven by the following questions:
How can i-Guides be further improved?
How can i-Guides be aligned with countries’ investment facilitation agendas?
How can international organisations contribute?
The event was launched by a short introductory speech by Ms Isabelle Durant (Deputy Secretary-General, UNCTAD), who stressed that investment guides help countries attract investors, and constant feedback is needed to improve these publications. Furthermore, additional efforts are needed to make sure that as many countries as possible can access the project.
Mr Stephen Karingi (Director, Capacity Development Division, UNECA) presented the current state of play of i-Guides. He explained that the project complements the achievement of regional development and integration goals, as well as meeting sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the region. He defined i-Guides as 'a digital solution promoting investment and helping the eradication of poverty'. They provide reliable and up-to-date information for investors, representing a successful project that will increase to 11 platforms in Africa by the end of 2018.
The session had a brief explanation about the platforms that provide information about laws; different types of businesses; labour issues; production factors such as energy suppliers; transport costs and infrastructure; taxes; dispute settlement; and boxes with 'what investors think', to cite a few. However, it must be noted that this also gives investors all the information they would need without visiting a country.
The session then featured the following countries’ experiences in using and implementing the platform. Madagascar explained that despite the fact that the platform was launched only five months ago, it has reached a considerable degree of success. The representative of Madagascar called it 'a marketing tool of choice', providing efficiency and accessibility; a comprehensive database; and, a unique canvas answering FAQs. The i-Guide is easy to edit and update, allowing improvements to the business climate. Malawi highlighted some of the challenges faced, mainly connected to slow loading of information. The representative of Malawi proposed incorporating the registration processes into the portal, and creating public awareness about the potential of the platform. A further suggestion was proposed by Nigeria, regarding a multilingual feature on the platform, proposing creating sub-national pages in the platform.
Finally, the event announced the future partnership with the Jamaica and Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies.
The ever-increasing use of Internet-based technologies for the production and trade of goods and services has changed how we consume, produce and trade. The digital economy has transformed global investments, and created new venues for tackling persistent development problems. However, joining the digital economy is still a challenge for developing countries in Africa and the Asia-Pacific, where some of the 3.8 billion who are not connected to the Internet are concentrated. Thus, this digital divide hampers digitalisation.
The session was organised in co-operation with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and it addressed the following questions:
What kind of investments are needed for digital economy development?
What are the challenges in mobilising investments towards digital economy development?
What kind of innovative practices or policies help facilitate investment for digital economy development?
Mr Houlin Zhao (Secretary-General, ITU) recalled the partnership between the ITU and UNCTAD on investment development in information and communications technology (ICT); and stressed the importance of investments in ICT infrastructures to foster innovation, and stimulate economic development. During the last decade, ICT has achieved a good degree of development, and the World Bank has assessed an increase in global mobile penetration rates. It should be noted that the role of ICT in facilitating social and economic development is recognised and endorsed by ITU member states.
In terms of achievements, there are currently more than 150 countries who developed broadband policy strategies. Today, 50% of the worldwide population is connected to broadband; however the other half, which are concentrated in poor and remote areas, need to be taken into consideration. Zhao encouraged investments in ICT, proposing the four 'I' approach; infrastructure, investment, innovation and inclusivity.
Ms Nora K. Terrado (Undersecretary, Trade and Investments Promotion Group (TIPG), Philippines), stated how digital communications and services now play an important role in social and economic development. With this regard, efforts should be focused on maximising the use of ICT. She singled out the Philippines in the global picture of economic uncertainties as one of the most successful growth examples in Asia. Despite this, she acknowledged that regional economic imbalances remain, and that the issue must be tackled with inclusivity measures. She recalled the role of the Philippines as a player in the Asian digital economy, specifically with regards to business-to-customer (B2C) transactions. Terrado stated that the 'digital economy is the lifeblood of economic development'. To stress this point, similar to the argument of Zhao, she explained the Philippines framework of three 'I' areas of investment: innovation, interconnectivity and infrastructure. In terms of innovation, the Philippines are investing in an innovation strategy for industries. With this regard, she stressed the need for industries 'to go digital' and run at the same speed of the digital revolution. In terms of interconnectivity, she argued that digital technologies have changed customer behaviour and the way of doing business, thus, the digital transformation journey should be invested in to be at the same speed with the digital revolution. Finally, in terms of infrastructure, she recalled the Build Build Build initiative, a completely digitally enabled initiative meant to invest on large infrastructures and facilities.
The first panel discussion, was moderated by Mr Richard Boldwijn (Division on Investment and Enterprise, UNCTAD). Mr Javier Albares (Head Corporate Strategy, Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA)) addressed the mobile economy. He argued that accessing the Internet is going to be increasingly done through mobile phones. He talked about the 'digital economy of the future', consisting of two revolutionary waves. The first wave is the push to get everybody online, while the second one pertains to the so-called 'cognitive computing'. This second wave represents the most revolutionary one, which will be very expensive while raising ethical and business-model related questions. Another challenge the panellist addressed was related to connecting people who are not interested in - and see no benefit in - accessing the Internet. Albares strongly argued that there is no economic incentive to continue investing in digital infrastructures at the moment. Finally, he talked about the challenge of balancing conflict priorities.
Mr Fernando Loureiro (Senior Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs, Intel, Latin America) argued that the proliferation of digital technologies has created leverage for companies, especially regarding cross-borders services. Recalling Intel's efforts in such technological developments, he argued that as the world is entering a digital transformation process driven by data; there should be a focus on strengthening cloud services. He stated that crucial new techonologies need to be taken into consideration such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. He argued that a regional environment to attract business investments and to change the policy-making of digital economy is needed. With this regard, he proposed the following points to be taken into account:
Fast-paced innovation environments, need policies that promote innovation and not limit it;
The Internet should be seen as an accelerator of development;
Digital strategies should be focused on adopting ICT rather than creating it;
An affordable and secure digital environment is needed;
Trust is key, and discussions on cybersecurity should be increased;
Regularly meeting and evaluating implications on jobs are crucial; and
Adequate tax policies are needed.
The third panellist Mr David Harmon Vice (President for Global Public Affairs, Huawei Technologies), stated that we are going through a digital transformation in which we can see some digital policies advancing, such transformation, while others tackle ethical aspects. As technology plays a huge role in advancing several sectors, it is crucial to address digital literacy in terms of access and understanding new technologies. He argued that benefits are available, but they need to be maximised with education and literacy, put in place via good solutions and best practices.
The second panel discussion was moderated by Mr Dylan Piatti (Deloitte Africa & Chairman of the Board, Ecommerce Forum Africa) and focused on digital businesses. Mr Kee Lock Chua (CEO, Vertex Holdings) explained the private sector's advancing investment approach. He argued that the decreasing costs of new technologies is a key trend, which makes them increasingly available to a bigger audience. With this regard, he stressed that digital disruption is not limited to one sector. Finally, with regards to policy considerations, he proposed and encouraged committed and long term investments, as well as open market policies and regulations on intellectual property.
Ms Lexi Novistske (Principal Investment Officer, Singularity Investments) explained the work of the company in Nigeria, as oriented in digital investment. She stressed that in some regions of the world, such as Nigeria, there is a need for investment in fundamental building blocks, including digital identity and basic financial systems.
Mr Brian Wong (VP, Global Initiatives, Alibaba) talked about Alibaba’s investment strategy that aims to build the future infrastructure of e-commerce. He argued that for an inclusive development model, technology represents a good equaliser. With regards to financial investments, he stated that the aim is not merely financial return but also the following:
Solidifying market positions of core businesses;
Identifying new technology trends; and
Tapping into new addressable markets.
Finally, Wong explained that the following four barriers should be removed to effectively stimulate the transformation of the digital economy: government regulation and policy, access to capital and talent, infrastructure, and connectivity.
The final panellist, Mr Magdi Amin (Partner, Omidyar Network), focused on the topic of digital identity and on the fact that currently, one billion people do not have such an identity, and cannot participate in the digital economy, which is the backbone of the digital society. We have seen that technology can lead to inclusion or exclusion, and this is often related to security concerns. With this regard, trust is essential: There is a need to build trust on the Internet in order to use it for addressing collective problems.
The Global Leaders Investment Summit represents a gathering of heads of state, governments, and the CEOs of global private sector companies, aiming to share their insights and considerations that will feature in the rest of the forum and its outcome.
During the first part, the summit addressed the backlash against globalisation and its consequent unequal impact; risks of protectionism in trade and investment; and the challenges that multilateralism is facing. The first part was moderated by Ms Nisha Pillai (Journalist and News Anchor, BBC), and the summit was opened with introductory remarks by Mr Mukhisa Kituyi (Secretary-General, UNCTAD). Kituyi highlighted the pressing concerns of the investment community, stressing that discussions on these topics are needed now more than ever. He argued that the dynamics of globalisation have been driving worldwide political discussions. Considering all the threats involved, such as climate change and security concerns, the debate is focused on the question of who benefits from globalisation and who does not. He stated that the goal of leaving no one behind by 2030 is difficult enough, and needs collective efforts and commitment. With this regard, he invited the audience to consider the following questions:
How will the globalisation backlash affect international investment and development?
What are viable remedies in the field of investment policy-making?
How can more people benefit from globalisation, and how can the UN contribute?
Mr Abdul Hamid (President, People’s Republic of Bangladesh), argued that globalisation is not a new phenomenon. He stressed how international production shifted due to the use of new technology, affecting some countries with unacceptable social costs. With this regard, he proposed to explore remedies that can be put in place to promote investment, and have more people benefit from globalisation. Currently, the growth in global value chains (GVCs) has stagnated, and it is crucial to increase competitiveness and access to global markets for those left behind. Moreover, he called upon the private sector to consider the international environment and sustainable development as pillars of their investments. Furthermore, Hamid stated that investments should focus on people, since human capital will be crucial for the demanding future. Finally, he restated that there is a need to act together for a better future.
Mr Khaltmaagiin Battulga (President, Mongolia) stated Mongolia's commitment to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), as the country has adapted its national strategies to address the SDGs. Moreover, he stressed the need for concrete actions to follow international commitment. There is a need to formulate investment policies in accordance with the SDGs, and to effectively implement such investments for development, through step-by-step targeted measures. Mongolia established public-private partnerships (PPP) thanks to an improved legal environment for investment, especially in crucial sectors such as agriculture. Battulga recalled the proposal of the North-East Asia Electricity project, and the importance of investments in sports for development. Finally, he called upon states, investors and international organisations to reaffirm their commitment to work together to achieve sustainable development worldwide, stating that, 'We have reached the critical moment.'
Mr Milo Ðukanović (President, Montenegro) highlighted the pattern of interdependence between trade investments and development. He argued that the market economy does not distinguish between big and small countries, but it distinguishes successful and unsuccessful ones. With regard to globalisation, he stated that the most challenging aspect is its continuum in changing the rules. The role of the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules for global investment are cruciall, as economic development changes the structure of societies. In addition, he recalled the achievements reached by Montenegro in sectors such as tourism, export, business and services, and acknowledged the euro as an element that increased money supplies. Ðukanović further explained Montenegro’s electronic portal for legislation, which allows more transparency for investors. Moreover, he stressed how global investments also bring value to modern civilisation. Finally, he concluded by recalling the importance of working together to increase the benefits of investments, and of creating the right conditions in which global investment can flourish.
Mr Vasant Narasimhan (CEO, Novartis) talked from the perspective of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies which invests worldwide. He explained that it is important for companies to build an innovation ecosystem, by allowing entrepreneurs to create new ideas and generate financial returns in a virtuous environment. Following this line, he highlighted four main areas that must be taken into consideration:
Digital and data science; 'We have to start to believe in digital and data sciences.'
Human capital investment; as enabling higher quality human capital, and investment to 'next generation scientists' in digital and data sciences are fundamental.
A microclimate environment should be created through adequate legal frameworks.
Enabling the markets to develop is crucial.
The final panellist, Mr Paul Bulcke (Chairman of the Board of Directors, Nestlé), strongly argued that an integrated world is better than an non-integrated one.
He addressed the topic by stating that the private sector should invest in capital and human capital; governments should establish the framing for the private sector to do so, while complying with the notion of 'consistency in time'; and civil society should have a voice in the processes of multistakeholderism. Finally, he argued that digitalisation integrates the world, while the physical world is trying to separate it. Thus, inclusivity should tackle the issue of leaving no one behind.
The first speech of the second part of the summit was addressed by Mr Hage Geingob (President, Republic of Namibia), who talked of the backlash against globalisation as having a negative effect on global investment. Globalisation has brought enormous benefits to humankind. However, it brings its own challenges, such as the lack of industrial capabilities in certain areas. With this regard, he questioned whether the decision will be to abandon multilateralism, or to hold hands for the benefit of humanity? To be effective, globalisation must be inclusive.
Mr Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen (Prime Minister, Kingdom of Cambodia) argued that the world is facing challenges in political, economic and social dimensions. Globalisation promotes global growth, and Cambodia fully supports globalisation policies that foster investments that are meant to tackle poverty. Cambodia is implementing efforts to promote greater integration and investments in all areas. Expressing his concerns regarding the severe global trade war, and the stagnation of trade negotiations under the WTO trade processes, he restated Cambodia’s support to all international policies promoting regional and international investment..
Mr Kocho Angjushev (Vice Prime Minister, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), highlighted the main successful elements that attract investors to a country. First and foremost, the rule of law and political stability of a country are crucial. Second, a country needs to be part of the bigger security picture (e.g. NATO). Third, successful strategies to attract investors are meant to guarantee access to high level technology and know-how. Finally, Angjushev stressed the role of governmental jobs in increasing the infrastructure capacity of a country.
Mr Roland Chalons-Browne (CEO, Siemens Financial Services) shared the notion of globalisation as a driver of a lot of benefits which are not accessible to all. Furthermore, he argued that protectionism is a reflective issue of the migration crisis.
The final speaker, Ms Nandini Sukumar (CEO, World Federation of Exchanges), talked about the role of exchange in financial development. Addressing the issue of stability and a resilient agenda, she argued that the following points should be implemented:
International investments in emerging markets should be implemented in a good legal and policy environment. A regulated financial market provides the basis; and it cannot be achieveded without sustainable development.
Upholding the rule of law is crucial for investments.
Cybersecurity is a vital issue of our times, and it 'requires global efforts and coordination'.
Systemic risks have to be considered.
The panel discussion on Building digital competencies to benefit from existing and emerging technologies with a special focus on gender and youth dimensions took place at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) during the 21st session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD).
The session was opened by Amb. Geraldine Byrne Nason (Chair, Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)). In her video message, Byrne Nason considered that the CSTD and the CSW share areas of common interest regarding the discussion on women’s rights and technology. Moreover, both the conference and the Commission share credit for creating a co-operative and collaborative discussion around the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. She explained that the CSW is a space for addressing gender equality and is based on the Beijing platform of action (i.e. the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995). She also affirmed that technological innovation is a fundamental driver for integration, thus challenges faced by women need to be urgently addressed. ‘With the fast pace of the technological progress, there is an unprecedented urgence to close the gender gap’, she maintained. Byrne Nason concluded by considering that educating women on information and communications technologies (ICT) skills is crucial in achieving the sustainable development goal (SDG) 5 and more broadly, the 2030 agenda.
Ms Shamika N. Sirimanne (Director, Division on Technology and Logistics, Head of the CSTD Secretariat at UNCTAD) introduced the Report of the Secretary General on building digital competencies. She stressed that new technologies bring both opportunities (e.g. improve living standards) as well as challenges. ‘Development gains are not automatic but depend on the readiness of countries to adopt and adapt to such advancements’, she clarified. She then focused on the existing ‘mismatches’ regarding building digital competencies: by 2020 around 80-90% of jobs in the European Union will require ICT skills and by 2030 around 3-14% of the global workforce will need to switch to new occupational categories. Moreover, there is a considerable gender gap in the access to digital technologies: women are underrepresented in ICT specialised occupations, and in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
She concluded by illustrating strategies suggested for building digital competencies such as incorporating digital skills in the educational system, creating an enabling environment by investing in digital infrastructure, and promoting collaboration among different stakeholders.
Ms Miriam Nicado García (Rector University of Informatics Sciences (UCI) of the Ministry of Higher Education, Cuba) explained that since 1959, Cuba has progressed in education and science by creating a network of higher education centres comprising over 50 universities nationally. She stated that the UCI was created in 2002 to train professionals dedicated to informatics sciences. Overall, 40% of the students are women and they have the possibility to include a variety of subjects in their studies such as engineering, mathematics, and bioinformatics.
Ms Helena Dalli (Minister of European Affairs and Equality, Malta) considered that in Malta, women are underrepresented in STEM subjects. The gender gap existing in education is also reflected in the job market as women tend to be paid 30% less than men as ICT specialists, and they are represented with a margin of five to one compared to men in the same sector. Moreover, in Malta, men are twice as likely to become engineers than women and they have a five times greater chance to become software developers. She explained that Malta’s national digital strategy strives ‘to make the most out of the technological advancement’, with special attention to gender issues. This is why the government has taken several family-friendly measures aiming at increasing the presence of women in leadership positions in science and technology. She concluded the presentation by considering that ‘stereotyping is the most serious impediment to women moving forward in science’. That is why Malta voted in favour of the establishment of an international day of women and girls in science to be held on 11 February.
Ms Sophia Bekele (Founder & CEO of the DotConnectAfrica Group) first considered that ‘we grow because every day we endeavor to know’. She explained that the current state of the Internet and the latest technological developments ‘have revolutionised Africa’. Despite the fact that Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of female startups, there are still existing challenges that women entrepreneurs face while launching a start-up, such as lack of finances, product pricing and poor marketing. She explained that new technologies could significantly help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in, for example, the development of green energy sources. She concluded by explaining that the DotConnectAfrica group aims at fostering the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and new technologies in Africa through a partnerships and mentorships programme, as well as complementary gender empowerment initiatives such as Miss.Africa.
UNCTAD launched their Information Economy Report 2017: Digitalization, Trade and Development, at the Palais de Nations, in Geneva, on 3 October, 2017. The report looks at the trends in digitalisation and examines how information and communication technologies (ICTs) are impacting global trade and development.
The event was opened by Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD. He explained that the report is meant to provide a response to the demand by developing countries for assistance in coping with the challenges and opportunities that have arisen owing to the rapid transformations brought about by digital technologies. In addition, by providing data and statistics, it hopes to encourage policy-makers to engage in evidence-based discussions on this topic, and to adopt legal frameworks adapted to changes in digitalisation. Ms Shamika N Sirimanne, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics (DTL) of UNCTAD, added that the point of the report was to provide a body of hard evidence on digitalisation, trade and development, and to enrich the discussions of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-Commerce and the Digital Economy.
Mr Torbjörn Fredriksson, Chief of Information and Communication Technology Analysis of DTL, UNCTAD, provided a chapter-by-chapter overview of the report. He emphasised that we are only in the ‘early days’ of the new digital economy, which will generate significant transformations due to technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data, and 3D printing. These transformations can bring opportunities, as well as risks and challenges. The ultimate impact depends on the ability of enterprises and people to take advantage of digitalisation, as well as on countries’ readiness for e-commerce, which can only be achieved by taking a holistic approach to policy-making.
The report furthermore attempts to measure the digital economy, even though good statistics are often lacking, especially for developing countries. The measurements point at the fast growth of the digital economy, especially on the part of developing countries, yet there are still major digital divides that need to be factored in. In addition, the report looks at the way in which digitalisation can make trade more inclusive, and its consequences for global value chains.
Changes in the labour market are also analysed, including the phenomenon of online work. While this is making work more flexible and potentially more inclusive, it also raises concerns related to the lack of social protection and low wages. In general, digitalisation can affect jobs in four ways:
To tackle trade, development, and digitalisation issues, the dialogue between trade and Internet governance communities needs to be strengthened, and coordination needs to be improved across ministries, stakeholders, and different levels of government.
H.E. Mr Julian Braithwaite, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, commented on the report by raising two key points:
He also stressed that the digital economy can only thrive with a free and open Internet, and that confidence in digital technologies is needed in the modern economic marketplace. He encouraged institutions in Geneva to remove barriers by working together: ‘If the international system doesn’t catch up, this will be harmful for economies and stifle opportunities’.
Dr Omobola Johnson, Senior Partner at TLcomCapital and former Nigerian Minister for ICT, emphasised that the digital divide is still widening due to a lack of affordable Internet and of awareness of the potential of digital technology. Based on current trends, we will only be able to achieve universal access to the Internet by 2042. Yet, with a committed multistakeholder and multidimensional perspective, progress can be accelerated. Therefore, collaboration is needed across ministries, departments, and agencies.