UNCTAD E-Commerce Week 2017

24 Apr 2017 to 28 Apr 2017
Geneva, Switzerland


Event report/s:
Marco Lotti

The closing session 'Key Outcomes and Way Forward' summarised the key points and concrete actions elaborated throughout the whole E-commerce Week.

The closing session 'Key Outcomes and Way Forward' summarised the key points and concrete actions elaborated throughout the whole E-commerce Week. In particular, the chair of the Panel, Ms Shamika N Sirimanne, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics (DTL), UNCTAD, affirmed the necessity for participants to value the outcomes of different working groups and make e-commerce more inclusive.

Mr Torbjorn Fredriksson, Head of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Analysis Section of the DTL, UNCTAD, formally opened the discussion by highlighting the importance of the event and its unprecedented success. Compared to the 2016 UNCTAD e-commerce week, this year's participation rose from 300 people to about 900. Moreover, more than 90 countries were officially represented in the discussion as opposed to roughly 40 countries of previous year. Furthermore, important platforms and courses were launched during the week, such as the 'e-trade4all' online platform, the World Bank cybercrime toolkit, and the course on Digital Commerce offered by DiploFoundation.

Subsequently, Fredriksson invited eight speakers to report on the outcomes of the main sessions that took place during the week.

H.E. Ms Frances Lisson, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), reported from the session on gender and e-commerce. She underlined the wide gender gap that persist in terms of access to financial resources, participation and courses for women in the market. Consequently, she urged various international organisations to create a fertile ground, enabling and promoting women’s businesses. Moreover, she also stressed the importance of collaborating with the private sector and academia in order to have better disaggregated data.

Mr Jonathan Werner, Coordinator of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) Initiative, WTO, summarised the main outcomes of the session focusing on Least Developed Countries (LCDs). He reaffirmed that digital trade is the way forward but at the same time the digital divide remains tangible, especially in different areas of the world.  He reminded the audience that the existing partnerships with the major stakeholders involved have brought positive results, such as the German presidency of G20. He pushed for an increase of resource mobilisation efforts and support to LDCs in mobilising resources regionally.

Mr Michael J Ferrantino, Lead Economist of the International Trade Department, World Bank, reported from the session on measurement. The conversation investigated the possibilities for improving the availability of data on e-commerce in developing countries. He highlighted three main conclusions: using the existing surveys in order to collect information on e-commerce, collaborate with the private and public sectors (such as postal data and the transport sector), and increase the capacity building.

Ms Teresa Moreira, Head of the Competition Policy and Consumer Protection Branch,  UNCTAD, illustrated the main points of the discussion on the consumer protection in the online context. She underlined that an increase of e-commerce and mobile commerce would positively impact the application of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in developing countries. In particular, she urged participant to provide clearer information on rights and duties of consumers and to promote international co-operation aiming at developing consumer protection policies in the online context.

Mr Nick Ashton-Hart, Adviser, UNCTAD, illustrated the recommendations on the possible outcomes of payments. In particular, he stressed three important policy goals. Firstly, everyone everywhere should be able to consume any time, anywhere, through affordable payment methods. Secondly, there is the need to leverage flexibility, for example to promote credit card transactions without the need to request pre-authorisation from competent authorities. Thirdly, security and new payment forms should be assured through the development of multi-regulatory clearances.

Mr James Howe, Senior Adviser, ITC, reported from the session on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). He explained that the discussion developed during this session was mainly business oriented, and focused on the use of e-commerce as a tool to increase connection with the external world. Moreover, he stressed the importance of e-commerce in fragile situations (e.g. in Syria) as a path towards stability and against isolation.

The reporting session was followed by an open discussion in which questions from the audience drew attention to three specific issues. First, the role of the private sector is crucial in increasing e-commerce in developing countries, hence it needs to be supported. Second, currently, a large part of e-commerce is domestic, thus the challenge for the future lies in increasing international, cross-border e-commerce. Third, potential risks of e-commerce in terms of security and child protection must not to be overlooked.

The week-long event was closed with remarks by Ms Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General, UNCTAD. She thanked all the participants for their interest in the event and precious input during the discussions. She reminded the audience that although the UNCTAD E-commerce Week represents an important yearly meeting, important changes do not happen only once a year. Finally, she pushed the stakeholders involved not to be 'Geneva centric' but to consider the importance of the Asia Pacific Region and the challenges regarding cross-border transactions in Africa as well.

Marissa Lopresti

The session was based around the question of how the growing e-commerce trade interacts with the current framework of the rules within, as well as outside the WTO, specifically for MSMEs in develop

The session was based around the question of how the growing e-commerce trade interacts with the current framework of the rules within, as well as outside the WTO, specifically for MSMEs in developing countries. The goal of the panel was to improve the understanding of how developing countries can use e-commerce trade rules to their advantage to continue to develop. 

The benefits of cross border e-commerce were brought up several times, as this kind of platform has given MSMEs the opportunity to expand their businesses by allowing them to reach customers in markets all over the world that they have never had access to before. Mr Winichai Chamchaeng, Vice-Minister of Commerce, Thailand, said that e-commerce has helped increase customer confidence and the overall customer base that MSMEs in Thailand have been able to reach. He also said that the development of trade rules in relation to e-commerce will benefit all stakeholders and MSMEs in the region.

Ms Chan Kah Mei, Deputy Director of the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry, also spoke about how e-commerce has been helping companies in Singapore expand globally. She then spoke about some of the different types of MSMEs that e-commerce has impacted within the region. From traditional businesses using online stores to reach non-traditional markets, to logistics based businesses that now have access to data in new markets globally, as well as the increase in C2C (consumer to consumer) companies that use an e-market platform.

The challenges in e-commerce for MSMEs in developing countries were also discussed. These challenges include: lack of infrastructure and access to the Internet; the difficulty in regulation – due to the many different types of companies; confusion in new business areas that makes it difficult to identify what type of company rules they need to follow; growing restrictions on data due to privacy concerns, taxes, and cross boarder e-payments. As e-commerce has been evolving rather quickly, it is important that the rules stay relevant to the evolving businesses. Mr Carlos Grau Tanner, Director General of Global Express Alliance, talked about the taxation issue in depth.  This is a barrier very frequently faced, and is a reason that the cost of the collection of taxes, often loses money for these companies.

Mr Victor do Prado, Director of the Council and TNC Division at the WTO, spoke about how people do not realise the relevance of the current WTO rules to e-commerce. He said that it should make no difference whether someone buys goods in a physical shop or online, it is still considered goods trading and therefor  does not exempt the buyer and seller from the WTO rules. It is because there are no technological distinctions in the rules that people tend to believe that the rules do not apply to e-commerce, and none of the rules reaffirm that e-commerce is covered.  

Dane Burkholder

In this session, the experiences of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in developed countries in adopting e-commerce technology was compared to those in developing countries.

In this session, the experiences of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in developed countries in adopting e-commerce technology was compared to those in developing countries. The panel addressed how e-commerce has changed trade for small firms, the difficulties these firms have faced, and ways in which stakeholders can co-operate to promote further e-commerce adoption in developing countries.

H.E. Mr Julian Braithwaite, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the UK Mission to the UN and Other International Organisations in Geneva, began the discussion by reaffirming the UK’s interest in e-commerce as a driver of growth in its own economy, and emphasised the need for inclusiveness to close the digital divide between developing and developed countries. He then addressed the fact that the digital agenda is fragmented between many international organisations, and argued that intelligent future regulation must break down these silos.

Ms Angela Steen, from the peer-to-peer e-commerce company Etsy, gave the perspective of micro-enterprises using e-commerce platforms. She outlined four main challenges faced by Etsy’s sellers, most of whom are young women selling their products globally: trade laws have not kept up with the growth of e-commerce and have put unnecessary burdens on micro-companies, sellers face short-term income volatility and struggle to find ways to educate themselves about upscaling their businesses, and governments tend to ignore the needs of these businesses in their policies.

Ms Berna Ozsar, Secretary General of the World SME Forum, highlighted the fact that e-commerce has been both a blessing and a curse for developing countries. While e-commerce has allowed SMES in developed countries to access sources of finance and previously untapped markets, SMEs in developing countries have fallen behind. These developing country SMEs face three main issues: lack of awareness about e-commerce, lack of access, and lack of knowledge (regarding language barriers and confusing custom laws).

Ms Hannie Melin Olbe, Director of Global Public Policy at eBay, added to the topic of 'lack of access' by addressing the massive amounts of micro-enterprises unconnected to the global markets. She discussed the tremendous role of online commerce in lowering costs of distance to create a 'global empowerment network' that provides opportunities for these previously unconnected enterprises to reach new markets.

Ms Colette van der Ven, Associate of Sidley-Austin LLP, discussed the legal hurtles that her clients must face to conduct e-commerce. SMEs must overcome both traditional and new legal obstacles, thereby increasing costs and hurting innovation. One solution to this problem is an 'E-comm Co-op', which aggregates hundreds of merchants and provides benefits and resources that they would not otherwise receive.

Ms Victoria Saue, Head of Legal and Compliance of Estonia’s e-Residency, discussed her country’s innovative approach to help SMEs by allowing anyone around the world to apply for e-residency in Estonia. This gives SMEs three main benefits: providing access to economic opportunities in the EU, increasing financial inclusion – such as the ability to receive loans, and creating trust in these SMEs through a valid Estonian ID.

Ms Famke Schapp, Director of Customs and Global Trade at Deloitte, discussed the major compliance challenges that Deloitte’s clients must face when conducting e-commerce. These challenges included the confusion behind deciding whether they provide goods or services, lack of clarity and harmony in taxes and standards, and burdensome regulatory costs that vary by country.

Ms Susan F Stone, Director of the Trade, Investment and Innovation Division of UN Economic and Social Commission or Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), finished the panel discussion by advocating for UNCTAD’s eTrade for All Platform to prevent fragmentation, duplication, and redundancy of trade standards for e-commerce. Stone also discussed successful examples of knowledge sharing agreements that provide frameworks for governments to agree to common standards and vocabulary involving digital issues.

The discussion then moved towards input from the audience. Emphasis was placed on the experiences and challenges of an entrepreneur from Syria who aggregates and sells online the arts and crafts of women displaced by the Syrian Civil War. Her main challenge was the difficulty of receiving payments due to sanctions on Syria and her government’s policies, which greatly limits her e-commerce potential. Further questions and answers from the audience re-emphasised the need to limit the regulatory and tax burden of SMEs, create standardised trade agreements, and encourage SMEs to adopt e-commerce measures through success stories and relevant data.

Marco Lotti

This session focused on the impact e-commerce and business internationalisation have on export promotion.

Mr Martin Labbé, Senior Officer and Institutional Development at the International Trade Centre, gave the opening remarks and moderated the session. He highlighted the essential contribution of Trade and Investment Promotion Organisations (TIPOs) in enhancing e-commerce and export promotion.

In particular, he invited the four speakers to address the opportunities and challenges that e-commerce poses for TIPOs.

Ms Siv Ahlberg, Programme Director at Finnpartnership, opened the discussion. She began by illustrating the main role of the Finnish Business Partnership Programme, which is providing aid and advisory services to organisations interested in launching business operations in developing countries. She explained that Finnpartnership is a 'match-making' organisation, connecting business to business (B-to-B) and business to customer (B-to-C). Moreover, she specified that all the companies working with Finnpartnership are subjected to a monitoring mechanism both before and after they join the organisation.

Finally, she considered the existing challenges that e-commerce poses to TIPOs. In Finland, customer protection laws are very strong. This can constitute a problem in terms of the customer’s trust towards a given company: if a company makes a mistake in terms of visibility, it will be difficult to restore its reputation.

Ms Indira Malwatte, Chairperson and Chief Executive at the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (SLDB), continued the discussion, illustrating the SLDB’c approach towards e-commerce and TIPOs. She explained that the SLDB offers companies a platform to advertise their products and initiatives. Before having access to such a portal, companies undergo a strict credibility check during which a representative from the SLDB visits the facility and redacts a report.

At the same time, she described the limits of the current SLDB platform. In Sri Lanka, digital signature has not yet been recognised as valid,  it is thus not possible to pay through electronic platforms. Consequently, this creates an unfriendly environment for e-commerce.

Mr Sebastian Tamás, Director of Innovations at the Hungarian National Trading House, explained the different approach they have towards e-commerce compared to that of SLDB. The Hungarian National Trading House follows a 'start-up Darwinism' approach: they help companies with a more versatile profile – companies with higher potential – to adapt to the rapid changes of the market. The key aspect is automation: although availability of data can represent a hurdle, there is big attention being paid to the collection and analysis of information. This includes not only a background check of companies, but also a follow-up control mechanism that follows companies’ successful activity through time.

In particular, he specified that the collection of information is done through an algorithm that considers companies’ digital footprint, as for example the analysis of their engagement on social media platforms.

Mr James Zhan, Director of Investment and Enterprise at UNCTAD, concluded the discussion with his speech. As opposed to the previous speakers who talked about trade promotion, he addressed investment promotion and its risks in particular. In this sense, the challenge lies in linking investment promotion with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the digital era. He considered that SDGs are also encompassing many digital targets (such as the access to Internet for all), with possible positive effects on investment and trade. The ultimate objective is to enhance digital economic development, but at the same time, rapid changes of the international landscape make it difficult for companies to pursue a long-term coherent strategy. 

Marília Maciel

Mr Daniel Blockert, Ambassador of Sweden to the WTO and Chair of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) Steering Committee, was the moderator of the session.

Mr Daniel Blockert, Ambassador of Sweden to the WTO and Chair of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) Steering Committee, was the moderator of the session. The EIF is a multi-donor programme with the aim of helping Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to become more active players in the global trading system. Blockert started by recalling that the theme of eTrade readiness assessment is deeply related to the process that generated the eTrade for All initiative. The challenges for LDCs to engage in e-commerce are still significant, starting from a low level of connectivity in most of them. The launch of the eTrade for All initiative was an important first step, but it is necessary to discuss how it can be implemented. This session is an opportunity to hear views from LDCs, especially the ones that have undergone eTrade readiness assessments.

Cambodia was one of these countries. H.E. Mr Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce, Cambodia, underscored the important role of the EIF to the LDCs because it provides technical co-operation, keeps LDCs abreast of evolutions in the trade landscape and helps them identify the best way to advance their agendas. The eTrade readiness assessment complements assessments done by other actors, such as the private sector, and helps LDCs to prepare for global negotiations, including within the WTO. The eTrade for all helps to break the silos and encourages actors such as governments and the private sector, to work together.

H.E. Mr Lekey Dorji, Minister for Economic Affairs, Bhutan, mentioned that his country was one of the first selected by UNCTAD for the eTrade readiness assessments. The assessment has provided the country with a good guide on how to adopt ICTs for development. Important frameworks were approved, such as the ICT roadmap from 2011, which fosters ICT for good government and sustainable economic development.  In 2016, the ICT for development plan was launched, with the aim to foster the growth of the ICT industry. Buthan has no overarching law on e-commerce – and this was one of the weak points identified in the assessment report, but some legal frameworks are in place, such as the consumer protection law, from 2012. Having e-readiness assessments is an important first step, but the biggest challenge is to find the resources to develop e-commerce. More resources and technical knowledge are needed if the recommendations on the eTrade assessment are to be carried forward by LDCs.

H.E. Ms Anusha Rahman Ahmad Khan, Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecom, Pakistan, recalled that the future of the economy is digital, so LDCs need support to ensure that their limited resources are efficiently used to make e-commerce grow faster. ICTs are enablers of development, but this point has not been included among the 17 goals that encompass the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN Broadband Commission aims to include ‘access to ICTs’ as an 18th SDG goal.

Khan affirmed that the Universal Service Funds are an important instrument for developing countries. Many developing countries, however, do not use these resources for their intended purpose, which is to connect the unconnected. Governments should make these funds available to their ICT ministers, so they can deploy infrastructure. Pakistan has done that, and created a public-private-partnership (PPP) to administrate the funds. The Pakistani government also celebrated a PPP with Microsoft to develop a project that teaches girls technology skills, such as coding and cloud computing. When it comes to regulatory issues, it is important that governments perform their role in protecting their people. Sometimes it is difficult for governments to approve laws, such as cybercrime and privacy laws, because they impact the business models of the private sector, which are based on the use of data. Governments need to support each other in order to be able to develop the much needed regulation.

Blockert asked Khan how the distribution of resources from the Universal Service fund takes place in Pakistan. Khan explained in detail the functioning of the Universal Fund. She emphasised that every aspect, from governance issues to the actual disbursement of resources, is managed by a public private partnership (PPP).

H.E Dr Francois Xavier Ngarambe, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Rwanda, mentioned that his country is starting to put into place the frameworks for enabling e-commerce transactions. SMEs are accompanied and supported in the process of creating their online businesses. Nevertheless, in order for LDCs to really progress, e-commerce needs to be linked with the transformation of the whole economy, transfer of technology and knowledge sharing. Institutional improvement is also necessary, so they develop better and more predictable policies.

Mr Günter Nooke, Personal Representative for Africa to the German Chancellor, BMZ, Germany, made an overview of the German contribution to initiatives to foster development. It includes support to the Enhanced Integrated Framework – an important tool to make e-commerce useful for LDCs, and also to organisations such as the International Trade Centre (ITC), which focuses on the inclusion of SMEs. Nooke also commented on the work of the G20 on e-commerce. Some of the topics discussed are taxation, the development angle, and capacity building for women and girls. He summarised the developments of the last G20 summit. Nooke recalled that digital trade needs not only ICT infrastructure, but also physical infrastructure and logistics. The G20, in partnership with other actors, is also contributing to channel private financing into infrastructure development.

Blockert opened the floor for questions to Khan. The representative of Pakistan shared information about initiatives that Pakistan is putting in place to promote connectivity. The representative of an e-commerce website in Cameroon asked how the ICT ministry in Pakistan overcame the resistance of families to let women participate in ICT training. Khan mentioned that these girls usually come from the most disadvantaged sectors of society and that they have been encouraged by their parents to attend the training. The employability agreement with Microsoft gives them the chance to further participate in a free-lancer training, offered to the ones that excel in the program. In Khan's opinion, it is important to partner with the private sector, since they can help to develop the curriculum and train the tutors. A representative from Morocco commented on the trade-offs between strict regulation and innovation and defended the need for balanced policies that grant both economic and social opportunities. A representative from the Islamic Development Bank, mentioned that the bank is offering support for infrastructure deployment to its members.

Khan replied that it is up to policymakers to define what would be a balanced regulation. For Pakistan, providing job opportunities for young people is the most important goal, so regulation should not hinder innovation and employability.

Mr Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director of the Executive Secretariat for the Enhanced Integrated Framework, made some assessments of the current scenario:

  • SMEs will need to use technology to participate in the global value chains.
  • E-commerce has changed the way we conduct business. It reduces information asymetries and redundancy in the global value chain.
  • LDCs are far from exploring the full potential of e-commerce and the gender divide is severe.
  • Aid for Trade helps to realise the potential of e-commerce.

According to Adhikari, Samoa and Liberia will undergo the eTrade readiness assessment soon. Once the assessment is done, UNCTAD supports the countries with project preparation grants, helping them develop robust projects and apply to bilateral donors, to the eTrade for All, and other potential channels.

Ms Dorothy Ng'ambi Tembo, Deputy Executive Director of the ITC, affirmed that technology provides a good opportunity to scale SMEs:

  • Through e-commerce, SMEs can build international reputation and enhance consumer trust.
  • It allows to expand outreach. Less resources are needed for companies to become visible when they use online platforms.
  • Disintermediation in international trade. SMEs can ship directly to the end point.
  • Facilitate channels for SMEs to have access to multiple financial options.

In spite of that, participation of LDCs in e-commerce is still very low and there is a need to concretely support SMEs from LDCs in order to enhance participation. There is willingness from governments to work towards this goal, but most of them are still wondering how to do it. Some issues that need to be addressed include:

  • Non-conformity with tax requirements. The failure to conform with VAT duties can generate additional costs for consumers and sellers and increase the number of returned packages.
  • Availability of payment solutions. In Africa there is a considerable number of payment solutions, but restricted to the domestic market. There is a need to go beyond the domestic market.
  • Lack of affordable logistics.

Ng'ambi Tembo made some recommendations on priority areas:

  • To provide country-specific recommendations.
  • Make human and financial resources available.
  • Strengthen regulatory coherence.
  • Provide capacity building for SMEs.

Ms Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics, UNCTAD, explained UNCTAD’s main areas of activity: technical assistance, ICT policy reviews and regulatory reviews. She mentioned that the eTrade readiness assessment has been conducted in two countries for the moment and there is plenty of space to scale it to others. The assessment provides an opportunity to have a multistakeholder assessment, involving  governments and the private sector.

Mr Fernand Matendo, CEO of Burundi Shop, explained the issues that, in his view, prevent LDCs from developing faster. A large part of the workforce is in the countryside, doing manual labour. His company is engaged in developing a platform that will connect the countryside to the marketplace, using mobile devices. It will facilitate payments and create a network for the delivery of products. There are more than 50 partners engaged, including the associations of transports and logistics.

Ms Shomi Kaiser, Adviser at the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), highlighted the importance of the partnerships between the public sector and the private sector to develop the national framework that will allow a coherent e-commerce policy. 

Barbara Rosen Jacobson

This session kicked off the Just-In-Time Course on Digital Commerce delivered by the Geneva Internet Platform, in partnershi

This session kicked off the Just-In-Time Course on Digital Commerce delivered by the Geneva Internet Platform, in partnership with the International Trade Centre (ITC), the Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS International), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and DiploFoundation.

Dr Jovan Kurbalija, Director of DiploFoundation and Head of the Geneva Internet Platform, provided a background to the development of the course, as it was initiated in response to the need of policymakers to understand this increasingly complex topic. This heightened interest in better understanding digital commerce coincides with the Internet’s growing centrality in society and its facilitation for development. According to Kurbalija, ‘on this long journey, we do not have all the answers, but we should have enough understanding, goodwill, and capacity to address the issues we will face, for a more effective and shared e-commerce space’.

Ms Marion Jansen, Chief Economist of the International Trade Centre, emphasised the topic’s novelty and complexity, which needs to be grasped in order to capture its full potential. SMEs can particularly benefit from the promise of e-commerce, provided that they have a proper understanding of the potential and challenges of digital commerce. Their success also depends on the supporting regulatory environment at both the national and international level. She hoped the course would contribute to reducing the complexity of the topic, bringing life into complex issues, and moving digital commerce into the right direction.

Mr Rashid S Kaukab, Executive Director of CUTS International Geneva, spoke about the potential for e-commerce to provide benefits at all levels, especially in developing countries. Yet, these countries often struggle to understand the various aspects of e-commerce. The course helps to improve the understanding of the issues involved for better informed policy decisions, irrespective of the direction of policy discussions and negotiations. He furthermore emphasised that the course would allow for collaborative learning, ultimately leading everyone to better understand the multi-layered nature of digital commerce.

According to Ms Marie Sicat, Economic Affairs Officer at UNCTAD, the course has been launched at an appropriate time, considering the mounting interest on digital commerce. She provided an overview of the many aspects of life affected by digital transformations, as well as the digital development challenges that limit the opportunities of digital technologies. Many of these challenges will be covered in the course.

After the interventions by the four institutions that have been involved in the development of the course, Ms Marilia Maciel, Digital Policy Senior Researcher at DiploFoundation, and Ms Roxana Radu, Programme Manager at the Geneva Internet Platform, explained in further detail how the course is structured. Next, Kurbalija started the first lecture of the course, focused on Internet functionality and business models.

Kurbalija gave a sneak peek into the history of the Internet, as well as its infrastructure and architecture. Although the Internet is often imagined as being largely decentralised, he demonstrated that most Internet traffic flows through physical submarine cables and connects in a number of important hubs. With the increased technological advancement of the Internet, people started to realise its commercial potential, and new business models arose, including the Internet access model, the trade digitalisation model, the data model, the cloud service model, and the Internet platform model. Ultimately, this has created Internet applications that have become central to people’s needs and aspirations, and which affects all layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Marissa Lopresti

The session focused on how digital transformation is changing the standard business model and how it will affect the types of jobs available on the market, and the skills young people need to acqui

The session focused on how digital transformation is changing the standard business model and how it will affect the types of jobs available on the market, and the skills young people need to acquire in order to enter the labour force. The key elements discussed included: future trends of the labour market in the digital economy, and how the support of young entrepreneurs is a crucial step in driving innovation and job creation all over the world.

Mr James Zhan, Director of Investment and Enterprise at UNCTAD, spoke on the pressing issue of global youth unemployment, which has now reached 13.1%, and the work that UNCTAD and the Commonwealth have been doing in order to develop a Policy Guide on Youth Entrepreneurship. The Policy Guide aims to support policymakers in developing countries and transition economies to design policies and programmes for the youth, establish institutions to promote youth entrepreneurship, and offer training in support of young people creating jobs for themselves rather than waiting for the government to solve the problem.

Mr Pere Molins, Impact Enterprises, spoke about the work they are doing to support young entrepreneurs in Zambia by facilitating programmes which connect young people to job opportunities around the world. With a youth unemployment rate in Zambia of 59%, Impact Enterprises aims to 'pioneer socially conscious outsourcing in Africa'; with just an Internet connection, one can work for any company in the world. Automation threatens about 85% of jobs in developing countries, which emphasises the need for youth to possess concrete technical skills in addition to softer skills such as communication. Molins also expressed his belief that there is a lack of collaboration globally, and that a multistakeholder dialogue could help to drive innovation.

The CEO of a technology company in South Africa, spoke briefly on the non-academic nature of technical entrepreneurship, and the millennial generation being very process/structure oriented while there is no structured training for entrepreneurship. The need for knowledge such as coding and other skills not typically taught in school is crucial, as it will help make the youth more successful. It is often the case that young entrepreneurs fail to execute their ideas due to their lack of basic knowledge on information technology, which results in them becoming exploited by the venture capital system.

The core of this session was the exclusive interactive dialogue portion with Mr Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD Secretary-General, and Mr Jack Ma, Founder and Director of Alibaba and Special Adviser to UNCTAD.

As a well known, successful entrepreneur, Ma said he likes to refer to himself as 'CEO: Chief Education Officer', as he views himself first and foremost as a teacher, and he says his job is to support young entrepreneurs in business.  Entrepreneurs talk about the future and they are never worried about what is to come; this is what excites him and drives his need to work with young people. When asked how we can address the main concerns of youth employment in the digital economy, he explained that e-commerce is just the beginning of what is to come. The youth will become the experts of e-commerce and because e-commerce is the future, he is extremely passionate about supporting these young entrepreneurs that will drive this change. He emphasised the idea that people under 30 embrace the Internet and because of that, it is going to be the small start up companies that will thrive in the future economy. It is important to learn from the mistakes of successful people rather than their stories of success, as this knowledge will prepare one for similar challenges in the future; this, he believes will be the driving force of progress. 

Kituyi spoke about the challenges of inclusive prosperity and the need for smart partnerships between companies, the UN, governments and academics. He is confident that the Policy Guide on Youth Entrepreneurship will be successful in achieving these kinds of partnerships and will inspire others to do so as well. E-payment is a political decision, and Kenya is one example of how this kind of partnership has been successful as it currently has the most developed mobile payment system in the world. Today we need awareness from political leaders to do what is necessary to stimulate innovation. He also stressed the need to think of the youth as less of a target audience, and more of a group that can provide input. 'We can only solve global problems as a global community.'

Marília Maciel

Dr Stormy-Annika Mildner, B20 Sherpa, Head of the Department of External Economic Policy, Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (BDI), Federation of German Industries, made an over

Dr Stormy-Annika Mildner, B20 Sherpa, Head of the Department of External Economic Policy, Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (BDI), Federation of German Industries, made an overview of the B20's activities. The B20 represents the G20 business community, and currently has more than 700 members. The work of the B20 takes place in three thematic groups: a) trade and finance; b) digitalisation; c) SMEs. The B20 made some key recommendations:

  • Accelerate capacity building in the field of e-commerce
  • Develop sound and harmonised e-commerce related policies
  • Adapt trade rules to the digital age
  • The WTO should have a mandate to negotiate digital trade
  • Enable cross-border data flows.

Dr Gunther Grathwohl, Counsellor at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, started by making an overview of how digital economy has been addressed by the G20. The  G20 Antalya Summit was the first time the topic was discussed. During the G20 Hangzhou Summit, a task Force was proposed, and thus the G20 Digital Economy Task Force (DETF) was launched at the Düsseldorf Summit. The DETF deals with the following themes:

  • Digitalisation, growth and employment, which encompasses several pillars, such as: improving infrastructure, analysing the role of digital platforms (including their impact on competition) and developing digital skills in education.
  • Digitalisation of production for the future, which includes, for example, connecting machines across enterprises, harmonising industry standards in areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT). 
  • Creating trust, confidence and transparency, which includes principles such as free flow of data, privacy, and security.

Grathwohl highlighted some of the results of the process so far: the approval of a ministerial declaration; a roadmap; and a plan of action for the coming years; as well as annexes dealing with digital skills and digital trade. The G20 also committed to other goals, such as promoting digital inclusion, fostering competition, use of digitalisation as a way to achieve the SDGs, and enhancing consumer protection and digital literacy skills.

Dr Walter Werner, Ambassador of Germany to the WTO, focused on the e-commerce-related discussions at the G20. He commented on the discussions of the G20 Digital Ministries Conference and the results of the work of the Trade and Investment Working Group. The following topics are being discussed at the working group:

  • Measuring digital trade. The OECD has provided input to these discussions and provided statistics. Services, for example, are not well captured in statistics.
  • International Frameworks for digital trade. This discussion was informed by a WTO presentation.
  • The development dimension of digital trade, informed by UNCTAD.

The declaration that was produced touches upon points, such as:

  • Promotion of growth and jobs.
  • Commitment to improve measurement and statistics. This topic will be very prominent in MC11 in Argentina.
  • Commitment to engage in discussions at the WTO, without consensus about opening negotiations.
  • Implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and including digital trade aspects in Trade Policy Reviews.
  • Commitment to help developing countries overcome the barriers to digital trade. The theme should be further discussed at the working group and international organisations should be invited to assist.

During the questions and answers segment, a TWN representative asked how the G20 proposals relate to points raised by the EU at the WTO, which ne considered not be beneficial to developing countries. Werner replied that the EU has hold only of information exchanged among member countries, tacking stock of current status and options ahead. Another participant asked if there are multilateral discussions to develop a framework for a harmonised recognition of digital signatures. Currently they are recognised on a national basis and not cross-border. Werner replied that there is no common standard and the position for the time being is that every country should recognise digital signatures as valid, but discussions are not mature enough to agree on specific standards. Perhaps the issue should not be tackled by the WTO, but rather by other international organisations, such as for example the ITU. 

Barbara Rosen Jacobson

This session launched the eTrade for all online platform, which serves as an information hub for developing countries to navigate the technical and financial services available to drive de

This session launched the eTrade for all online platform, which serves as an information hub for developing countries to navigate the technical and financial services available to drive development through e-commerce, and which is a central component of UNCTAD’s eTrade for all initiative.

Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, opened the session, emphasising that the opportunities that e-commerce brings will be wasted if challenges fail to be addressed. He stressed the need to explore ways to reduce the divide, spread benefits, and empower the vulnerable. The eTrade for all initiative is a ‘critical first step’ on a long journey. Ms Shamika Sirimanne, Director of the Technology and Logistics Division of UNCTAD, introduced the eTrade for all online platform, as a one-stop shop for the identification of resources to foster inclusive e-commerce in seven key areas.

After the presentation of the platform, several high-level speakers reflected on the tool. H.E. Mr Khurram Dastgir Khan, Minister of Commerce of Pakistan, expressed his hope for the democratisation of e-commerce, and he appreciated the platform’s focus on inclusivity, which is ‘the only sustainable path for the future prosperity of e-commerce: e-commerce must embrace everyone’. H.E. Mr Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce of Cambodia, provided an example of how Cambodia has benefited from the eTrade for all initiative, especially its e-trade readiness assessment, which identified access to relevant information and awareness of laws and regulation as a key barrier to e-commerce. The online platform can respond to this need.

The interventions by the ministers were followed by the remarks of four ambassadors. H.E. Ms Terhi Hakala, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Finland, reflected on the disruptive nature of ICTs in international trade, and the need for development assistance and capacity building to help developing countries move to e-trade. As current efforts are fragmented, the online platform is a useful tool to pool scattered resources and to coordinate efforts. H.E. Mr Julian Braithwaite, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of the UK, added that it is essential to deepen the understanding of the opportunities, challenges, and risks of e-commerce in order to drive forward a multilateral, development-focused e-trade agenda. The online platform serves this objective and fosters policy coherence and operational synergy. H.E. Mr Kyong-Lim Choï, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea, stressed that e-commerce cannot grow without consumer trust and confidence, which requires new regulatory frameworks for data protection and security. H.E. Mr Daniel Blockert, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the WTO, praised the platform’s utility in capacity building and assistance to developing countries with an eye on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

A number of the eTrade for all initiative partners went on to talk about their experience in developing the platform. Mr Jean-Baptiste Villaca, Chef de service de la Réglementation du Commerce Electronique, Ivory Coast, shared his expectations of the platform as a collaborative learning space. Mr Bishar Abdirahman Hussein, Director General of the Universal Postal Union, presented his organisation’s potential to ‘provide a truly inclusive service for every citizen in the world’. Dr Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director of the Enhanced Integrated Framework, stressed the portal’s utility for micro, small, and medium actors, as well as developing countries, to stay up to data about the most recent e-commerce information. Ms Amanda Long, Director General of Consumers International, praised the level of multistakeholder engagement on the platform, which is ‘exactly what is needed to move forward’. Ms Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, regarded the launch of the platform as a sign of the new priority for multistakeholder partnership on the cross-cutting dimensions of e-commerce, and its utility in resolving barriers, whether technological, logistical, or regulatory.

After these interventions, H.E. Ms Susana Malcorra, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Argentina, addressed the room to speak about the relevance of e-commerce for the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in December. She considered e-commerce to be an ‘essential part’ of the future of the WTO, and identified its potential to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots, improve gender equality, and to ‘leapfrog into the twenty-first century’. She urged WTO Member States to renew their commitment and mandate the WTO to work on e-commerce.

Malcorra’s address was followed by another set of interventions by the project’s partners. According to Mr Yonov Frederick Agah, Deputy Director of the WTO, the information provided by the platform helps to bring the opportunities of e-commerce within everyone’s reach. Mr Kaspar Korjus, E-Residence Director, Estonia, highlighted the need for the unity of information and integration to the platform, as information is currently ‘everywhere’. Ms Ana B Hinojosa, Director of Compliance and Facilitation at the World Customs Organization, focused on the impact of e-commerce on cross-border transactions of goods. Ms Maria-Rosaria Ceccarelli, Chief Trade Facilitation Section of UNECE, spoke about the need to increase opportunities for developing countries to be plugged into the regional and global supply chain, and about UNECE’s work on simplifying processes, procedures, and information flow.

Ms Susan F Stone, Director of Trade, Investment and Innovation at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), explained how the platform benefits the work of her organisation, and claimed that it does not only put forward e-commerce, but ‘development across the board’. Mr Antonio Estevadeordal, Manager of the Integration and Trade Section of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), spoke about e-commerce challenges in Latin America and the Inter-American Development Bank's (IDB) ConnectAmericas initiative. Ms Kati Suominen, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nextrade Group, spoke on behalf of the Business for eTrade Development programme, which is part of the eTrade for all initiative. She highlighted the role of the private sector, which is often closest to the opportunity and challenges of e-commerce and can help create solutions and optimise policies. Finally, Mr Waleed S Abalkhail, Chairman of TradeKey, emphasised the importance of the business-to-business side of e-commerce.

Jovan Kurbalija

One of the paradoxes of data society is that there is not enough data about data society itself. Numbers are used without the necessary rigor.

One of the paradoxes of data society is that there is not enough data about data society itself. Numbers are used without the necessary rigor. For example, estimates of damage from cybercrime range from tens to hundreds of billions. The volume of e-commerce is also estimated to have a very wide range.

The session on Global Survey of Internet User Perceptions provided a fresh breeze by presenting data from 24 225 Internet users from 24 countries on Internet Security & Trust. This global survey was conducted by the Centre for International Governance Innovation, IPSOS, Internet Society, United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD), International Development Research Center (IDRC).

The presenters summarised the main findings of the survey which led to discussion:

1. There is greater online trust in developing than developed countries

Some argued that developing countries are in an ‘early growth’ phase. Others questioned whether the amount of trust in developing countries is proportional to the lack of information and awareness of risks.

2. There  is greater trust in the Internet industry (ISPs, online services) than in governments

The most trustworthy actors are Internet service providers (66%) and online banks (65%). Internet users have least trust in the responsible behaviour of foreign governments (43%).

3. The trust in their governments varies greatly

81% Indonesian survey respondents trust their government to act responsibly online. On the other side of the scope is Mexico, whose government enjoys the trust of only 25% of the survey’s respondents.

4. A lack of security is the main source of distrust

According to the survey, most Internet users do not trust the Internet because it is not secure (65%). The lack of trust is slightly lower when it comes to the reliability of the Internet (40%). 

5. Cybercrime is the main concern

6. Changes in online behaviour could lead towards more trust

45% of the survey’s respondents avoid opening emails from unknown e-mail addresses. This is becoming part of the global digital hygiene. Most panellists during the discussions highlighted change in online behaviour as one of the main ways towards increasing both security and trust on the Internet. For ISOC, increasing the cybersecurity culture is one of cornerstones of the concept of collaborative security. The survey shows particularly noticeable changes in online behaviour in Latin America.

7. Economic patriotism online

Internet users prefer to buy goods and services from their own country even if they have a chance to buy them from abroad via e-commerce platforms.

8. Digital policy

The survey identifies the following issues as the main concern for Internet users: consumer protection, protection of data privacy, and protection against cybercrime. The discussion focused on two ways for strengthening digital policy space: government regulation and ‘policy by design’. For example, an Internet Society representative argued that privacy-by-design, in particular encryption, could be a solution for data protection and privacy.

Dane Burkholder

This session addressed the role of data flows in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as potential policies enacted by international organisations and governments to ensur

This session addressed the role of data flows in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as potential policies enacted by international organisations and governments to ensure data flows promote development.

Ms Christine Bliss, President of the Coalition of Services Industries, began the discussion by providing statistics about the tremendous growth of e-commerce. She gave background information explaining the proliferation of cross-border data flows due to the increased popularity of mobile devices, Internet of Things (IoT), and other technologies. According to a study by McKinsey, the Internet contributed to 21% of GDP growth in the 13 largest world economies from 2007 to 2011, and by 2025, half of all economic value will be created digitally. Adoption of digital commerce is especially important for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), which are the backbone of developing economies. According to Bliss, cloud storage is particularly important because it can 'close the digital divide' between the developing and developed world, and democratise access to information. Bliss finished her introduction by citing examples of good data flow policies in Cambodia, which encourage innovation, versus bad data flow policies in Indonesia and Vietnam, which stifle innovation by enforcing data localisation requirements.

The discussion then moved to individual statements from panelists. Mr Gustavo Hector Méndez, Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the WTO, discussed his view on the new regulatory framework that should be provided by organisations such as the WTO to promote sustainable e-commerce. He argued that multilateral agreements such as General Agreements on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) within the WTO can ensure that developing countries are on a level playing-field with the developed world when it comes to data flow.

Mr Felipe Sandoval, Fellow of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), added that the interests of private industry and government are not always aligned when it comes to data flows. This divergence is particularly noticeable in Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs), which involve differing legal frameworks and market liberalisations between developing and developed countries. He argued that developing countries seeking trade deals must have strong domestic regulatory frameworks that can encourage data innovation. Likewise, developing countries can use this need for a legal framework as leverage in trade negotiations, essentially saying, 'yes, we will liberalise our markets, but only if you help us with capacity development'. 

Mr David Weller, Head of Global Trade Policy at Google, gave the industry’s perspective about the role of data flows in trade. He walked through four main trade obstacles that the Internet has addressed: language, distance, resources, and disregard for rules. Machine translation services such as Google Translate, targeted advertising to potential customers around the world, big data analysis with minimal infrastructure, and data-based mechanisms for accountability have all addressed these four traditional challenges to trade.

The panelists then answered questions from Bliss and the audience. They discussed tangible examples of digital technology achieving the SDGs, such as the increased relevance of online education, but reminded everyone that four billion people in the world still lack Internet access. Likewise, discussions about proper regulatory frameworks highlighted the potential drawbacks of a one-size fits all model, although the role of multilateral arrangements was still appreciated. There was particular concern that by enforcing data flow rules from a top-down approach such as through the WTO, the needs of individual developing countries would be ignored, and therefore new standards must not restrict economically-beneficial data flows for developing nations. 

Roxana Radu

The session, moderated by Ms Joy Kategekwa, Head of Regional Office for Africa, UNCTAD, addressed the challenges, opportunities, and trends of e-commerce on the African continent,

The session, moderated by Ms Joy Kategekwa, Head of Regional Office for Africa, UNCTAD, addressed the challenges, opportunities, and trends of e-commerce on the African continent, with emphasis on participation in global value chains, entrepreneurship, enabling frameworks, and regulatory developments.

H.E. Mr Okechukwu Enelamah, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Nigeria, started the discussion by distinguishing between e-commerce as a World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiation issue, and e-commerce in the context of the digital economy. It is the latter that provides the bigger picture, including opportunities for developing countries, job creation, transparency increase and venture capital. The restricted lens of WTO negotiations can limit engagement with the overall changes in the global economy, including transformations in policy, technology and domestic politics. He pointed to a McKinsey study estimating an investment of over one billion dollars in e-commerce in Africa in 2017 and 2018, but warned about the difficulties with spectrum management, the liberalisation of the telecommunications market, as well as competition law.

Dr Francois Ngarambe, Ambassador of Rwanda to Switzerland and Permanent Representative to the UN, WTO and other International Organisations in Geneva, provided concrete examples from the measures taken by his government to make ICT a true enabler of economic development. Among these is the commitment to have full broadband coverage across the country by 2020, but also to focus on digital literacy and digital education for all. To achieve this vision, a set of institutions was set in place. The ministries complement each other at the policy, regulatory, and implementation level and coordinate extensively. The Ministry for Youth and ICT is such an example, in charge of proposing policies to the government on issues that are strongly interlinked. 

The next speaker, Ms Wendy Eitan, E-Commerce and Physical Services Coodinator, Universal Postal Union (UPU), introduced the work of her organisation and their priorities in the digital economy. The UPU has 192 member countries, but it is one of the smallest UN agencies. It plays a key role in the delivery of goods, and it is thus crucial for e-commerce, which has recently been placed at the top of their agenda. In rethinking infrastructure and services, their three main focuses are:

  • working with member countries on a regional level to improve infrastructure
  • easy export services, facilitating trade for SMEs and to help them access the global market
  • ecom@Africa – one integrated programme for Africa in co-operation with national governments. The programme was launched in Tunisia recently and will be expanded.

Providing a perspective from the private sector, Ms Candace Nkoth-Bisseck, Country Director, Jumia Market, Cameroon, highlighted the limitations and difficulties of implementing e-commerce in African countries. First, digital literacy generally does not include a business component; while people may be ready to use social media platforms, it takes much longer for them to learn how to use the Internet for their community or for business purposes. Second, logistics pose a main problem in Africa: locating the customer when there is no fixed address system is rather difficult and expensive (phone calls at different stages of the process). Some innovative solutions for geolocation (e.g. what3words, Google maps) provide alternatives, but have not yet been widely deployed.  Third, cross-country transactions are still cumbersome, due to a lack of harmonised regulation in the trade of goods and difficulties in operating financial services.

A second business view was introduced by Mr Leonard Stiegeler, General Manager, Ringier Africa. His company works in 10 African countries on developing online market places (for cars, property, jobs, etc.) in co-operation with local SMEs, news and media platforms, as well as digital services to run e-commerce set-ups for companies that want to sell to and/or out of Africa. Outlining what needs to be done to further enhance e-commerce on the continent, Stiegeler pointed to the need to address informal retail, facilitate payments via mobile transactions and use the Internet to produce, buy and sell on demand. He cited the estimates of the McKinsey Global Institute of a total of 75 billion dollars put into the e-commerce economy in Africa by 2025, ten times bigger than in 2015.

Working extensively on entrepreneurship in African countries, representatives of UNCTAD contributed to the panel discussion by highlighting their efforts in entrepreneurship and a cohesive development across sectors. UNCTAD operates 20 centres for entrepreneurship on the continent, driving job seekers to become job creators and innovators. There are more than 200 innovation hubs in Africa. Among the best ones of these are those that combine a physical space (often an open space for networking and co-creation) with mentorship schemes and a safety net for failures. Yet they rarely include training facilities. Mr Dominique Chantrel, TrainForTrade Programme, UNCTAD, outlined their capacity building work on e-commerce in Africa, including a project that was recently completed in eight West African countries, including both face-to-face and online learning.

The session concluded with a Q&A. Alongside the input from a Senegalese government representative on developments taking place at the national level, questions were raised about the ways to formalise the informal sector and how to create adaptive regulation. The moderator concluded the panel by summarising the plethora of opportunities brought about by e-commerce, in addition to the potential to propel a manufacturing trajectory in Africa. 

Marília Maciel

The session was introduced by H.E. Ms Anusha Rahman Ahmad Khan, Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecom, Pakistan.

The session was introduced by H.E. Ms Anusha Rahman Ahmad Khan, Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecom, Pakistan. She started by highlighting the benefits of e-commerce to economic growth, job creation, market expansion and the empowerment of women. She highlighted the importance of the case study ‘Inclusive growth and e-commerce: China's experience’, prepared by AliResearch, which provides an overview of China’s experience on deploying e-commerce, its impact on development, and the lessons learned that could help other developing countries.

Mr Hongbing Gao, Director of AliResearch and Vice President of Alibaba Group, mentioned that e-commerce provides new conditions for global development, as it benefits small companies. Technology has created an opportunity for innovative models, such as the Taobao villages, connected rural areas that have morphed into specialised manufacturers. Owing to the Taobao online marketplace, those villages can now export to the rest of China (as well as abroad in some cases). In a poor area such as the Jiangsu province for instance, Taobao helps farmers to conveniently buy cheaper goods. E-commerce creates employment by supporting micro-entreprises, as well as by creating opportunities for some vulnerable groups, such as the disabled, women, and young people, to become entrepreneurs. On the policy level, the Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) aims to promote the inclusive growth of e-commerce.

Ms Marion Jansen, Chief Economist, International Trade Centre (ITC), started by explaining the mission of the ITC, a joint UN-WTO agency based in Geneva, which aims to make trade happen by providing technical assistance, with focus on developing countries. Currently, e-commerce accounts for 12% of trade in goods globally, and it also helps achieve the sustainable development goals and reduce poverty. It does so by closing gender gaps, promoting job creation, innovation, and fostering the deployment of infrastructure, such as e-payment systems. It does not only contribute to trade, but makes trade different: e-commerce lowers the barriers of entry and is less concentrated on traditional players.

Jansen remarked, however, that some barriers still remain, such as difficulties in establishing businesses online, taking part in the international e-payments system, issues with the cross-border delivery and the after-sales relationship with costumers. Divides in information and communications technology (ICT) adoption also exist between small and large enterprises, and the difference is particularly striking in sub-Saharan Africa. There is still a divide when it comes to gender, women are still less active online. The ITC produced a report called ‘Bringing SMEs onto the e-Commerce Highway', which highlights the elements that need to be in place for e-commerce to run smoothly for SMEs, providing a toolkit for policy makers. She mentioned that the ITC also provides capacity building, such as the course, ‘E-commerce for SMEs: an introduction for policy makers’, developed in partnership with DiploFoundation, and a course on Digital Commerce, which is being developed with DiploFoundation, CUTS and UNCTAD, and will be launched at the E-commerce week.

Ms Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics,  UNCTAD, highlighted that fact that UNCTAD works on the intersection between trade and development, producing measurement and capacity development. The case study by AliResearch is important because it positively shows what can be done.

Mr Peixiao Jia, a former farmer and currently a Chinese entrepreneur, shared the story of how he became successful with e-commerce.

Mr Kibyoung Kim, Director of the Global e-government division of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Korea, started by questioning the replicability of the Alibaba model. Each country is different and needs to find its model. He shared Korea’s experience in fostering economically self-sufficient rural communities of farmers or finishing villages, through e-commerce. Information Network Villages were created and are being expanded into the mobile environment and the cloud.

Khan closed the session by saying that the ICT Infrastructure is the bedrock for any area in the information society, from agriculture to commerce and security. Telecom providers made a contribution to governmental funds, which are being used to connect the unconnected in Pakistan and the goal is to connect small villages and have a broadband penetration by 2020. 

Barbara Rosen Jacobson

This session addressed the concern over the rise of cybercrime and its consequences for privacy and security online, as well as the resulting lack of trust among consumers and governments to adopt

This session addressed the concern over the rise of cybercrime and its consequences for privacy and security online, as well as the resulting lack of trust among consumers and governments to adopt digital technology. The topic was introduced by the moderator, Ms Cécile Barayre, Economic Affairs Officer at UNCTAD, who stressed the transformational nature of e-commerce, generating both opportunities and challenges.

Barayre then went on to introduce H.E. Ms Rahman Ahmad Khan, Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecom, Pakistan, who outlined some of the critically important areas for addressing cybercrime:

  • Looking at enhanced co-operation between states and other stakeholders.
  • Building consensus around agreed international protocols that ensure the realisation of an open, secure, and reliable cyberspace.
  • Implementing capacity building for countries that lack expertise.

According to Ahmad Khan, users must have the same rights and protection online as they do offline in order for user trust to be restored.

Next, Prof. Ian Walden, Queen Mary University of London, addressed the legal aspects of responding to cybercrime. For state response to be effective, there needs to be a harmonisation of criminal justice systems, for example around the Council of Europe’s Budapest Convention, and criminal justice relations need to be regulated in such a way as to enable the co-operation between law enforcement agencies. Policing cyberspace should focus on prevention and disruption, rather than prosecution, and needs to happen in collaboration with third parties, such as service providers and the Internet industry. Effective cybersecurity strategies need to address prevention and cultural shifts to change the culture of insecurity. Finally, legal and regulatory responses should include criminalising conduct, enhancing law enforcement powers (while taking into account the need to safeguard privacy rights), and putting into place cybersecurity frameworks that include prevention and permit active defence.

With a view from the private sector, Mr Yuejin Du, Vice-President of Alibaba Security, outlined the key cybersecurity challenges:

  • Technological challenges: loopholes can never be fixed and the number of vulnerabilities are countless.
  • Human challenges: the weakest link is always there.
  • Opponents are big, organised, advanced, and globalised actors.

To combat these challenges, Du provided several examples of the technological measures taken by Alibaba Security, as well as its efforts to build a ‘security alliance’ with other actors in the e-commerce ecosystem. Finally, co-operation with law enforcement is inevitable.

Zooming in on one solution against cybercrime, Prof. Nir Kshetri, Bryan School of Business and Economics, University of North Carolina, explained the role of blockchains in strengthening security of the Internet of Things. He compared the potential of blockchains with cloud-based services, and highlighted their decentralisation as a particular advantage. Another solution was provided by Mr David Satola, Lead ICT Counsel, World Bank, who introduced a portal for capacity building for emerging countries, available at www.combattingcybercrime.org. Its aim is to enhance the capacity in developing countries of the policy, legal, and criminal justice aspects of building an enabling environment to combat cybercrime. The portal consists of a toolkit, an assessment tool, and a virtual library. Mr Gustav Lindstrom, Head of the Emerging Security Challenges Programme, Geneva Centre for Security Policy, presented a similar project: the National Cybersecurity Strategy (NCS) Guide. This project is spearheaded by the ITU in collaboration with 14 partners from different sectors, and aims to produce a reference guide for developing and implementing a national cybersecurity strategy. The guide covers the overarching principles of a NCS, an overview of good practices, and a practical guide for the strategy formulation process.

Finally, Ms Marilia Maciel, Digital Policy Senior Researcher, DiploFoundation, presented the trends, challenges and opportunities of capacity development in cybersecurity. First, she highlighted the changing social context in which individuals and societies are becoming cyber-dependent. As digital services become increasingly complex, complete security will never be possible and risk will always be present. Therefore, it is key to make the environment around cybercrime more secure. She pointed at the surging number of bilateral agreements on cybersecurity, as well as some of the multilateral instruments in place, which all refer to the need for capacity building.

She then presented a number of lessons learned from DipoFoundation’s capacity development initiatives:

  • Capacity development needs to reflect the multidisciplinarity of the topic.
  • Capacity development needs to allow for knowledge-sharing across professional cultures.
  • There are extensive gaps in capacity building in different regions and among different stakeholders. This can be overcome by frameworks for regional co-operation, and by involving different sectors.
  • Comprehensive capacity building needs to address individual competences, institutional development, organisational development, and networks development.
  • Horizontal and vertical policy coherence needs to be ensured as decisions in one place influence other countries and policy-areas.

Finally, she introduced the Digital Commerce course developed by the Geneva Internet Platform, the International Trade Sector, CUTS, and UNCTAD.

Marília Maciel

Ms Kati Suominen, Founder and CEO of Nextrade Group, LLC, started the panel by highlighting the importance of the private sector as the engine of e-commerce.

Ms Kati Suominen, Founder and CEO of Nextrade Group, LLC, started the panel by highlighting the importance of the private sector as the engine of e-commerce. She also called attention to the ‘Business for eTrade development platform’, which is the private sector counterpart of the eTrade for All initiative.

Mr Daniel Crosby, Partner at King and Spalding, explained the priority actions of the business for eTrade development.

  • Provide business insights on what drives e-commerce for development; the different negotiating positions and what countries want to achieve. 
  • Reinforce legal certainly by understanding how existing rules relate to e-commerce.
  • Assess where countries stand in terms of enabling e-commerce and the areas they need to improve.
  • How to include more business from developing and least developed countries in the initiative.

According to Mr Ralph Carter, Managing Director of Trade and International Affairs, FedEx Express, e-commerce is, at the same time a great equaliser and a great disruptor. It opens global markets, for example, while it disrupts traditional retail, wholesale and distribution industries. Today’s e-commerce has moved from containers to small packets, but the administrative cost of shipping these two different things is almost the same, which is not economically sustainable. 

Dialogue and global norms that would create an enabling environment are needed. The priorities for FedEx in the present context are the following: a) the implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which should be used to promote e-commerce; b) capacity building related to e-commerce implementation measures; c) Implementing WCO guidelines (e.g. non-dutiable, de minimis, low value goods); d) account-based payment, removed from the border.

Mr M. A. Mannan, President and CEO of TCS Holdings, Pakistan, said that although the private sector will always find a way of making their businesses grow, partnerships between the public and private sectors can be positive. The goals of the public sector and the goals of the private sector seem to be aligned in the discussion of e-commerce. With e-commerce, the private sector is helping the poorer, the women and the SMEs. Governments aim to support these segments of society too. He concluded by suggesting that the 'e' in e-commerce should not relate to 'electronic', but to 'everyone'.

Mr Mostafizur Rahaman Sohel, Director of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, commented on how digital commerce activities empower women. They conduct business through informal channels, such as Facebook, and this is a way towards financial independence. He highlighted some challenges, such as connectivity issues and interoperability of payment systems. 

Suominen raised some points for further discussion with regards to how the private sector could help to improve the conditions for e-commerce.

  • Sharing information (e.g. big data could provide relevant information to customs control, so they become more comfortable with e-commerce).
  • Help governments on the regulatory reforms they need to make.
  • Private sector projects that help women, SMEs to engage in e-commerce

Mannan discussed projects that his company has developed to help women engage in e-commerce (e.g. assisting women placing products that they produce in the marketplace in a very simple manner). The company is also fostering women leadership by bringing them into the company and putting them in management positions.

Suominen asked the panellists how the private and public sectors can work together. Sohel gave examples of how the public and private sectors are working together in Bangladesh. Carter cited the example of a project between FedEx and the department of commerce to help small business expand their export profiles to other destinations. He also mentioned that providing data is another kind of collaboration. FedEx provides information to the Word Bank, for example. He also mentioned the Global Alliance for trade facilitation, a public private partnership.

In the questions and answers segment, the idea that the goals of the private sector and the public sector are aligned was questioned by some participants. The downside of giving up on taxation revenues, and the fact that free flow of data benefits large companies, mostly from developed countries, who profit from users’ data were some of the points raised in the discussion.  

Marília Maciel

The session was opened by Ambassador Young-moo Kim, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea. Kim called attention to the importance of privacy for fostering consumer trust.

The session was opened by Ambassador Young-moo Kim, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea. Kim called attention to the importance of privacy for fostering consumer trust. He provided an overview of the session, which would be divided into three parts: a) setting the stage: what are the main concerns with regards to data protection; b) cases: how data protection is being addressing in certain countries; c) new tools to protect data.

Ms Cécile Barayre, Economic Affairs Officer, ICT Analysis Section, UNCTAD, highlighted elements of a study published by UNCTAD on data protection regulations and international data flows. New technological developments, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and the growth of e-commerce, make the discussion of privacy urgent. Harmonisation of regulation is necessary and laws on data protection and cybercrime are complementary. According to the study, 67% of countries have laws on cybercrime and 58% on data protection. However, there is global disparity and Africa still lags behind when it comes to regulation.

The lack of legal compatibility is also an issue to be tackled. There is no one global regime, but there are regional regimes that could facilitate harmonisation. Convention 108 from the Council Europe, which is open for signatures of non-European countries, constitutes a good base for co-operation.

Prof. Ian Walden, Queen Mary University of London, highlighted that although privacy and data protection are similar, they are not the same. What distinguishes data protection is the regulatory nature of the law, and this is different from privacy, which is usually a principle in the constitution. Data protection is about creating a regulatory framework. Moreover, for data protection to exist as a regime, it is necessary to create a regulatory authority, independent from governments, and with sufficient resources. This creates problems for developing countries that may have financial and technical constraints to create such an organisation. Walden also remarked that data protection can, in some situations, also be a barrier to trade – in the WTO regime, member countries can constrain the flow of cross-border data for data protection reasons.

Mr Kibyoung Kim, Director of the Global e-government division, Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Korea, explained the status of regulation in his country. He also discussed methods to utilise the data while guaranteeing the protection of personal data. An analysis to assess the adequacy of de-identification could be put into place in order to check whether the data has been successfully de-identified and could not be re-identified.

Mr Oliver Hateley, Senior Adviser, EMOTA, explained that the current EU data protection framework consists of two instruments: the Data Protection Directive from 1995, and the ePrivacy Directive that focuses on e-communications and markets. The Data Protection Directive aims to safeguard personal data while guaranteeing the free flow of data among member states. It establishes criteria for issues such as consent, state of purpose (data should be collected with a clear purpose and should not be used for different purposes), and the right of the individual to access and correct personal information.

This data protection instrument was adopted as a directive, not a regulation. Directives set goals and leave member countries to implement these goals according to their national systems. This has led to inconsistencies that have impacted the trust and confidence of individuals. Moreover, there was no real enforcement mechanism for international processing.

Hateley provided some advice for developing countries discussing their nationals laws: a) avoid a prohibition model. Data is the currency of data economy; b) avoid a prescriptive approach. It is better to adopt principles because data and technology evolve too fast; c) ensure there is no regional fragmentation.

Mr David Satola, Lead ICT Counsel, World Bank, mentioned that there are very robust principles on data protection that still form the base of good practices and the development of national laws, such as the OECD and CoE principles. He presented the Cybercrime Toolkit Assessment, focusing on the section of safeguards about data protection and the right to communication.

Prof. Fen Osler Hampson, Carleton University, Distinguished Fellow and Director of Global Security and Politics at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, finished the discussion by reminding the audience that data protection is not only important from a human rights standpoint, but it is also good for business. Successive data breaches lead to a loss of trust. This is an issue that should tackled by governments and companies together. 

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) will hold its annual E-Commerce Week on 24-28 April 2017, at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The event will be held under the overarching theme 'Towards Inclusive E-Commerce' and will feature multistakeholder discussions on key challenges and opportunities related to e-commerce. Participants will also engage in defining concrete actions towards more inclusive trade, global benefits, and sustainable development, in line with the sustainable development goald (SDGs).

The various sessions planned by UNCTAD and several other organisations will address issues such as e-commerce and development, cybersecurity and cybercrime, privacy and data protection, consumer protection, payment solutions, fintech, and broadband connectivity, among others. The highlight of the week will be represented by the high-level event on 'Digital Transformation for All: Empowering Entrepreneurs and Small Business', which will bring together ministers and other stakeholders for exchanges on how societies could adapt to the changing economic landscape brought about by the digital revolution.

For more information, visit the UNCTAD E-commerce Week dedicated website.


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