Economic - other issues

Updates

On 18 December 2018, China published a policy paper on possible measures to enhance the China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and promote greater development of China-EU relations. The paper addresses issues related to the cooperation in political, security and defense fields that include the “good use of the China-EU Cyber Taskforce, jointly advocate a community with a shared future in cyberspace, promote norms for responsible State behavior in cyberspace under the UN framework, and advance the reform of the global internet governance system for a peaceful, secure, open, cooperative and orderly cyberspace.” Additionally, the paper tackles the cooperation in scientific research, innovation, emerging industries, and sustainable development through "Digital China" and the EU Digital Single Market where exchanges and cooperation between China and the EU are further required. It also refers to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) hoping that its implementation will not affect normal business interactions between the two sides. According to the paper, cooperation on data protection between China and the EU will continue to protect personal information and the legitimate rights of citizens.

The Africa eCommerce Week: Empowering African Economies in the Digital Era was organised from 10 - 14 December 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the African Union, and the European Union, and hosted by the Government of Kenya. The outcome of the event is the Nairobi Manifesto on the Digital Economy and Inclusive Development in Africa which pinpoints a number of policy recommendations required for digital economy to bring inclusive and sustainable development to Africa and eschew wider inequalities and divides. The Manifesto further underlines how the engagement of all segments of society is significant for e-commerce to make a real and sustained contribution to development. To this aim, cross-cutting policy actions and new public - private partnerships are necessary alongside quality research and statistics to inform such policy actions.

The European Commission launched an annual scoreboard to monitor women's participation in the digital economy. The Women in Digital (WiD) Scoreboard is a tool to measure and assess the participation of women in the digital economy through four types of analysis: 1) evaluating the general characterisation of the performance of individual Member States, 2) pinpointing areas for improvement by analysing individual indicators, 3) assessing progress over time, 4) pointing out the need for improve relevant policy areas. The scorecard revealed a gender gap in all 13 indicators at EU level which is largely manifested in the area of ICT specialist skills and employment; 76 % for ICT specialists and 47 % for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics graduates. Nonetheless, the difference is reduced within the younger age group (16 to 24) between women and men vis-à-vis digital participation; 55% of women compared to 60% of men. This gap is even reversed in certain countries where women overperform men in digital participation. 

G20 leaders recognised that transformative technologies are expected to bring new and better jobs. Policy options for the future of work will draw on ‘harness technology to strengthen growth and productivity’; ‘support people during transitions and address distributional challenges’ and ‘secure tax systems’. The leaders remained committed to build an inclusive, fair and sustainable future of work by reskilling workers and recognising the importance of social dialogue in the area, including work delivered through digital platforms, aiming at labour formalisation and making social protection systems strong and portable. Access to education to enhance digital skills was underlined as a strategic policy area for the development of more inclusive, prosperous, and peaceful societies. To expand the benefits of digitalization, G20 nations will promote measures to boost micro, small and medium enterprises, bridge the divide and further digital inclusion. They will also improve digital government, digital infrastructure and measurement of the digital economy.

The United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA), replacing the NAFTA, is expected to be signed by the end of November 2019. The agreement provides robust intermediary liability protections to websites and online platforms. The article 19.17.2 of the agreement reflects the American Communication Decency Act at a large extent, providing that ‘no Party shall adopt or maintain measures that threat a supplier or user of an interactive computer service as an information content provider in determining liability for harms related to information stored, processed, transmitted, distributed, or made available by the service, except to the extent the supplier or user has, in whole or in part, created, or developed the information’. This provision, depending on how it will be integrated into Canadian law by the parliament, can impact the Canadian system of intermediary liabilities. Contrary to the US, Canadian law holds websites liable for third-party content, if they know that the content is illegal. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Internet service providers (ISPs) can become liable when they do not take action once given notice of an infringement, in two landmark cases, SOCAN v. Canadian Association of Internet Providers and Crookes v. Newton.

The 2018 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group (WBG) took place from 9-10 October in Bali, Indonesia. Ministers and other high-level officials debated the future of fiscal and monetary policy, development, and the need for greater collaboration to boost confidence in international trade. In the opening plenary, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde called for countries to consider a ‘new multilateralism’, leading to a ‘more inclusive, people-centred, and results-oriented’ international system that would facilitate cooperation. She highlighted the importance of making the trade system fit for tackling current challenges, such as ‘inequality, technology, and sustainability’. Several IMF and WBG related bodies held their meetings around the same dates. A communiqué released after the 38th Meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) on 13 October, noted that while ‘the global expansion remains strong’, projections suggest that ‘the recovery is increasingly uneven’. It predicted that ‘policy uncertainty, historically high debt levels, rising financial vulnerabilities, and limited policy space could further undermine confidence and growth prospects’. The Development Committee, a joint IMF-World Bank body emphasized that ‘downside risks to global growth have intensified’ and noted ‘the crucial role of international trade for economic growth, job creation, and sustainable development’.

The impact of the Internet on businesses and the global economy has been crucial in shaping new economic models, and at the same time, raising new concerns.

The Internet is one of the primary drivers of economic growth, which is visible in many countries that have placed the development of ICT as one of the primary tools for boosting the economy.

This is even more evident on a regional and global level. For instance, the European Union directed a substantial amount of financial support to Horizon 2020, one of its largest programmes dedicated to financing research, development, and innovation, especially in the field of commerce, and particularly to assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The impact on the Internet economy

The impact of e-commerce - which in its broad term encompasses e-money, digital signatures, and online advertising and marketing - on individuals and businesses is far-reaching. E-commerce has brought about numerous advantages for consumers, such as the convenience of online shopping, flexibility and ease-of-access to different markets, more information and choice, and - perhaps more significantly - access to online banking and e-payments. Read more on e-money and digital signatures.

From a business perspective, e-commerce has influenced the supply chain management of  businesses by integrating inter-company and intra-company functions, optimising the flow of information, facilitating the payment process, affecting the delivery channels, reducing overall costs (especially the cost of promotion), and enabling companies to reach customers more easily through online advertising and marketing.

However, now that businesses have access to the global market, competition - together with the pressure this brings on businesses - has also increased exponentially, while shipping and delivery-related issues are more complex when serving a global market without the traditional borders.

Other issues which have been brought to the forefront are the liability of intermediaries for third party content, and human rights considerations. Since businesses are increasingly handling personal data of consumers, they also have to adhere to stricter rules concerning privacy and data protection, which requires a shift from traditional business processes.

Additionally, concerns over security are among the biggest issues that affect the development of the Internet economy.

Read more on IntermediariesHuman Rights, and Cybersecurity.

Emerging trends: Internet of Things, sharing economy, e-gambling

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an emerging trend which is having a major impact on the Internet economy. The integration of the IoT into business models reduces costs and increases efficiency. Many new businesses are now utilising ‘smart buildings’ to optimise energy costs and preserve the environment. The application of ICT solutions into business processes provides businesses with a competitive advantage, which helps them develop faster than in traditional surroundings. Businesses are therefore demanding new tailor-made and innovative approaches from the IT industry, which is contributing significantly to the general economic welfare. Read more on IoT.

The latest model in e-commerce is the so-called sharing economy, which catapulted new players - such as Uber and AirBnB - into the global market. Such businesses have taken full advantage of e-commerce, such as through the integration of ICT solutions, by leveraging reduced business costs, and through more direct access to consumers. At the same time, such models have found opposition from traditional professions such as taxi drivers and businesses in the rental market. The regulation of the shared economy, still in its embryonic phase, is controversial.

A by-product of e-commerce is the emerging freelance market. On one hand, this has given rise to a vibrant startup community of freelancers and has contributed to strengthening SMEs and to reducing unemployment. On the other, this requires a new approach to labour, not least due to the treatment of income arising from online freelance work.

Another area that has significantly contributed to the Internet economy - and at the same time raised numerous debates - is e-gambling. Different regulatory approaches have been applied to e-gambling, due to its unique characteristics. The EU, for example, extracts this area from the regulatory framework for e-commerce, taxation, and e-money, and leaves it up to member states to regulate it. The sensitivity of this area and its interrelation with public policy, morals, the protection of minors, and cybersecurity criminal matters made an argument that regulation of e-gambling is more suitable to be conducted on national level according to each country’s political and social background. However, the interest of the global community for this issue is growing from year to year and even the EU has started to intervene on soft manner with various broad policy documents.

The economic aspects of Internet and electronic communications, broadly speaking, have pushed the liberalisation forces in these markets and have represented the foundations for the concept of a new market specific to the digital world. Even though a digital market is an excellent opportunity for economic growth, it brings with itself a number of regulatory challenges, especially with regard to competition issues. One of the current debates that is strongly related to the area of competition law, but in the same time net neutrality, entrepreneurship, content diversity, and freedom of expression is the ‘zero-rating’ pricing mechanism offered by some mobile telecom providers. Read more on Network neutrality and zero-rating.

Finally, according to the UNCTAD Information Economy Report 2015, the global business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce is valued at about US $1.2 trillion, while the business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce is estimated at more than US $15 trillion. The report also notes that B2B electronic commerce is growing faster, especially in Asia and Africa.

Events

Actors

(UNCTAD)

UNCTAD is very active in the field of e-commerce.

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UNCTAD is very active in the field of e-commerce. It assists developing countries in developing e-commerce legislation, through its e-Commerce and Law Reform Programme. The entity has launched the eTrade for All initiative, aimed to improving the ability of developing countries to use and benefit from e-commerce.  As part of its ICT Policy Review Programme, UNCTAD undertakes reviews, research, and analysis on e-commerce-related issues. It also reviews national policies and provides policy advice to countries on areas such as developing e-commerce strategies and devising measures to strengthen e-commerce. UNCTAD holds an annual E-Commerce Week, featuring events focusing on specific policy areas of e-commerce.

(OECD)

Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation t

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Convergence is one of the digital policy issues that the OECD is paying attention to, especially in relation to the challenges this phenomenon brings on traditional markets, and the need for adequate policy and regulatory frameworks to address them. In 2008, the organisation issued a set of policy guidelines for regulators to take into account when addressing challenges posed by convergence. In 2016, a report issued in preparation for the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy included new recommendations for policy-makers. Digital convergence issues have been on the agenda of OECD Ministerial meetings since 2008, and are also tackled in the regular OECD Digital Economy Outlook report.

(WTO)

The WTO has played a key role in the liberalisation of the telecommunications markets worldwide, thr

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The WTO has played a key role in the liberalisation of the telecommunications markets worldwide, through the Fourth Protocol to the General Agreement on Trade in ServicesIssued related to trade in telecommunications services are tackled in the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which, in addition to principles applicable to trade in all services, also contains an Annex on telecommunications. The organisation has also elaborated a Reference Paper which includes a set of regulatory principles that are legally binding for WTO members which commit to it. Telecommunications are also included in the WTO services negotiations. Many WTO members have made commitments to facilitate such trade and to extend competition in basic telecommunications.

(ITC)

ITC’s activities in the area of

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ITC’s activities in the area of e-commerce are focused on assisting enterprises, in particular small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in acquiring the necessary skills and capabilities to trade on e-commerce channels. It has developed an e-Solutions Programme, which provides enterprises with access to a platform of shared technologies and services, including access to international payment solutions and logistics. A Virtual Market Place project aims to strengthen the skills of SMEs in the Middle East and North Africa region to effectively use new technologies to enhance their visibility on international markets. The Centre also offers e-learning programmes and produces publications related to e-commerce.

(EC)

The

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The Digital Single Market is a Commission strategy to remove barriers to online trade within the European market. The strategy aims at boosting the digital industry by creating an enabling environment for innovation. Other aspects of the strategy are advancing research, investing in networks and technology, building the European data economy, and improving connectivity and access. Other digital economy issues that the Commission focuses on, through policies and guidance, include the collaborative economy, online gambling, and the next generation Internet. The Commission also publishes the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), evaluating the performance of the EU and its member states in digital competitiveness.

(World Bank)

As part of its World Development Report series, the World Bank published the 

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As part of its World Development Report series, the World Bank published the Digital Dividends Report in 2016, arguing that the Internet does not automatically bring about benefits for society. Policy, education, and much more are needed in order to ensure that the Internet has a positive impact on society. The Bank has done further work on the link between broadband and economic growth in different countries. It has also launched country-specific initiatives aimed at fostering the evolution of the digital economy at a national level, one example being the Developing the Digital Economy in Russia initiative.

Instruments

Conventions

Resolutions & Declarations

Wuzhen World Internet Conference Declaration (2015)

Other Instruments

Resources

Africa goes digital: Leaving no one behind (2018)

Articles

How the Sharing Economy can Make its Case (2015)
Taxation and Today's Digital Economy (2015)

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
The Economics of Zero Rating (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Papers

The Sharing Economy: Reports from Stage One (2015)
Personal Data Storage in Russia (2015)
Zero-Rating: Kick-Starting Internet Ecosystems in Developing Countries (2015)
In Search of a Competition Doctrine for Information Technology Markets: Recent Antitrust Developments in the Online Sector (2014)
Communications and Competition Law: Key Issues in the Telecoms, Media and Technology Sectors (2014)
Comparative Analysis on National Approaches to the Liability of Internet Intermediaries for Infringement of Copyright and Related Rights (2014)
Cloud computing from EU Competition Law Perspective (2013)
Is EU Competition Policy an Obstacle to Innovation and Growth? (2011)
Antitrust Issues In Network Industries (2008)
Study on the Economic Impact of the Electronic Commerce Directive (2007)
Competition in the Software Industry: the Interface between Antitrust and Intellectual Property Law (1999)

Reports

Global Information Technology Report 2016 (2016)
Enabling Growth and Innovation in the Digital Economy (2016)
One Internet (2016)
The 2016 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (2016)
The Economic Impact of Rural Broadband (2016)
World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends (2016)
Addressing the Tax Challenges of the Digital Economy (2015)
The Sharing Economy and the Competition and Consumer Act (2015)
OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2015 (2015)
Country Factsheets for the Digital Single Market (2015)
Information Economy Report 2015 - Unlocking the Potential of E-commerce for Developing Countries (2015)
The Global Information Technology Report 2015: ICTs for Inclusive Growth (2015)
Commission Expert Group on Taxation of the Digital Economy (2014)
Consumer Market Study on the Functioning of E-commerce and Internet Marketing and Selling Techniques in the Retail of Goods (2011)
Summary of the Results of the Public Consultation on the Future of Electronic Commerce in the Internal Market and the Implementation of the Directive on Electronic Commerce (2000/31/EC)
Cyberlaws and Regulations for Enhancing E-commerce: Case studies and Lessons Learned

GIP event reports

Protecting human rights in public policy: What role for business? (2018)
Blockchains for Sustainable Development (2018)
The Global i-Guides Meeting: How the Online Investment Guides Can Help Promote and Facilitate Investment (2018)
Investment and the Digital Economy (2018)
Global Leaders Investment Summit I: Investment in a new era of globalization (2018)
Sustainable technology-enabled trade and a more inclusive trading system - Small state, ACP States, LDC and SSA perspective (2018)
Inclusive trade and new technologies: Challanges for African countries (2018)
The rise of digital: tech and the changing nature of value added (2018)
The digitisation of SMEs and their role in shaping future trade (2018)
Leveraging technology to support SMEs in LDCs: Opportunities and challenges (2018)
Digital Trade and Cyber Security: Catalysts for Development? (2018)
Digital trade - Global anarchy or revival of rule-based world order? (2018)
Data localisation: Balancing trade disciplines and national policy objectives (2018)
Blockchain and the future of trade: fostering sustainability and inclusiveness through innovative distributed ledger technologies (2018)
Will technology help developing countries have easier access to trade finance (2018)
The great connector: Digital trade policy as a path to a comprehensive framework for multilateral regulations of trade and socio-economic development (2018)
Shaping an intelligent tech & trade initiative – ITTI Driving AI-trade interactions to boost global prosperity (2018)
How e-commerce will drive inclusivity and become a profitable reality for SMEs & MSMEs by 2030 (2018)
How can WTO contribute to ensure that technology enables trade in goods and services in 2030 and beyond? Is the e-commerce multilateral initiative the right solution? (2018)
A workers' agenda for e-commerce (2018)
Technology for trade and agriculture: Unleashing agriculture global value chains' (GVCs) potential in OIC member countries (2018)
Opening Plenary Debate (2018)
Report on the Forum of Business and Human Rights (2018)
Platform and Data Neutrality – Access to Content (2018)
Competition in a Data-driven World: How to Ensure Sustainable Growth? (2018)
EBU Big Data Conference: The discussions during Day 2 (2018)
EBU Big Data Conference: The discussions during Day 1 (2018)
The Future of Work (2017)
E-Caravan for Peace: Promoting E-commerce in Conflict and Post-conflict Situations’ (2017)
Launch of the Information Economy Report 2017 (2017)
Key-note Speech of Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg (2017)
International Trade Agreements and Internet Governance (2017)
How the Digital Revolution Changes Our Work Life (2017)
Domain Names Innovation and Competition (2017)
Can E-commerce Trade Rules Help Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in Developing Countries? (2017)
Supporting the Involvement of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in E-Commerce (2017)
Youth Employment in the Digital Economy (2017)
Special Session on Assessing eTrade Readiness of the Least Developed Countries (2017)
Global Survey of Internet User Perceptions (2017)
The Organization of Work and Production (2017)
The Governance of Work (2017)
ICANN58: Joint Meeting ICANN Board & Customer Standing Committee (2017)
Report for Briefing for Heads of Missions: Digital Policy in South Eastern Europe (2017)
Report for Think Tank Talk - The Uberisation of the Labour Market (2017)
Report for World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 (2017)

Other resources

Internet of Things: Antitrust Concerns in the Pipeline? (2016)
Uber and the economic impact of sharing economy platforms (2016)
Zero-rated Internet Services: What is to be Done? (2015)
Policy Brief: Access’ position on zero rating schemes (2015)
The Real Threat to the Open Internet is Zero-Rated Content (2014)
New Rules and Regulations on IT and Fair Competition (2011)

Processes

Click on the ( + ) sign to expand each day.

UNCTAD 2018

WSIS Forum 2018

12th IGF 2017

WTO Public Forum 2017

WSIS Forum 2017

IGF 2016

WTO Public Forum 2016

WSIS Forum 2016

WSIS10HL

IGF 2015

IGF 2016 Report

 

Discussions at IGF 2016 brought into focus recently agreed trade agreements. One aspect was that negotiations were criticised due to their lack of transparency and openness. At the same time, some speakers argued that although some negotiations were secretive, this does not make evil (Main session on Trade Agreements and the Internet).

Recent e-commerce trends were also discussed in the context of other areas, most notably development. The app economy, overt-the-top services (OTT) services (Internet Fragmentation: Getting Next 4 Billion Online - WS37), new industry requirements (Digital Economy and the Future of Work - WS34), and high costs of access are posing challenges for developing countries. Despite the challenges, many developments carry a strong potential for developing countries, including the Internet of Things, the creation of new (skilled) jobs, and new revenue streams. Stronger protection for human rights, improved policies for affordability and access, and better access to scientific knowledge (The Internet and ESCRs: Working From Experience to Policy - WS90), are some of the developments that can help countries reap the benefits of the Internet economy.

WSIS Forum 2016 Report

 

Several sessions at the WSIS Forum underlined the fact that ICTs are an effective tool for raising productivity, improving access to consumers and suppliers, and connecting least developed countries (LDCs) to the global value chain.  How the Internet Enables Sustainable Development: Incorporating Data-Driven Policies to Measure Impact (session 149) referred to the mobile revolution, the importance of accountability at governmental level, and the need to foster private-public partnerships at national and international levels. ICT4SDG: Digital Economy for Development (session 179) shared best practices for economic development and inclusion, and highlighted the potential opportunities for engagement mainly through advertising and marketing, education, and entertainment. In a session dedicated to the postal network - Putting Public Assets to Work (session 159 ) - panellists discussed the role that the postal network can play in linking the physical world with the digital world, and in addressing issues such as financial inclusion. 

 

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