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.