[Read more session reports from the UNCTAD E-Commerce Week 2018]
This session was moderated by Mr Carlo Terreni (Director, NetComm Suisse Association) on 19 April 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland. Three separate discussions took place: (i) keynote speeches, (ii) the role an e-commerce association plays in developing global markets, and (iii) how different cultures with the same challenges can share one digital market.
Mr Torbjörn Fredriksson (Chief ICT Policy Section, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)) gave the welcoming remarks, beginning with how digitalisation is changing all economies at different speeds around the world. He raised questions about the rapid increase of e-commerce in developing countries such as: ‘How will these countries have their data protected when there are no laws in place?’.
Mr Luca Cassetti (Director, EU Public Affairs) mentioned that the biggest barriers to e-commerce cross-border selling are the inconsistent European legal framework, taxation system, and logistical problems. He discussed the digital single market strategy and the European digital agenda, and highlighted e-commerce as an objective for success for the EU. His organisation is working to lessen geographical discrimination in the market. He also addressed inconsistencies in EU contract law, the value added tax (VAT) digital single market package, and necessary data protection regulation.
Mr Alan Rhode (Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Taxmen) attributed the rapid transformation of the global economy to digitalisation, which is putting new pressures on corporate tax systems. The EU Commission and Council have identified various possible avenues to make taxation of digital activities fairer. He said that eventually there must be an overhaul of EU digital taxation to standardise cross-border practices.
Mr Jorij Abraham (General Manager, Ecommerce Foundation) discussed the NRF Retail Big Show, and how mobile technology is becoming the dominant platform for businesses to integrate into their practices. Abraham stated physical checkouts may become obsolete due to new seamless digital payment methods. He mentioned bricks-and-mortar embracing digitalisation through advertisements, personalisation, and 3D printing. Social media is also becoming an integral part of e-commerce and sales; stores are turning to those platforms instead of using a website.
The next discussion began with Ms Lorraine Higgins (Deputy CEO, Retail Excellence), who noted that her company produces dashboard reports, so retailers can benchmark their growth against other competitors in the area. Mr Martin Svoboda (Project Manager, APEK) spoke about their vision for Czech e-commerce companies. Similarly to Higgins’ organisation, they provide data to their customers which equips them to make calculated business decisions to lead in the digital marketplace.
Mr Caio Colagrande and Ms Alice Pinha Wakai (Editors, E-Commerce Brasil) mentioned their website’s role in providing free technical articles and market news to be a hub for national e-commerce. This makes them a one-stop shop for people to keep up with digital developments in the country. Ms Nina Angelovska (President and General Director, Macedonian E-Commerce Association) explained that her business operates for a similar purpose, but also provides administrative and educational services to their members. Mr Florinel Chis (Director, ARMO Romanian E-Commerce Association) said his company helps advise on how to manage customer expectations, legal matters, and data security.
The final discussion was moderated by Mr Alastair Tempest (CEO, Ecommerce Forum of Africa (EFA). Mr Ibrahima Nour Eddine Diagne (Chair of E-commerce and E-gov, African Performance Institute) said there is a universal culture in the digital world. He expressed concerns about digitalisation, such as preserving local heritage. He said digital skills and certifications need to be acquired at universities. Diagne suggested that e-commerce incubators can help to push digital businesses into the market, particularly in developing countries.
Mr Alexander Gansel (CEO and Co-founder, DutyPay) said his business helps people discover how they should adapt to the market. They coordinate with associations to talk to stakeholders to bring the goods out of and into the country and make the flow of data more seamless. Mr Muhammad Abdul Wahed Tomal (General Secretary, E-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB)) also stated that education on e-commerce-related matters needs to be taught through collaboration. He highlighted e-CAB’s efforts to iron out Bangladesh’s e-commerce policy over the past few years.
Mr Saifullah Khan (Managing Partner, S.U.Khan Associates Corporate & Legal Consultants) highlighted the importance of understanding cultures. He said technology is globalisation at its finest, but e-commerce is in the early stages in many economies. Khan suggested conducting regional studies to test the responsiveness to digitalisation in different cultures. He concluded that shared policy frameworks should address different cultures and issues to create an equalised digital realm.
By Isabel Ashley