Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-commerce and the Digital Economy (Third Session)

Session: 49

4 Apr 2019 - 15:00 to 18:00



[Read more session reports and live updates from the UNCTAD E-commerce Week]

The session was moderated by Ms Kadra Ahmed Hassan (Ambassador and Permanent Representative to UN, WTO and other organisations in Geneva). She started by explaining that the discussions will focus on possible policy and regulatory responses at national, regional and international levels. She asked the panellists to highlight the opportunities and challenges in a data-driven economy.

Ms Sophie Kwasny (Head of the Data Protection Unit, Council of Europe) explained the work of Council on data protection. She highlighted Convention 108 (28 January 1981) and said that fifty-four countries are bound by the Convention (plus Argentina, Cabo Verde, Mexico, Mauritius, Senegal, Tunisia, and Uruguay). She noted the modernisation of the Convention 108 and its implementation and further mentioned three points: promotion, preservation, and insurance of coherence. In addition, she said that the digital transformation needs analysis in the digital environment.  She outlined data protection in e-commerce (protect, grow, and transborder data flows).

Kwasny talked about transborder data flows (Article 14.1) and explained that the EU is limiting transfer of data in non-EU countries. She mentioned that the general data protection regulation (GDPR) came into force in May 2018. She also underlined the international data transfer and international dimension of data protection. She said that the GDPR takes into account Convention 108 in dealing with non-EU countries on some data issues.

Answering a question from the audience, she added that mutual recognition and co-operation are very important between the EU and the partners on data protection issues.

Ms Usanisa Khun-Ekanan (Director of Office of e-Commerce at Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), Thailand) talked about personal data protection from Thailand’s perspective. She presented the situation in Thailand: privacy awareness and data protection; the timeline of Thailand personal data protection legislation; and the concept of Thailand’s personal data protection bill. In addition, she said that 24.4 percent of Thai users don’t send private information on any social network.

Moreover, Khun-Ekanan highlighted the relationship between personal data protection principles and other laws. She mentioned that Thailand is promoting a programme of ‘Public Understanding on Privacy and Data Protection and Digital Literacy’. She said that the challenges arise from different sectors: supporting micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), self-regulation by industry (standards, guidelines, best practices, code of conduct, and norms). She mentioned the challenges of drafting and enforcing their own rules. She further noted Thailand’s different history and background on data.

Mr Hardin Ratshisusu (Deputy Commissioner, South Africa Competition Commission) explained competition and regulation in e-commerce (in both past reports and current thinking) in South Africa. He mentioned the industrial revolution over time. In addition, he noted policy considerations in the age of e-commerce for Africa. He said that intra-African trade is facing a deficit in infrastructure, financial services systems, Internet penetration, and regulation of competition in e-commerce. He explained online sales bans or limitations, geographic price discrimination, and resale price maintenance.

Ratshisusu acknowledged that there is still a challenge of competition in many African countries. He said that current thinking regards digital trade as costly and the network effect as a big problem. He highlighted possible remedies such as data mobility and fostering open-systems, establishment of a code of competitive conduct for digital markets, and the equipment of regulators to address complex digital markets. He recommended the UK Furman report on ‘Unlocking Digital Competition’ and Tirole’s contribution (Keynote EU).

According to him, in South Africa, they need data inquiry and noted that his country is learning from the experience of developed countries.  In conclusion, there is the need to establish rules that can support e-commerce.

Answering a question from the audience, he said that sharing-data should not compromise competition. He added that there is a monopoly problem of global value chains.


By Gilles D. Bana


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