News

WEF

The World Economic Forum plans to convene the world’s foremost leaders for the Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. Taking place in person from 17-21 January, the Annual Meeting 2022 will be the first global leadership event to set the agenda for a sustainable recovery.

The pandemic has exacerbated fractures across society. It is a critical year for leaders to come together and shape necessary partnerships and policies. The meeting will bring together forward-thinking leaders to drive multistakeholder collaboration and address the world’s most pressing economic, political and societal challenges. Further details will be announced in due course.

The wellbeing of our participants, staff, service providers and hosts is a priority. Therefore, the World Economic Forum is working closely with the Swiss authorities, as well as with experts, national and international health organizations to put in place measures for the Annual Meeting 2022 that are appropriate and adapted to the context.

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum said “The pandemic has brought far-reaching changes. In a world full of uncertainty and tension, personal dialogue is more important than ever. Leaders have an obligation to work together and rebuild trust, increase global cooperation and work towards sustainable, bold solutions.”

Progressing cooperation on tackling climate change, building a better future for work, accelerating stakeholder capitalism, and harnessing the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be important topics on the agenda.

Ahead of the Annual Meeting 2022, the Forum will host the fifth Sustainable Development Impact Summit to take place virtually from 20 to 23 September 2021 in the context of the United Nations General Assembly. The summit will convene under the theme Shaping an Equitable, Inclusive and Sustainable Recovery. It will welcome almost leaders from government, business and civil society who will work together to drive action and build momentum for a more sustainable and inclusive future.

WEF

Embracing new technologies defines a company’s competitiveness on the market today, its efficient operation and its future development. As businesses go remote, many of them transfer their valuable data to the cloud – experts predict up to 60% will be using external provider services by 2022. This allows companies to tune internal communications, process and store larger amounts of data and deliver more value to customers.

The Digital Transformation Officer (DTO) plays the key role in managing the strategic approach necessary to successfully undertake such transformations. Part of that success means managing cyber-risk. In fact, the World Economic Forum, in its guidance to boards of directors, recommends that organizational design supports cybersecurity. The DTO has significant responsibility in making sure this important obligation is met.

Among IT initiatives worldwide, digital transformation is a leading priority.
Among IT initiatives worldwide, digital transformation is a leading priority.
Image: Statista

Investments in digital transformation are projected to reach $1.78 trillion in 2022. In this regard, the DTO plays the key role – their task is to drive the company’s digital transformation by ensuring seamless integration of novel technologies into business operations. This mission is complex and does not only mean introducing new software and hardware. It is about full revision of internal and external processes, training of staff, and, perhaps most crucially, implementing new approaches to security.

The need for the effective cybersecurity is growing in parallel with the increasing digitalization of work processes. Over the past two years, many industries have seen a substantial rise in security incidents.

Cyberattacks are rising across multiple sectors worldwide.
Cyberattacks are rising across multiple sectors worldwide.
Image: ENISA

 

Unless a DTO pays sufficient attention to security, one incident may disrupt the whole strategy of a company’s transformation and future development, bringing enormous financial and reputational damage. For example, in 2021 the average cost of a data breach has risen to $4.24 million, the highest in the past 17 years.

The main challenge for a DTO is not only to take a company to new heights through digital transformation, but to ensure that transformation is sustainable. This means she or he must ensure continuity of the company’s processes and not let a single cyberattack disrupt operations. With that in mind, cybersecurity becomes an integral part of every digital transformation strategy.

We recommend DTOs consider the following trends:

1. Securing digital assets

Moving to remote work revealed a lot of challenges and new risks – one in five companies were not ready to ensure stable business processes in case of failures in their IT infrastructure. To stay on the safe side, a DTO should manage a detailed inventory of digital assets. This will point out the most important resources that require protection in the first place, be they data, network repositories or workplaces; it may also reveal a wide range of unaccounted assets that could appear during digitalization. BI.ZONE research shows that 60% of data leaks and 85% of network compromises are linked with such assets. These incidents may disrupt the company’s daily operations. To avoid that, the digital assets need to be accounted and secure.

2. Cloud security

Moving to cloud offers companies significant flexibility as well as potential security benefits. Still, there are certain challenges, most commonly when a company becomes dependent on only one cloud service provider, e.g. due to specific data storage formats. In the event of vendor lock-out – if the service provider goes bankrupt, leaves the market, or suffers a cybersecurity incident itself – all the company systems in the cloud will be unavailable. In light of these challenges, the DTO needs to have a deep understanding of how their company is using and securing the cloud. It is important to learn in advance what solutions and formats are utilized by the supplier, as well as their compatibility with formats by other vendors, and to assess the cybersecurity level of this supplier. A DTO can arrange this internally or hire third-party IT experts for help.

3. Developing skills to operate novel technologies securely

Recognizing the human factor in digital transformation may offer significant benefits. Digital transformation requires new skills both from technical and non-technical specialists. Human mistakes and lack of knowledge often lead to cyber-incidents, notwithstanding a company’s investments into expensive security means. BI.ZONE research shows 80% of successful cyberattacks utilize social engineering methods. Therefore, a DTO can reduce the risks of incidents by promoting regular trainings for every employee and top management on how to work safely in the new digital reality.

4. New approaches to cyber-incident management

If any crisis strikes, the company should be ready at all levels to keep the operations going. A DTO should work closely with the company’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to improve and regularly update business continuity and incident response plans, and to promote regular crisis-management trainings for all company members, including the board. Also, it is important for a DTO to be aware of the latest trends, and to test and introduce new methods of incident management. For example, there are managed detection and response services that foresee proactive approach to threats, or threat intelligence for building better security. Smooth introduction of these approaches may require specific experience and supervision of experts.

5. Outsourcing cybersecurity tasks

As digital transformation is an ongoing process, these tasks are complex, require substantial investments and may turn out rather difficult for a company to deal with. Besides, businesses are facing a deficit of qualified personnel – the global shortage for cybersecurity specialists has hit 3 million. Today there are expert organizations that help companies to go through digital transformation securely. They possess the required experience and capacities, the expensive equipment and software, and are aware of the tendencies within the field. They can also help to address cybersecurity issues and avoid common mistakes.

Digital transformation is a challenging but manageable task. It is important for a DTO to work as a team with the CISO, senior leadership, and the board and to stay tuned with the rapid changes in business and technologies. Addressing all the elements in a cross-functional way and prioritizing cybersecurity will facilitate secure digital transformation and ensure your company’s stable development for years to come.

ITU

Providing everyone with a transaction account to send and receive money electronically is widely considered the first step towards financial inclusion. For the unbanked, such accounts are seen as the gateway to savings, credit, insurance and a host of other financial activities and services.

Ongoing advances in financial technology (fintech) have introduced new ways to expand access to financial services and the range of services on offer, both for experienced customers and for unbanked people gaining access to transaction accounts for the first time.

Alongside the traditional offerings, some banks have moved to support “open banking” in coordination with third-party online service providers.

Innovations in fields like big data analytics, digital identity and biometrics have ushered in new ways to assess creditworthiness and onboard new customers.

With transaction accounts now offered not just by banks, but also increasingly via mobile money providers and other non-bank platforms, a wide range of players can be involved in enabling payments.

For financial regulators, this raises a range of questions, with the imperative to spur fintech innovation being balanced against the responsibility to manage risks.

Guiding principles

Guiding principles for Payment Aspects of Financial Inclusion (PAFI), released in 2016 and updated in 2020, rest on public and private-sector commitments to provide everyone with access to a transaction account, a suitable supporting legal and regulatory framework, and the necessary financial and digital infrastructure.

Fintech’s rapid rise to prominence in recent years has led to further review of PAFI principles, again led by the World Bank Group and the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (CPMI) of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). This time, the institutions focused on detailing how the PAFI principles apply to the latest fintech innovations.

The latest report notes fintech’s potential to broaden financial inclusion through initiatives embedded in wider country-level reforms.

Inclusive payment systems depend on close coordination between regulatory authorities and industry players, both to harmonize oversight and establish resilient infrastructure for electronic payments.

The right balance is needed between increasing efficiency and ensuring safety, as well as between enhancing the customer experience and protecting personal data.

The movement towards increasingly digital financial life, industry experts caution, may deepen exclusion for some.

Striking the balance

Source: Bank for International Settlements and World Bank Group (2020): Payment aspects of financial inclusion in the fintech era.

Tracking financial inclusion

To help national authorities apply PAFI guidance, the project provides guidance for diagnostic studies to track transaction account access and use. The toolkit allows comparisons against international benchmarks or within each jurisdiction over time as countries strive for more inclusive payment systems.

Morocco’s inclusion strategy

The PAFI toolkit forms part of a country-level self-assessment for Morocco’s financial sector, says Hakima El Alami, Director of Payment Systems and Instruments Oversight and Financial Inclusion Directorate at Bank Al-Maghrib, the country’s central bank.

Morocco is making fintech solutions part of its national Financial Inclusion Strategy — which aims to give all citizens and businesses fair access to formal financial products and services, she said during the recent Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) Symposium.

Albania builds trust

Market access for new entrants also requires careful consideration, so that entities of all sizes enjoy equal opportunities for competition.

“From our perspective as a regulator, we need the market to have as many alternatives as possible, and this comes into force only with tools like a framework, infrastructure, and giving access in a secure and mitigated way,” said Ledia Bregu, Director of Payments in the Bank of Albania’s Accounting and Finance Department.

Bregu cited financial literacy as a key challenge, along with building customer confidence.

“When we speak about innovation and fintech, we need to build trust, so the new or unbanked part of the population has the same understanding and the same trust to use innovative tools to become more financially included.”

Financial inclusion can drive investment and economic development — important considerations for Albania and other relatively small economies in the Western Balkans, she adds. “At the end of the day we see it as a tool for economic growth,” says Bregu.

Mexico seeks network effects

Exponential tech growth means not only new services, but also new types of firms providing services, says Miguel Manuel Díaz, Director of Payment Systems and Infrastructure at Banxico.

This, he believes, has ramped up the pressure on central banks and other regulators.

According to Díaz, five key balances need to be maintained by authorities working to accommodate new types of industry players and services:

  1. Innovation versus risk mitigation;
  2. Economies of scale versus competition;
  3. Efficiency versus system security;
  4. Achieving diversity versus efficient system standardization; and
  5. Privacy versus security requirements.

Díaz sees two key tools to expand access to payment services while mitigating associated risks:

First, a central enabling infrastructure available to everyone. This supports competition among payment services and introduces network effects that help services reach as many people as possible.

Second, in-depth analysis to ensure the consistency of regulations with new market realities. For example, regulators may consider shifting from overseeing different types of institutions towards overseeing the different functions involved in providing a service.

South Africa recognizes limits of current regulation

While financial inclusion is a high priority today, this was not always the case in South Africa, says Pearl Malumane, Senior Analyst in the Policy and Regulation Division at the South African Reserve Bank.

“Over the years, the focus has always been on financial stability, but other regulators and also the South African Reserve Bank have come to realize the importance of financial inclusion,” she says.

“As a result, we have seen the growth of fintechs in South Africa, but we are aware that there are limits in our current regulatory framework. It is very restrictive in terms of what type of payment activities fintechs, or non-banks, are allowed to do.”

But the industry and its regulators need to persist in finding the right way forward, Malumane says. “Where fintech is enabled, it will enhance not only financial inclusion but also competition and innovation in the national payment system and throughout the country,” she says.

Note: This article is based on a panel discussion during the 2021 Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) Symposium.
Play the session recording.

WTO

“Digital Jobs Albania” is a new World Bank initiative that will help women in Albania gain better access to online work opportunities and connect with the global economy. The initiative will provide intensive 3-month training in digital skills for women aged 16-35 years, empowering them to access online freelancer job opportunities in graphic design, web development and digital marketing.

The emergence of online freelancer job markets is creating new opportunities for Albanians to connect with the global economy. Websites such as Upwork, Fiverr and People Per Hour allow Albanians with the right skills to access online project work commissioned by companies and individuals anywhere in the world, while staying in their local communities.

Women in particular stand to gain. The female labor force participation in Albania is still 14.6 percentage points lower than for males. The gender pay gap remains 6.6 percent, according to 2020 data from the Albanian National Statistical Authority (INSTAT). The emerging online freelancing work model can play an important role in narrowing these gaps. Flexible work hours and the ability to work from home can help more women with the right skills stay in the labor market and gain financial independence.

The Digital Jobs Albania initiative, implemented in partnership with the Government of Albania, Coderstrust (an international digital skills training provider), and EuroPartners Development (a local consulting company), will provide an online training program to equip selected participants with in-demand technical skills. It will also provide mentorship to participants and help them develop the soft skills needed to successfully compete for project work on online freelancer websites.

“This initiative offers an exciting new opportunity for Albanian women to acquire digital skills and join the online economy – a blueprint to inspire future projects in this space,” says Emanuel Salinas, World Bank Country Manager for Albania. “No one can afford to be left behind in the ongoing digital transformation.”

The initiative is part of broader ongoing World Bank engagement in Albania to help the country leverage the economic opportunities associated with digital trade in goods and services.

“Albania has recognized the importance of digital markets as an opportunity for economic development. We have mobilized a team from across the World Bank to support this effort, through this new initiative and others in the future,” says Christoph Ungerer, the World Bank task team leader for the Albania Digital Trade Project.

To learn more about the Digital Jobs Albania initiative and how to participate in it, please visit: https://www.digitaljobsalbania.com/

UNCTAD

The funds will support activities that can enable more countries to engage in and benefit from the evolving digital economy.

 

Switzerland has announced a contribution of $4.4 million (4 million Swiss francs) to UNCTAD’s e-commerce and digital economy programme.

The funds to be provided through the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) will support the programme’s technical cooperation, research and consensus-building activities until 2024.

UNCTAD and Switzerland signed an agreement on 13 September.

“We sincerely thank Switzerland for the generous contribution,” said Isabelle Durant, deputy secretary-general of UNCTAD. “The financial support will enable us to scale up our efforts to foster more inclusive and sustainable development gains from e-commerce and the digital economy for people and businesses in developing countries.”

“Switzerland is proud to contribute to UNCTAD’s programme on e-commerce, which supports the establishment of favourable framework conditions for e-commerce in developing and least developed countries,” said Didier Chambovey, ambassador of the Swiss Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organization and the European Free Trade Association.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic revealed, a robust e-commerce ecosystem is needed to maintain trade flows and mitigate economic and social consequences in times of crisis, particularly in the most vulnerable countries.”

Spreading the benefits of the digital economy

The UNCTAD programme aims to reduce inequality, enable the benefits of digitalization to reach all people and ensure that no one is left behind in the evolving digital economy.

Its activities include, among others, the biennial Digital Economy Report, the eCommerce Week, eTrade for alleTrade for Women and eTrade readiness assessments.

The Swiss contribution will boost the programme’s ability to respond to the growing demand from countries for UNCTAD’s support, not least in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has accentuated the need to support countries with the lowest levels of readiness to take advantage of the opportunities and mitigate the risks presented by digitalization.

Committed to digitalization

The contribution demonstrates Switzerland’s commitment to strengthening its support to digitalization in line with its International Cooperation Strategy for 2021-24 and its Digital Foreign Policy Strategy 2021-2024, both of which recognize the role of digitalization in meeting current and future development challenges.

The contribution will finance at least three eTrade readiness assessments, which will provide a diagnostic of the state of e-commerce in the countries concerned, covering seven policy areas considered most relevant for e-commerce development. It will also build on a close collaboration with selected eTrade for all partners.

In 2020, Switzerland topped UNCTAD’s Business-to-Consumer E-commerce Index, which ranks 152 countries on their readiness to engage in electronic commerce.

It scored highly across all four dimensions of the index, with 97% of the population using the internet (2019) and 98% of the population aged 15 and older having a bank account (2017).

It also ranked 7th in the world in terms of postal reliability according to the Universal Postal Union, and 5th among the countries included in the index for secure server density, a proxy for online stores.

Partner

Experts often cite the benefits of financial technology (fintech) and digital finance for women. At the same time, few women are represented in decision-making roles in this fast-growing industry.

While they make up half of the financial services workforce in many countries, women fill only about 20 per cent of the leadership roles. Their representation in emerging markets is lower. Even so, they do better in finance than in the other part of the equation, the technology sector.

A closer look at the figures

The overall tech workforce was 28.8 per cent female in 2020, and despite growth in women’s representation on boards and in C suites at tech companies in the past ten years, there’s still a long way to go. Out of nearly 1300 technology companies across the world, women hold on average 16.6 per cent of board seats.

While 35 per cent of higher education graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programmes globally are female, many of them, according to Catalyst, end up leaving STEM careers.

The fast-growing fintech industry doesn’t appear to fare better in terms of women’s leadership.

The financial industry is making rapid progress in boosting the number of women in senior leadership roles, but fintech lags more traditional finance in terms of gender balance. “Despite starting with a blank slate, fintech has emerged as an outlier struggling with gender balance at the board level,” according to international management consultancy Oliver Wyman.

Missed opportunities

Placing women in leadership positions tends to drive innovation, increase productivity, and boost profitability, says a study by Deloitte. Yet among fintech founders, women are less likely to receive investor funding than their male counterparts.

“More diverse teams create better results,” affirms Margaret Miller, Lead Financial Sector Economist at the World Bank Group and co-moderator of a session at the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) Symposium.

“It’s business sense to be looking at how we can incorporate women and women’s voices more in leadership.”

The stubborn gender gap in fintech leadership stems from more than the lack of diversity in financial services and the scarcity of women across the wider tech sector. Differing cultural norms also come into play, along with each country’s current economic conditions.

In Pakistan, for example, women are employed largely in the informal sector, says Roshaneh Zafar, Founder and Managing Director of the Kashf Foundation, a non-banking micro finance company. This reflects a pattern seen in many developing countries, with around 95 per cent of women’s work in Asia and 89 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa being done informally, according to a report from the World Bank Group and partners.

Zafar pointed to educational barriers and questioned whether women were being educated to become managers. In her view, perceptions about women and leadership must change, which also means cultural stereotypes need to be broken down.

“The lack of networking is something that prevents women from getting not only the investments they require but also the amounts of investment,” she says.

“Women don’t lack the expertise or the ability. It’s really the perception that creates the glass ceiling, both within institutions and within the investor space.”

Championing women as leaders

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has started dedicating annual awards to outstanding women in the banking sector, with winners receiving learning opportunities at globally prestigious universities, including Harvard.

May Abulnaga, First Sub-Governor, sees a crucial role for regulators in promoting women, starting from the top down.

“Today, as a regulator, we have been able to achieve a number of milestones towards building an inclusive financial sector.”

The CBE has also undertaken a joint programme with Egypt’s National Council for Women to promote female financial empowerment.
Laura Fernandez Lord, Head of Women’s Economic Empowerment at BBVA Microfinance Foundation (a subsidiary of Spain’s multinational financial services firm BBVA), adds:

“There is only one way to move the needle to bridge the gender financial gap, and that is to lead by example.”

Possible approaches include promoting women champions for organizational change, bringing men into the discussion, training top managers on gender diversity, and investing in career counselling, career planning, mentoring and coaching for both men and women. But organizations and companies seeking to improve their gender balance may also need tools for tackling unintended biases, rules on hiring 50 per cent women employees, and mandatory availability of day-care facilities.

Fintech firms in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are piloting the business case for gender-intelligent services. The Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund (AWEF) has actively helped to promote solutions from mobile wallets to merchant payment integration. Its Eight Lessons from the Field report urges fintechs to take a deliberate approach to meeting the needs of women.

Including women in fintech — a holistic approach

study by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) recommends a holistic approach, both to expand financial services for women and increase the number of women in fintech. The supply of financial services is not by itself a panacea.

Governments, donors, and financial institutions must intervene where needed to boost financial literacy, improve product design, and address specific constraints for women.

Otherwise, rapid growth in digital banking and the creation of a cashless society could serve to deepen and reinforce the existing digital gender divide.
Even before the current pandemic, an estimated 52 per cent of women tended to remain totally offline, compared with 42 per cent of men worldwide, according to ITU’s 2019 Measuring Digital Development report.

Proportion of internet users by gender - ITU Facts and Figures 2019

In our post-pandemic world, the ability to connect to usable affordable digital services will surely be the new baseline for full social and economic inclusion, especially for women.

Note: This article is based on a panel discussion during the 2021 Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) Symposium.

WTO

Participants in e-commerce negotiations welcomed two more clean articles — on open government data and online consumer protection — at a meeting on 13 September.

Ambassador George Mina of Australia said the two articles were “foundational” for the initiative. He said the high-quality text achieved in both cases reflected the perspectives of a diverse range of developed and developing countries, and thanked New Zealand, Japan and Hong Kong, China for leading the negotiating groups on these issues.

The online consumer protection article requires members to adopt or maintain measures that proscribe misleading, fraudulent and deceptive commercial activities that cause harm, or potential harm, to consumers engaged in electronic commerce. Members are required to endeavour to adopt or maintain measures that aim to ensure suppliers deal fairly and honestly with consumers and provide complete and accurate information on goods and services and to ensure the safety of goods and, where applicable, services during normal or reasonably foreseeable use. The article also requires members to promote consumer redress or recourse mechanisms.

The open government data article encourages members to expand the coverage of government data made available for public access and use. It requires members to endeavour, to the extent practicable, to ensure that government data they choose to make digitally and publicly available meets particular characteristics, and to endeavour to avoid imposing certain conditions on such data.

The co-convenors — Australia, Japan and Singapore — urged participants to build on the strong momentum to achieve substantial progress by the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) at the end of the year.

Ambassador Mina emphasized the importance of small negotiating groups in generating convergence and in ensuring inclusivity and transparency. This was achieved, he said, by regularly bringing the work of the small negotiating groups to plenary meetings and allowing all participants to make comments and shape the text.

The negotiations have previously produced clean articles on spam, electronic signatures and authentication, and e-contracts. A text on transparency has also been “parked”, subject to the final scope and legal structure of the negotiated outcome.

Development issues

The meeting featured a detailed discussion on digital trade and development. Participants discussed proposals aimed at helping developing and least-developed countries implement the new rules on e-commerce and bridge the digital divide.

Members’ discussions covered options for capacity building and technical assistance, sharing of experiences and best practices, and cooperation with specialised international organisations. Members shared examples of existing capacity building initiatives that have helped countries implement digital trade rules and addressed challenges faced by developing and least-developed countries.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Hung Seng Tan of Singapore said it was timely for participants to consider how best the e-commerce initiative could help all participants reap the benefits of the digital transformation. It was important for the initiative to deepen members’ understanding of the digitalization process, he said.

Ambassador Kazuyuki Yamazaki of Japan said that it was important for the initiative to take into account participants’ different levels of development and ensure the negotiations progressed in an inclusive manner. It was crucial to maintain the strong momentum in the lead up to MC12, he said.

UNCTAD

They will work with other stakeholders to create a conducive market environment for digital innovations to thrive in the region, leaving no one behind in the process.

UNCTAD, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) have launched a new programme to support the development of digital economies in the Pacific region.

The Pacific Digital Economy Programme (PDEP), funded by the Australian government, will be implemented with an inception period of two years, to be extended to five.

“PDEP aims to create inclusive digital economies by applying digital solutions to meet the needs of vulnerable islanders (such as in the agriculture, education, energy and entrepreneurship sectors), narrowing the digital divide,” said Australian high commissioner to Fiji, John Feakes.

“This will, in turn, have a positive impact on the lives of Pacific Islanders’, reducing poverty, improving livelihoods and contributing to economic growth.”

Building on long-term work on digital finance and e-commerce
This unique partnership is built on UNCDF’s long-term work on digital finance in the Pacific region and UNCTAD’s extensive work in the area of e-commerce and the digital economy, and implemented with administrative support from UNDP.

The programme includes both country-specific activities, initially focusing on Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, and region-wide research and capacity-building actions.

UNCDF’s regional lead in the Pacific, Bram Peters, said: “Digital technology has immense potential to improve the financial lives of Pacific Islanders. But we need to ensure that this potential does not lead to a digital divide as we have already seen in many other parts of the world.”

He added: “We are launching this programme to ensure all people are included and benefit from an ever more digitized economy.”

Shamika Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s division on technology and logistics, said the joint initiative is a great example of international cooperation between different UN agencies, in the spirit of the eTrade for all initiative.

“By bringing together the complementary areas of expertise of UNCDF, UNCTAD and UNDP, we can advance e-commerce and the digital economy in the Pacific. As such, this programme provides a valuable model of cooperation for other regions as well,” she said.

Close cooperation
The design and implementation of the PDEP benefits from close cooperation with the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat and its activities are directly supportive of the Pacific e-commerce strategy and roadmap it recently developed.

The programme will also rely on close collaboration with a wide variety of other public and private sector stakeholders from across the region to create a conducive market environment for digital innovations to thrive, leaving no one behind in the process.

WIPO

More than 60 percent of the respondents to a recent WIPO survey have been involved in B2B digital copyright- and content-related disputes in the last five years, with software, musical works, advertising, and literary works being the most common types of disputes.

The World Intellectual Property Organization’s Arbitration and Mediation Center (WIPO Center), with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea (MCST) has conducted a survey on the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms for Business to Business (B2B) digital copyright- and content-related disputes. The results presented in the report are based on over 1,000 responses and interviews conducted with key stakeholders from 129 countries across all regions.

The survey targeted copyright- and content-intensive companies of all sizes, online intermediaries and platforms, creators, entrepreneurs, collective management organizations, in-house and external counsel, and government bodies.

Marco M. Alemán, Assistant Director General, IP and Innovation Ecosystems Sector noted, “Individuals and businesses need access to effective dispute resolution to ensure they are fairly rewarded for their works. Court litigation is not always suited to copyright- and content-related disputes, shifting attention to the benefits of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.”

“Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms can offer a viable alternative in a rapidly changing content environment. Compared to court litigation, ADR is more affordable, faster and easier when trying to settle cross-border, international disputes”, said Oh Yeong-Woo, Vice Minister, MCST.

Selected survey results:

  • Survey respondents’ top priorities were the cost and speed of resolving these disputes.
  • According to the survey findings, while court litigation was the most commonly used mechanism to resolve these disputes, mediation/conciliation was frequently used and was perceived to be the most suitable.
  • Damages was the most common remedy pursued by claimants in these disputes (70 percent). Claims for royalties were also frequently pursued (60 percent).
  • While the value of the disputes in which the survey respondents were involved varied, the majority (59 percent) fell into the bracket of USD 10,000–100,000.
  • Settlement was the most common outcome of these disputes.
  • Survey respondents were more often involved in non-contractual (57 percent) disputes than in contractual disputes (43 percent). The most common contracts concluded by survey respondents were software-related contracts, followed by audiovisual, publishing and advertising.

Recent international regulatory developments point to the need for effective mechanisms that provide an alternative to the courts for resolving B2B digital copyright- and content-related disputes. ADR procedures have the potential to significantly enhance the resolution of digital copyright- and content-related disputes by promoting accessibility, affordability, transparency, neutrality and fairness.

For example, the use of ADR is encouraged to negotiate and reach agreements on licensing rights for audiovisual works on video-on-demand services. The use of ADR is also encouraged to provide expeditious complaint and redress mechanisms for users over the removal of uploaded content involving copyright-protected works.

In the last five years, the WIPO Center has noticed the growing use of ADR for digital copyright and content disputes. WIPO ADR cases are predominantly based on contract clauses, where the parties select the ADR option(s) in advance. However, WIPO ADR cases increasingly arise from submission agreements concluded by the parties after the dispute has arisen and proceedings may already have commenced before courts or copyright authorities.

Taking into account the results of the survey, the WIPO Center, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, is currently tailoring its ADR procedures to the specific dispute resolution needs of users, right-holders, and online content sharing service providers (OCSSPs).

ITC

Wacu Kihara is the founder of the sustainable and contemporary fashion label Khangadelic in Kenya. Her business was born from her passion for fashion and love for the environment. All her designs symbolize the colour and vibrancy of the Kenyan coastal culture and lifestyle, using reusable Khanga cloth bags from fabric offcuts.

Her online journey kicked-off in 2018 when she opened an eBay store, through a SheTrades project, and started collaborating with DHL to ship worldwide. However, her business only really took off with the the start of the pandemic in 2020. The key to Wacu’s increase in sales was adapting to the global demand and sharing good quality photos of her products in her online channels.

She shifted her production to masks and started selling them on eBay to customers all over the world, from the US to Japan, Ireland and Norway.

Apart from eBay, her other sales channel is social media. Many of her customers contact Wacu directly through Facebook and Instagram. She is now exploring how to use the “Shop” functionality.

Wacu participated in the International Trade Centre’s Facebook Live series “E-commerce Tips from Peers”, organized by the ecomConnect team – the e-commerce initiative at ITC – where she provided a series of tips. Among them, she encouraged entrepreneurs to:

  • Know their market to reduce costs. Knowing the market, customers and their preferences can help invest in what is more fruitful for entrepreneurs.
  • Research competitors, their prices and the keywords they are using to attract new customers.
  • Customize products and communications to your customers. For example, entrepreneurs can send customized emails to let clients know the status of their orders.
  • Gather positive reviews. Customers’ feedback is everything: in online platforms, positive feedback is key to appear first in the search results. When Wacu’s business failed to deliver on time, she always refunded the customer to avoid negative feedback.
  • Be up to date with legal documents to save time when working with payment solutions and logistic providers. This will help entrepreneurs save time.

Wacu also suggested that entrepreneurs build a quality network of businesses and associations operating in their respective sector. “By joining various WhatsApp groups of business associations, one is able to gain access to business opportunities and training. This is a great help for your business, especially in the first stages”, she adds.

ITU

The transformations we are seeing in numerous fields – from energy and mobility to health care, agriculture, and financial services – all hinge on digital technologies, along with an array of associated business ecosystems. All these technologies and systems must be reliable, secure and deserving of our trust.

The Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) is an open framework for collaboration led by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the World Bank Group, and the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (CPMI).

Our partnership brings together the expertise to accelerate digital financial inclusion. With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we have brought together the full range of stakeholders set to benefit from this expertise.

The World Bank Group and CPMI have helped to build a strong understanding of the policy considerations surrounding digital identity and incentivizing the use of electronic of payments.

ITU’s work has focused on security, infrastructure and trust – secure financial applications and services, reliable digital infrastructure, and the resulting consumer trust that our money and digital identities are safe.

No more secrets

Considering the prevalence of data breaches, the need for strong authentication is clear, with discussions in the industry often noting that “there are no secrets anymore.”

New ITU standards for a universal authenticator framework (X.1277) and client-to-authenticator protocol (X.1278) are helping overcome the security limitations of the “shared secret” approach, the basis for the widely familiar username-password model of authentication.

Users can now authenticate locally to their device using biometrics, with the device then authenticating the user online with public key cryptography. With the new standards, users are asked to authenticate locally to their device only once, and their biometric data never leaves the device. This model avoids susceptibility to phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks, or other forms of attack targeting user credentials.

FIGI engagement helped to usher these specifications, first developed by the FIDO (Fast Identity Online) Alliance, into the ITU standardization process to stimulate their adoption globally. Authentication options consistent with X.1277 and X.1278 are now supported by most devices and browsers on the market.

Fortifying a walled garden

In developing countries, digital financial services are often provided over Signalling System No.7 (SS7), a legacy network protocol standardized by ITU in the late 1970s. SS7 enables all network operators to interconnect and looks sure to remain in use for years to come.

But security was not considered in its design. SS7 was designed as a walled garden. Entry to the SS7 network was intended to be highly regulated, with only trusted network operators being granted access. But malicious actors have since found various ways to get hold of the keys, especially since some of the initial design and deployment assumptions were no longer valid with the introduction of deregulation, voice over IP, and mobile networks.

FIGI has worked to raise awareness about SS7’s security vulnerabilities and associated mitigation techniques. As the need to mitigate these vulnerabilities increases, network operators can look to ITU’s new Q.3057 standard outlining signalling requirements and architecture for interconnection between trustable network entities. This is another standard rooted in FIGI discussions.

Reliable, widely available connectivity

Trust in digital financial services is also acutely affected by the reliability and availability of connectivity. Network downtime and transaction failures resulting from dropped connections can erode the trust of consumers and merchants in digital financial services.

Investment in digital infrastructure must continue, with the industry adopting meaningful, widely accepted benchmarks for service quality. ITU standards specify the route towards reliable, interoperable network infrastructure, and they provide a wide range of tools to assess the performance and quality of the services running over this infrastructure.

FIGI highlighted the demand for service quality indicators specific to digital financial services. With the expertise on hand at ITU, we have delivered new standards describing key quality considerations for digital financial services (ITU G.1033) and a methodology to assess the quality of user experience (ITU P.1052).
Security across the value chain
Every industry player involved in providing digital financial services has to be concerned about security risks. Security is only as strong as its weakest link, and innovation in digital finance continues to extend the length and increase the complexity of the underlying value chain.

Secure digital finance calls for coordinated defences that are attuned to evolving security threats. A key FIGI report outlines the security assurance framework needed to achieve this for each actor in the digital finance value chain.

The best practices suggested by the framework could form the basis for a safer business ecosystem. They reflect the needs of everyone involved, from customers to network operators and digital finance providers, right through to third-party providers interfacing with the financial system.

Join us in building trust

ITU’s new Security Lab for Digital Financial Services offers tests addressing the security of mobile payment applications running over legacy as well as cutting-edge network infrastructure. It is certain to provide valuable support to regulators and industry players, both in bringing greater consistency to personal data protection and in ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of our transactions.

Other FIGI reports address topics from the security dimensions of blockchain to the privacy implications of the growing use of machine learning to automate credit decisions based on alternative data, such as your airtime purchases and mobile money transactions.

Digital technologies promise to become the key unifying force for banking systems worldwide. But advances in technology must be matched with sound policy and interoperable technical standards. Only then can the digital transformation in finance make life better for everyone around the world.

ITU

ITU’s Digital Transformation Centres train over 80 000 people – 65 percent are women

​​​​The Initiative is set to expand in phase 2, applications are open. Applications submition deadline extended until 19 September 2021.​​Women from underserved and marginalized communities made up 65 percent of 80 000 trainees in the first phase of ITU’s Digital Transformation Centres (DTC) Initiative. The Initiative, launched in September 2019, saw the ITU partner with technology conglomerate Cisco in nine countries to help strengthen the digital capacities of their citizens, particularly in underserved communities.

ITU has opened applications for the second phase of its DTC Initiative, aiming to close the persistent gap in digital skills worldwide. Interested eligible institutions can submit their applications, as deadline extended until 19 September 2021.

“We want to leverage the momentum we gained in phase one, during which over 80 000 people from underserved and marginalized communities received digital skills training through nine DTCs. The popularity of this training has far exceeded what we anticipated, and greatly encourages us. Clearly, the pandemic has made everyone more aware of the need to be equipped with digital skills. ITU wants to expand the DTC network, but at a pace which will ensure that the quality of training is maintained,” said ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao.

In the first phase, DTCs were established in nine countries in Africa, Americas and Asia Pacific. The individuals who signed up for DTC courses received training in basic and intermediate digital skills.

“Closing the global digital divide is consistent with empowering people and communities, improving lives and livelihoods, and promoting sustainable development,” emphasized the Secretary-General. “Empowering people with essential digital skills is a key part of this – a challenge we are proud to tackle together with partners from the private sector.”

Doreen Bogdan-​Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, said: “The pandemic underlined that digital skills are key to inclusion and leaving no one behind in today’s digital world. The lack of these skills is becoming the main barrier to digital participation, particularly in developing countries. ITU’s network of Digital Transformation Centres plays a crucial role in bridging the digital skills gap and ensuring that no one is left offline. That is why we are expanding the network to increase the number of DTCs globally. We are continuously engaging with new potential partners to collaborate with us in this Initiative.”

APPLICATION CRITERIA

The second phase is open to applications from any eligible national institution that commits to being an active partner in the network.

Applying institutions must have the mandate, or the support of their national government, to foster digital capacity in their respective countries, as well as a proven track record in delivering digital skills training at basic and intermediate levels to local communities.

Selected DTCs become part of a global network that aims to accelerate digital uptake among citizens and boost the capacity of young entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to succeed in the digital economy.

Any proposed DTC requires a network of fully equipped physical training centres, along with sufficient resources to deliver digital skills training. Detailed criteria are available here.

The second phase of the DTC Initiative will commence operations from January 2022.

Going forward, more DTCs will be able to join the global network in order to reach a critical mass of people with digital skills training in countries and thus allow them to meaningfully participate in the digital economy.

Further information on how to apply to become a DTC is available here.

BENEFITS OF PARTICIPATION

Institutions that become part of the DTC network will receive free access to training materials developed by ITU, Cisco, HP, and other partners at the global, regional and national levels; access to train-the-trainer programmes under the DTC Initiative; networking opportunities through DTCs worldwide; use of ITU and Cisco branding for promotion and marketing of DTC courses; authorization to award internationally recognized certifications to local citizens; and the chance get access to resources that will allow them to scale their national activities.

The first phase of the Initiative runs from January 2020 to August 2021, with nine DTCs: four in Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Rwanda, Zambia), two in the Americas (Brazil, Dominican Republic), and three in Asia-Pacific (Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines).

The courses offered are designed both for people who have never used a computer, as well as those with basic digital skills and those looking to enhance their entrepreneurial skills through information and communication technologies (ICTs).

ITU has promoted wider partnerships to support the Initiative with both financial and material resources. In November 2020, the Government of Norway joined the Initiative financially supporting the implementation of training through the DTC network. Going forward, ITU aims to mobilize more partnerships in the second phase of the Initiative, widen the network of DTCs and scale the number of training activities through a systemic engagement with partners both at national and international levels.

ITU

Today’s digital economies are reaching across borders, far and wide. Digital regulation is pivotal to facilitate the flow of investment and services between industries and countries and to the build-out of high-capacity, resilient, open infrastructure for all.

To leverage synergies and pool funds, regulators are expected to engage in whole-of-government approaches, which must include collaboration and coordination at the national and local levels.

Collaboration is also needed to address social and economic priorities, firstly between ministries for information and communication technology (ICT), economy/finance, and planning, but also with those for education, health, agriculture, transport, gender, security and energy.

Stronger international and regional cooperation, meanwhile, could help to address thorny issues related to digital trade, taxation, data protection, and cybersecurity. Open markets underpinned by collaborative regulation can foster unprecedented opportunities for people of all backgrounds in health, education, finance, commerce, energy, ICTs and other fields.

The Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) – held annually since 2000 – provides a unique, neutral discussion platform for regulators and policy makers to share their experiences and best practices.

 

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU, and Mercy Wanjau, Acting Director-General, Communications Authority of Kenya, and GSR-21 Chair

GSR-21 Chair Mercy Wanjau and ITU’s Doreen Bogdan-Martin
 
Best regulatory practices for digital transformation

This year’s GSR Best Practice Guidelines, adopted during the Heads of Regulators meeting on 21 June, will help countries optimize their regulatory strategies to drive faster and more inclusive connectivity. As in previous years, the Guidelines will facilitate high-value debate on the future of markets and regulation.

Published annually since 2003, the report builds on wisdom from the global community of regulators, helping to guide users through the uncharted territory of digital transformation. The 2021 edition addresses the unprecedented disruptions caused by COVID-19.

The Guidelines lay out the key features needed in regulatory regimes to keep digital markets ‘switched on’, accelerate market uptake, and deliver easy access to more people, faster.

Such best practices, if widely adopted, could help developing economies leapfrog ahead, with governments, businesses, and citizens reaping the full benefit of digital technologies.

New mechanisms needed

The 2021 Guidelines highlight the imperative to introduce agile financing mechanisms for digital infrastructure, access and use. What’s more, policy and regulatory tools are already at hand to bridge the financing gap in digital markets. Appropriate finance can turbo-charge regulatory progress, foster collaborative digital regulation – otherwise known as 5th generation regulation (G5) – and unlock digitally transformed, inclusive economies.

This year’s edition is more than ever community-owned, by the regulatory community and for the regulatory community, across regions and globally. Regulators everywhere need to adopt and implement a globally agreeable approach in a manner relevant to their particular national circumstances.

A sizeable toolbox is available for regulators to leverage evolving market dynamics, adapt in the aftermath of COVID-19, and seize new digital opportunities.

For example:

  • Innovative financial instruments and targeted incentives can be tailored for traditional and new players in infrastructure deployment, especially in underserved areas.
  • Dedicated national funding instruments, such as infrastructure and innovation funds, alongside universal service funds, could drive infrastructure development across economic sectors.
  • Strategic tax policy, including tax incentives or tax deductibility for new investments and the removal of sector-specific taxes on digital services, devices, and equipment, can go a long way in fostering digital economies.
  • Safe spaces for regulatory experimentation allow innovators to fine-tune new business models and build resilience of new digital services, thus giving people and businesses new channels for economic and social activity.
  • Regulatory sandboxes reflect to the complexity of new digital technologies and services, reducing time-to-market and helping secure funding for broad rollout to new consumer groups and the previously unconnected.
Practical application

The GSR-21 Best Practice Guidelines call for a sharp focus on policy implementation to ensure wide, sustainable impact. Policy and regulatory measures must be designed and applied to make digital devices available and affordable. This includes connecting schools, local government offices and health centres, creating e-government applications, and promoting local digital content.

Building on best practices and lessons acquired learnings over the past two decades, ITU metrics help regulators and policy makers navigate complex digital markets and technological transformation:

• The ICT Regulatory Tracker helps monitor progress and identify gaps in regulatory frameworks.
• The G5 Benchmark sets the gold standard for fast-track, collaborative, cross-sectoral regulation.

Based on these benchmarks, regulators and policy makers can find granular, focused analysis at their fingertips, turning high-level policy guidance into practical, actionable advice to measure progress, pinpoint gaps, and hone future regulation.

Read the 2021 Guidelines: Regulatory uplift for financing digital infrastructure, access and use

Bookmark all GSR Best Practice Guidelines since 2003

ITU

As the world continues to recover from the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, coping mechanisms such as increased use of virtual workspaces, online marketplaces and e-governance have become the norm. While this presents opportunities to revamp economies and streamline public service delivery, it may also heighten exposure to cybercrime.

In Africa, many countries have seen a rise in reports of digital threats and malicious cyber activities. The results include sabotaged public infrastructure, losses from digital fraud and illicit financial flows, and national security breaches involving espionage and intelligence theft by militant groups.

Addressing these vulnerabilities requires a greater commitment to cybersecurity. This requires enforceable policy safeguards, risk prevention and management approaches, along with technologies and infrastructure that can protect each country’s cyber environment, as well as individual and corporate end-user assets.

However, the latest Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI), released this June by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), suggests Africa’s levels of commitment to cybersecurity – as well as capacity for response to threats – remain low compared to other continents.

 

Regional average GCI scores

 Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) , 2020, ITU

Africa’s cybersecurity gap

The GCI report examines the cybersecurity landscape in 194 countries by the end of 2020 and assesses their commitment to improving cybersecurity based on five pillars: legal, technical, organizational, capacity development, and cooperation. We highlight below the overall performance of African countries in line with these pillars:

 

Africa’s average scores (out of 20 points) per pillar

Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) , 2020, ITU

 

1. Legal: Out of 54 African countries assessed, 29 had passed legislation to promote cybersecurity. Four others are currently at the stage of drafting policies or seeking legislative approval. Africa comes second to Europe in terms of the prevalence of legislation. Of all the pillars assessed, this was the measure where the region recorded its best performance. Still, these legal frameworks lack adequate depth and breadth; only 17 African nations have adopted specific legislation to tackle online harassment.

2. Technical: This measures the mechanisms and structures put in place at the national level to deal with cyber risks and incidents, and particularly the existence of a reliable Computer Incident and Emergency Response Team (CIRT or CERT). Out of 131 CIRTs identified across the globe, only 19 are in Africa, with an additional 2 in the pipeline. Interestingly, 6 of the 19 emerged between 2018 and 2020, reflecting a notable rise in a short period. Africa has only nine sector-specific CIRTs, set to respond to particular risks. This indicates a lack of maturity in the region’s cybersecurity measures.
3. Organizational: This pillar examines whether coordination mechanisms are sustainable, if the roles and functions of implementing agencies are clearly defined, and possible actions to protect critical infrastructure. Based on this, only ten African countries possess a national cybersecurity strategy that fully addresses measures related to critical infrastructure. About the same number of countries have conducted an audit to track the progress of national cybersecurity efforts.

4. Capacity development: All but six countries in Africa lack capacity-development incentives for cybersecurity – which aim to bridge the digital divide, build institutional knowledge, or address policy awareness limitations and skills shortages for cyber protection.

5. Cooperation: Given that cyberthreats are borderless, countries need to embrace collaborative efforts on cybersecurity. As the GCI report reveals, just 19 African countries are signatories to multilateral cybersecurity agreements, in contrast to 41 European countries. Only ten African countries have entered into bilateral cybersecurity agreements.

Among the factors creating a conducive environment for cybercrime in Africa are limited public awareness and knowledge regarding the potential risks when using cyberspace, underdevelopment of digital infrastructure, limitations in institutional capacity to coordinate and implement available cybersecurity laws, and an absence of extensive cybersecurity policies. This implies room to improve the cybersecurity approach in African countries.

Model countries in the region

A few countries stand out as regional cybersecurity leaders. For example, Mauritius and Tanzania are top performers in the region in terms of GCI Indicators for 2020, with scores of 96.89 and 90.58 out of 100, respectively. Areas of strength for these sample countries include consistent investment in information technology infrastructure and skills, CERTs that also inform citizens on digital rights, and cross-border collaboration on cybersecurity initiatives. Other African countries could learn from this.

 

GCI scores by country

Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) , 2020, ITU
What next?

Our research at the Centre for the Study of the Economics of Africa (CSEA) highlights several ways to improve cybersecurity across the continent.

Specifically, decision-makers need to take the following actions:

  • Increase public awareness campaigns to encourage behavioural change, such that Internet users are aware of possible cyberthreats and know to adopt preventive measures.
  • Invest in building up cybersecurity capabilities and technologies to detect and mitigate cybercrime.
  • Devote more resources to setting up and equipping CIRTs, ensuring adequate capacity to monitor and respond to incident reports.
  • Legislate efficient procedures for investigating and prosecuting cybercrime, thereby to deter cybercriminals.
  • Commit to enforcing robust legislation that governs cyber activities and protects digital rights.
  • Where cybersecurity strategies are already in place, ensure better coordination and thus stronger implementation.
  • Strengthen partnerships between domestic stakeholders – public and private – to encourage the sharing of intelligence on potential threats and collaboration to find lasting solutions.
  • Enhance regional cooperation among African states to ensure a united voice when negotiating over multilateral cybersecurity standards.
  • Adopt a collective, region-wide approach that encourages peer learning and knowledge exchange.

Note: The regional designations followed by CSEA are in line with African Union classifications. These differ from ITU regional designations in respect to the placement of some countries. Regional scores and observations may therefore deviate from ITU statistics and analysis.
Learn more about ITU’s regional presence.

ITC

“The pandemic has taught us entrepreneurs that together we are stronger. If we support each other, we can achieve whatever we want”, says Mónica Gamboa, Founder of Burío, a handmade business producing sustainable fashion in Costa Rica.

In 2020, Mónica decided to open an online store. Before the pandemic, she employed seven women and her main clients were schools and institutions. But the crisis caused a huge decrease in sales and the founder had to lay off her team.

It was then that Mónica decided to shift her business model: she researched new market trends, developed new products and gave her brand a new name. Burío’s founder also worked on a brand positioning strategy with structured promotional campaigns to define her target audience. Much of this change was guided by her mentor, Lucrecia de González, Founder of Casa Cotzal, a home-décor wholesale business in Guatemala.

The result of the joint work has been threefold: a new website for the Burío brand, increased sales and hiring the seven women with whom Mónica used to work.

“Supporting someone at a distance is not easy. Our collaboration has been an adventure, and dedication and motivation have been key. The tutor learns as much as the student. Undoubtedly, I would repeat the mentoring experience,” says Lucrecia.

Collaboration through the E-commerce Leadership Programme

Both Mónica and Lucrecia participated in the E-commerce Leadership Programme for Central American businesses led by women, organized by ecomConnect, the International Trade Centre’s e-commerce programme. It allowed advanced businesses in Central America to mentor fellow beneficiaries.

In July 2021, ITC held the programme’s final event, where six finalists presented their joint journey in opening an Etsy shop or a transactional website. The participating companies were:

The winners of the contest were Carmen de Rengifo, founder of Rengifo, and Luisa Villavicencio, founder of Algodones Mayas, who were awarded support from ITC to optimize their websites, with paid ad campaigns and improved branding.

The event benefitted from the participation of the European Union and the Central American Economic Integration Secretariat (SIECA). “Women tend to support each other,” said Kathrin Renner, Cooperation Officer at the European Commission. “Solidarity is key to facing challenges that surely were not thought to be possible to achieve.”

For Carmen Romero, Director of Cooperation and Projects at SIECA, e-commerce was key for overcoming the current crisis: “As Central Americans, as women, we are happy to see that we are spreading our culture. E-commerce helps us transcend borders and is key in the economic reactivation process, generating sales and increasing employment in the region.”

About the e-commerce project in Central America

This programme is part of the Project “Linking Central American Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) with the Global Gifts and Home Decoration Market”, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in collaboration with the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA) and national implementing partners in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

CUTS | WTO

This newsletter provides brief updates related to the Joint Statement Initiatives (JSIs) on investment facilitation, electronic commerce, and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

Investment Facilitation

Since the publication of our last newsletter, WTO Members participating in the Structured Discussions held two negotiating meetings and two intersessional meetings. In that context, they have continued work on new proposals as well as on the “Easter Text” (circulated by the coordinator of the structured discussions in mid-April), which is becoming the main basis for negotiations.

According to a summary record of the negotiating session held on June 15-16 (INF/IFD/R/24), participants received an update from the facilitators of the Small/Discussion Groups on “Scope” and on “’Facilitation of the Entry and Temporary Stay of Business Persons for Investment Purposes” (Movement of Business Persons – MBP). Participants discussed revised versions of Section II (“Transparency of investment measures”) as well as of Provision 30 on “Responsible Business Conduct”. Participants also considered text prepared by the coordinator on a possible Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) Treatment provision and continued discussions on a revised version of a proposed provision on ‘Transfers and Payments” submitted by one delegation. On June 15, participants held a dedicated session on implementation, technical assistance, and capacity building.

When they met on July 12 and 13, according to the annotated agenda by the coordinator (INF/IFD/W/35), Members received reports from the facilitators of the Small/Discussion Groups on “Scope” and on MBP. Among other topics, they also discussed draft provisions of the “Easter Text”. These include the “Preamble” and provision 1 on “Objectives”; text under title 31 “Measures against corruption”; provisions 35 on “Dispute Settlement” and provision 36 on “Final Provisions”. Participants also conducted a “stocktaking exercise” aimed at assessing the state of play in the negotiations and planning their activities for the second half of the year up to the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12).

Towards the end of July, the coordinator issued a revised version of the “Easter Text” (INF/IFD/RD/74/Rev.1). This document contains updates to Sections II (“Transparency of investment measures”); III (“Streamlining and speeding up administrative procedures”); IV (“Focal points, domestic regulatory coherence and cross-border cooperation”); and, VI (“Sustainable investment”). It also includes some new definitions in Section I “Scope and general principles”.

At the beginning of August, the coordinator circulated revised text for the preamble, as well as for Articles 1 on Scope, 24 on Cross-Border Cooperation, and 35 on Dispute Settlement.

According to the timetable adopted by participants (INF/IFD/W/29/Rev.2), the next negotiating meetings will be held on September 7-8, October 4-5, November 2-3, and November 24. Intersessional meetings, if needed, will be held on September 23, October 20-21, and November 16-17.

Electronic Commerce

The negotiations under the e-commerce JSI involved two plenary meetings on June 21 and July 22.

During the plenary meeting held on June 21, participating Members initiated discussions over the options for the integration of the outcome of the e-commerce JSI into the WTO legal framework. Ambassador Yamazaki (Japan), co-convenor of the initiative, characterized the discussions on data flows, data localization, and the “legal architecture” as “challenging” and emphasised the need “for participants to give due consideration on how to move forward”. Ambassador George Mina (Australia), co-convenor, also pointed to a number of “key issues” where intensified negotiations and discussions are still needed to narrow down differences and deliver progress; these include data flows, localization, source code, and customs duties on electronic transmissions.

At the plenary meeting held on July 22, facilitators of small group discussions provided updates on their groups’ progress. The co-convenors—Australia, Japan, and Singapore—noted the progress made by participating Members, with “cleaned” articles on spam, electronic signatures and authentication, and e-contracts. Open government data and online consumer protection are “virtually cleaned” with one outstanding issue remaining in both texts, as per their respective small-group leaders’ updates. Concerning other topics, the deliberations of the small group on open internet access are still ongoing and the recently established small group on electronic transactions frameworks had “useful” early discussions, as reported by the UK, and will intensify their work. On the same occasion, participants also initiated discussions on cybersecurity and on electronic availability of trade-related information; discussions on cybersecurity are expected to intensify in the second half of the year.

In other related developments, proposals were submitted by the following members: i) Nigeria on Flow of Information (INF/ECOM/65); ii) Cote d’Ivoire on options for capacity building and technical assistance (INF/ECOM/66), and iii) Brazil and the Republic of Korea on access to online platforms/competition (INF/ECOM/67).

As in previous occasions, participating members held information sessions with thematic experts. In this context, members received presentations on issues related to services market access from the OECD, the Information Technology Industry Council, and the National Foreign Trade Council.

Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises

The MSME Informal Working Group (IWG) held two meetings on June 24 and on July 26, respectively. Participating members discussed a draft Ministerial Declaration for MC12, reviewed the implementation of the package of six recommendations and declarations adopted in December 2020, and continued discussions on specific substantive issues based on presentations by the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) as well as on submissions by IWG Members.

Ministerial Declaration on MC12: Members of the IWG moved closer to a final text (INF/MSME/W/33/Rev.2), with only a few remaining brackets around issues still under consideration. At the meeting held on 26 July, the Coordinator of the Group, Ambassador José Luis Cancela (Uruguay), urged members to intensify their consultations and announced he will discuss with all concerned members with the aim to finalize the text for adoption by the IWG at its next meeting on September 24, 2021.

Review of the implementation of the December 2020 Package: The Group reviewed the implementation of the package, which contains a set of voluntary and non-binding recommendations and declarations on various areas. The IWG discussed ways to track actions taken to support their implementation. In connection to that, Uruguay and Brazil provided updates on their preparations for setting up automatic transmission of tariff and trade data to the WTO Integrated Database (IDB). In turn, Côte d’Ivoire indicated that it would submit its proposed roadmap regarding the recommendation on access to trade finance at the September meeting,

Other topics: Members heard presentations on intellectual property rights and innovation in relation to MSMEs by WIPO’s Director General Daren Tang and by the WTO Secretariat. DG Tang introduced the organization’s work to develop intellectual property tools (such as the IP Diagnostic Tool) to support MSMEs’ growth and innovation. The WTO Secretariat informed the Group on how the issue of MSMEs and innovation has been raised in the TRIPs Council since 2014. This includes discussions of national strategies to help MSMEs deal with the complexity of IP systems; technical assistance; and the linkages with e-commerce. Ecuador shared its experience in supporting MSMEs’ innovation in rural areas, in particular in the flower and agribusiness sectors.

Other initiatives: The “Digital Champions for Small Business” initiative (aimed at helping small businesses go digital and increase their participation in international trade) was launched on June 25. Proposals on how to help MSMEs address the difficulties they face with digital trade are to be submitted before September 15. The winning proposals will be announced at MC12.

The original newsletter can be accessed here.

UNCTAD

Young people can be catalysts of inclusive development. That’s the mantra of Linda Okero, a communication enthusiast who leads Youth Action Hub Kenya, a group of young trailblazers from Nairobi.

Their mission is to integrate the voices of marginalized youth into the development agenda by providing an educational platform for them to learn about issues that affect them and nurturing their leadership skills through capacity-building programmes.

“We see thousands of young Kenyans actively engaging in discussions on economic opportunities and sharing their pain points when it comes to accessing decent livelihoods,” Ms. Okero says.

Almost 60% of the African population is under the age of 25, according to the Mo Ibrahim 2019 Forum Report. Many of the young people were struggling economically even before the coronavirus crisis, which has deepened their vulnerability.

Youth Action Hub Kenya is helping the youth shape their future by equipping them with the skills to effectively engage in community-building activities and foster an intergenerational dialogue with decision makers. “The goal? To chart a new narrative for Africa’s future,” Ms. Okero says.

Harnessing digital jobs

With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating digital transformation across sectors – spurring the rise of platform economies and with it the emergence of new employment trends, job roles and opportunities – the youth in Kenya are looking towards the future of work with hope and optimism.

“Economically empowered young people are more likely to step into leadership roles and dare to voice and propose solutions, hopes and visions for a better tomorrow,” Ms. Okero says.

In Kenya, digital access has been instrumental in reshaping the concept of work, with many unemployed youth, students or young professionals leaning towards newly available short-term jobs or “gigs” to earn an additional income.

In the next five years, the gig industry in the country is projected to grow by 33% annually, offering the youth with relevant digital skills a chance to compete for opportunities on a global scale.

Against this backdrop, e-commerce is seeing a lot of growth. In 2020, approximately 15 million Kenyans shopped online and spent $1.1 billion.

To leverage this blooming sector, Youth Action Hub Kenya launched the “Own Your Voice on SDGs” project to educate young people on emerging job opportunities within the digital economy.

More than 15,000 people participated in the group’s webinars on the future of work organized in collaboration with other organizations.

“We wanted to demystify the concept of the gig economy and create a new economic narrative for Africa to show the world the potential of our youth,” Ms. Okero says.

To support disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, the project included seminars for the youth from the Kakuma refugee camp located in northwestern Kenya.

“People who are just trying to survive, they don’t hope anymore,” Ms. Okero says. “Giving them the opportunity to learn a skill or two is helping them reclaim their voice, hopes and dreams.”

Tackling barriers, building bridges

Promoting youth participation in formal decision-making and community-building processes requires the removal of structural barriers, values and beliefs, according to the UN World Youth Report 2020.

Ms. Okero and her team are tackling these barriers and building a bridge between African youth and the stakeholders involved in the continent’s development.

Their project was part of a trilogy of socioeconomic transformative initiatives supporting the UNCTAD Youth Forum slated for 16 to 18 September as part of UNCTAD’s 15th quadrennial conference events. Ms. Okero will be one of the speakers at the forum.

Her group is also involved in a 10-year sustainable development challenge called “My2030Vow”, a storytelling campaign that encouraged people across the world to commit to the UN Sustainable Development Goals for individual and collective accountability.

Making trade part of the solution

Youth Action Hub Kenya also focuses on making trade part of the solution to the challenges facing young people.

It partnered with the Kenya Trade Network Agency on workshops to explore how the youth can benefit from the new single market created by the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.

“The youth have not been empowered enough to realize they can be the ones to instigate the change they wish to see,” Ms. Okero says.

To change that, her group has engaged Kenya’s ministry of trade and council of governors to add its voice to forums on topics that impact the youth.

Created at UNCTAD’s Youth Forum 2018, the Youth Action Hubs initiative empowers young people to think globally and express their views on matters within UNCTAD’s mandate.

ERIA

Over the past decades, technology adoption and the digital transformation have allowed entrepreneurs to be instantly connected with people, resources, and ideas all over the world. The growing global connectivity has fostered opportunities and access for entrepreneurs to translate their ideas into business that could reach millions of consumers in the global market while expanding their connections beyond borders. ASEAN and East Asia have exhibited strong economic development with high-growth and innovative enterprises over the years, and their entrepreneurship ecosystem has become a driver of the global innovation frontier. The COVID-10 pandemic has accelerated the trends towards borderless entrepreneurship with many new businesses trying to connect with global markets from the very beginning of the pandemic. However, borderless entrepreneurs are confronted by a number of challenges related to a lack of regulatory coherence across the region’s countries as well as a wide range of  consumer preferences and behaviours.

The 7th episode of ERIA’s Entrepreneurship, Start-Up, and Innovation (E-S-I) webinar series with the theme ‘Borderless Entrepreneurship – Is that the future? was held on 31 August 2021 and attracted more than 200 participants from the Asia-Pacific region.

Four speakers from four countries shared their perspectives on borderless entrepreneurs:

  • Laurent Tam Nguyen, Co-founder and General Manager Digital Mekong, Vietnam;
  • Haewon Rah, Engagement Manager Techstars, Korea;
  • Jirut Wattom, Technology Strategy Manager, Chemical Business, SCG Partner SPRINT; Accelerator, Thailand;
  • Wisnu Nugrahadi, CEO and CO-Founder Sampingan, Indonesia.

Mr. Laurent Tam Nguyen, Co-founder and General Manager Digital Mekong, Vietnam shared his experience in creating Digital Mekong, an agile virtual market agency that addresses the need for an entrepreneurship freelancer market in Vietnam and ASEAN, with a flexible pricing scheme to allow access by SMEs in the region. This regional virtual platform now serves clients from all over the world and will continue to expand its borderless business moving forward. From his perspective, Covid-19 has shaped a profound mega trend where digitalization is now the way to do business. He highlighted two important opportunities that borderless entrepreneurship can offer: the ability to work without physical boundaries and to have more autonomy to determine the personal and professional life balance. As the trend of borderless entrepreneurship is escalating quickly, he emphasized several soft skills that all entrepreneurs should have which include resilience, adaptivity, empathy and transparency in managing start-up teams and building businesses.

Ms. Haewon Rah, Engagement Manager Techstars, Korea highlighted her experience in managing Techstarts as an accelerator to connect entrepreneurship with institutions and corporations within and outside South Korea. She mentioned that even before Covid-19, many start-up founders were aiming to accelerate their virtual business. For her, borderless entrepreneurs means that founders are able to expand their business beyond their region and set up  teams that consist of both local and global talents. Haewon emphasized how investors would be likely to support and investment invest in start-ups that are interested to scale up their business globally. Furthermore, she shared two important factors for successful borderless businesses and entrepreneurship: 1) utilize entrepreneurship networks; 2) create small wins/steps, such as learning how businesses in the region work, which form the foundation for expansion to another region.

Jirut Wattom, Technology Strategy Manager, Chemical Business, SCG Partner SPRINTAccelerator, Thailand, shared his experience as a borderless accelerator who found many start-ups in Thailand were struggling to commercialize their product in the science and technology sectors. Jirut mentioned that many entrepreneurs in Thailand are very interested not only to build Thailand’s start-up ecosystem but also to solve  much bigger problems in the region. The pandemic has provided an opportunity for entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses faster as they can mobilize and operate their teams to do business locally while also accessing global markets. For Jirut, although physical interaction remains important for Thailand entrepreneurs, digitalization has now helped many entrepreneurs to climb up the competition ladder with their counterparts around the world. He highlighted how the borderless entrepreneurship ecosystem has given Thai entrepreneurs high exposure with clients or talents from various cultures and backgrounds.

Wisnu Nugrahadi, CEO and CO-Founder Sampingan, Indonesia shared his view on handling a start-up business in Indonesia which has a huge local market, many languages, and geographical challenges. He underlined the importance of using technology to close the knowledge gap and to connect companies with a higher quality workforce. In his perspective, being connected to the global market means more opportunity for companies to invest in the workforces of smaller cities. Before the pandemic, the main challenge was to attract experienced talents to Jakarta. However nowadays, the companies can recruit experienced talents from outside Jakarta and train them remotely.

The webinar was co-hosted by Dr Giulia Ajmone Marsan, ERIA Director for Strategy and Partnership, Ms Lina Maulidina Sabrina, Programme Officer, ERIA and Mr TJ Ooi, Founder of Curated Connectors, a Singapore-based start-up. During the Q&A session, speakers discussed how entrepreneurs can address the challenge of national regulations in their own country by being creative and agile as well as learning in-depth about the entrepreneurship eco-system in other countries and the region. As digitalization has now reduced the cost for testing products, the speakers encouraged entrepreneurs to always conduct market testing before scaling up their start-ups. Lastly, joining start-up support programs or accelerator programs are also important ways to expand networks and opportunities to scale up businesses.

ERIA’s E-S-I webinar series is organised under ERIA’s Strategy and Partnership Programme, funded by Australia.

ITC

A crucial element of e-commerce is the timely and reliable delivery of goods. Postal service is the crux of this.

Today we are joined by Mr. Dan Kagwe, Postmaster General of Posta Kenya, and Mr. Twahir Mohamed, CEO of Taz technologies, an innovative ICT company that is steadily growing in various African countries.

In this episode, we discuss the need for small business owners to remain agile in changing times and the benefits of learning and incorporating e-commerce to increase business opportunities.

https://www.podbean.com/pu/pbblog-6re99-630ed7

ITU

Know your customer (KYC) regulations are designed to ensure that providers of financial services know their customers’ identities, the risks attached to providing services to different customers, and that customers are using services for legitimate purposes.

KYC regulations play a key part in combatting money laundering and the financing of criminal activity.

But with more and more users taking up financial services online, KYC verification tools are also moving online to keep pace.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, has developed technology-neutral guidance to help governments, financial institutions, virtual asset service providers and other regulated entities determine whether a digital identifier is sufficient for KYC or due diligence purposes. Digital IDs, like any form of identification, must confirm your customers are who they say they are.

Dependable digital verification

According to FATF, reliable digital IDs can make individual customer verification easier, cheaper and more secure. They can also help providers meet transaction monitoring requirements, and largely avoid risks of human error.

“We highlight the benefits of digital ID in terms of reducing costs, increasing convenience to the consumer, but also to the private sector, whilst not compromising on security,” says Shana Krishnan, Policy Analyst at the FATF Secretariat.

With systems evolving rapidly, FATF advises governments, financial institutions and other stakeholders to understand the assurance level possible with each ID solution and then assess the reliability of any given technology and governance combination to monitor transactions and detect illicit financing.

The risk-based approach

FATF cautions against a one-size-fits-all approach to KYC, recommending a risk-based approach tailoring KYC measures to the risks associated with different customers. “A risk-based approach impacts the intensity and the extent to which customer and transaction information is required and the mechanisms we use to ensure that these [FATF] standards are met,” says Krishnan.

The best systems can simultaneously strengthen customer due diligence (CDD) and broaden financial inclusion, according to FATF.

Risk-based approaches are intended to ensure that low-income users are not excluded from accessing financial services – an overly rigid approach to CDD and electronic KYC verification could effectively exclude many would-be banking and finance customers, points out Fredes Montes, Senior Financial Specialist at the World Bank Group (which has FATF observer status).

eKYC regulation in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has adopted basic biometric fingerprint and face recognition, hosts financial services on local servers, and encourages two-factor and multi-factor authentication and e-signature use.

“The digital KYC regulation guidelines in Bangladesh recommend a risk based and threshhold approach,” explains Masud Rana, Joint Director of the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit.

The government recently introduced Porichoy, which enables financial organizations, online businesses, financial technology (fintech) companies and government entities to digitally onboard their customers or partners via
an instant application programming interface.

While the national identity database is accessible only to financial institutions and government agencies, Porichoy is open to all government agencies, banks, financial institutions and fintech companies, explains Rana.

With relatively limited products and services, the country needs relatively low electronic KYC regulation. But flexibility is essential to ensure financial inclusion.

“If a person does not have an ID card or digital ID, they can obtain a certificate from the public service and can open a low-risk account,” Rana says.

eKYC regulation in Jordan

Jordan’s government has started to build a unified digital identity solution to give all citizens reliable, verifiable ID for multiple services, not only in the financial sector, explains Mohammed Al-Duwaik, Head of Digital Financial Services at the Central Bank of Jordan.

“Any government-approved identity is going to be stronger and more reliant for finanical institutions than a non-government approved one,” said Al-Duwaik.

While Jordan’s regulations also encourage a risk-based approach, “each financial insitution, given their differences, needs to understand their own products and clients,” says Al-Duwaik.

The Central Bank of Jordan allows service providers to come up with solutions for risks and then come to the regulator as needed for additional guidance. Each financial institution must make sure it knows its clients and that they have answered the relevant questions and provided suitable documentation.

Note: This article is based on a panel discussion during the 2021 Financial Inclusion Global Initiative (FIGI) Symposium.

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