The COVID-19 pandemic has offered a dramatic test case for the effectiveness of digital solutions across the Middle East and North Africa region, from the Ocean to the Gulf. Together with universal and affordable broadband, the widespread availability of cashless payments is a key enabler for digital transformation and a driver for economic recovery.

The objective of this webinar, organized in partnership with the Arab Monetary Fund, is to increase awareness of how digital payments can support job creation, enhanced service delivery, and inclusion of youth and women. This webinar is the second of the MENA Tech talk series, which aims to engage with high-level decision makers, policymakers, regulators, private sector business leaders, and influencers, to share a vision and strategies to successfully foster digital transformation in the region.

Watch the Event Recording 



In 2017, UNCDF partnered with Prabhu Management to digitalize the dairy value chain in Nepal which helped bring previously unbanked farmers into the financial ecosystem.

The pilot project that started with four dairy cooperatives in two districts (Kavre and Bhaktapur) digitalized over 20 cooperatives by 2020 with nearly 5,000 dairy farmers registered on the mobile wallet, and more than 1500 farmers receiving their earnings digitally.

The digitalization of the dairy cooperatives ended the manual process of tracking information and improved efficiency which in turn helped farmers in more ways than one. For one thing it brought farmers into the financial ecosystem and for another it saved farmers time and money on travel as the closest bank in rural Nepal can be miles away. It made payment secure for both the farmers and the cooperatives. Above all, it significantly minimized payment delays which was beneficial to farmers in reducing financial distress particularly in the wake of COVID- 19.

In March 2020, Nepal enforced strict preemptive lockdown for three months to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. This measure severely impacted businesses across industries including agriculture. The restrictions in mobility and social distancing paved the way for rapid adoption of digital technologies worldwide. To understand the impact of dairy digitalization during the pandemic and the future outlook for the agriculture sector, UNCDF analyzed the data of the farmers and their cooperatives. The data provided insight on how digitalization has helped smallholder farmers cope with the many challenges imposed by the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown. The analysis also shows that the pandemic was a trigger in the adoption of digital technologies by the farmers.

Digital wallet proved invaluable to farmers during COVID-19

The data from Prabhu Management shows a spike of nearly 600 percent in the usage of digital financial services (DFS) during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The average number of transactions in this period increased from 357 per month to 2,434 transactions, while the average number of users per month also increased by 300 percent. Furthermore, nearly 56 percent of the farmers used for the first time DFS services during the lockdown period.

This analysis indicates the latent demand and acceptability of financial services in rural areas. Additionally, it confirms that grassroot organizations such as cooperatives were a vital lifeline for farmers throughout the pandemic.

Usage of bank channels increased seven times at the start of the lockdown

Many countries have reported an increase in the usage of formal financial channels during the lockdown period. The data from the cooperatives revealed a similar pattern for farmers too, showing a seven-time increase in the usage of banking channels for deposits and withdrawals during the lockdown period. Most of the users preferred banking channels to cash out their wallet balance during the initial months of lockdown. This shows that users generally prefer using bank channels to transfer the received amount to their bank accounts.

Agents played a critical role in onboarding farmers

DFS agents such as cooperatives and other community-based organizations have been key in bridging the gap between farmers and formal financial channels. Users’ data show that nearly 58 percent of the cash coming into the wallet is through DFS agent channels such as onboarded cooperatives, merchants, and agents via the Prabhu platform. Also, nearly 42 percent of cash coming into the wallet is from other digital sources such as bank transfers (16 percent), mobile banking (16 percent) and remittances (10 percent). This indicates that due to the financial services offered by these grassroots organizations, farmers were able to use other digital channels as per their need, hence, broadening their financial access.

Farmers are using the digital wallet for additional services

The analysis shows that farmers have started to use digital payments for additional services such as agriculture inputs, insurance payments, etc. This demonstrates that there is a possibility and need for broadening the ecosystem with relevant merchants and new services. Farmers are ready for the expansion of the services provided at the tip of their fingers on their phones, it is now a matter of building their awareness.

The surge in the use of digital wallet has proven that the digitalization of dairy cooperatives has helped many smallholder farmers weather the pandemic. While COVID-19 is still running its course, the analysis underscores the importance of digital literacy and digital financial services, especially in rural Nepal.

Read more about digitalizing dairy cooperatives in Nepal


Women and girls have been discussing how to acquire cutting-edge ICT skills during an online seminar backed by the Commonwealth Secretariat and Google.

The webinar, focusing on digital literacy, digital entrepreneurship and digital leadership in three interactive panel sessions, highlighted the need for governments, civil society and the private sector to increase their efforts to build the digital skills of women and girls.

Held on 22 April to coincide with the international ‘Girls in ICT Day’, this event was the third in the Secretariat’s Data, Technology and Digitalisation series, targeting both policymakers and the public with over 100 participants.

Providing an overview of key digital technologies and the skills required to harness their full potential in the Commonwealth, the panels addressed gender equality, the empowerment of women and the strengthening of partnerships to support Commonwealth member countries.

Short films showcasing the impact of empowering women and girls were screened, with women sharing the benefits of being digitally empowered.

Benefits of being digitally empowered

Sajeda Begam, from India, is one of many women from across the Commonwealth who has benefitted from digital skills, helped by Google’s ‘Women Will’ initiative.

She said: “When I got my first smartphone and started using it to access the internet, I realised that there’s so much to learn. It gave me the self-confidence to teach others.”

Sajeda shared her experience of using the internet to help coordinate relief efforts with the authorities when her village was flooded and related how she passed on tech skills to other women and girls.

Nishma Robb, Google Director of Brand and Reputation Marketing, said: “I can never get tired of reading about these amazing stories of these women who’ve been given the opportunity and access to information.

“The opportunity to learn can fulfil not just dreams and ambitions but create more helpful opportunity for their families and communities. That’s the progress we need.”

Impact of digital inclusion

Joining the webinar, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland said: “Attaining digital literacy lays the foundation for women and girls to then move on to careers in the digital world, digital entrepreneurship and to become digital leaders.

“We know, too, that digital inclusion has a significant impact for younger girls.

In education, the increased use of digital platforms and computer-centred resources means there is a potential for digital literacy to spread from schools to families and the larger community.”

The Secretary General added: “Digital inclusivity embraces the many ways in which we can cooperate and work together to tackle issues of knowledge, skill, opportunity, and access, relating to the design and use of technology and digital solutions .”

Three separate panel sessions of the seminar reached the same conclusion – that government and stakeholders should focus on programmes or initiatives that provide digital literacy for women and girls, digital entrepreneurship for financial independence and by extension, digital leadership.

Watch plenary sessions

Click the image to watch the video

Tell us about your experiences

The Commonwealth is inviting women and girls to share their experiences with the digital world in a short video message.

Click here to learn more and join the #DigitalSkillsForHer campaign. 


This May, the African Development Bank Group is launching a call for proposals for projects enhancing the viability and sustainability of women entrepreneurship enablers.

Women’s business associations, incubators, accelerators, and cooperatives that advance women’s entrepreneurship, can apply for funding for innovative projects or programs to bolster the skills of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) owned and run by women across Africa, the Bank announced.

Entrepreneurship enablers, which include business associations and civil society organizations, play an important role in empowering women to establish bankable SMEs and other businesses. However, the enablers themselves often face challenges, such as long-term growth plans and lack of financing, which reduce their reach, impact and sustainability.

“Women business enablers are critical to creating a viable enabling environment in which women entrepreneurs can grow and create businesses that generate jobs for the continent. Through the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative, the Bank is committed to supporting enablers to strengthen the business and financial skills as well as wealth-creating capacity of their members,” said Esther Dassanou, manager of the program, also known as AFAWA.

The Bank will assess applicants’ track record in supporting women SMEs, innovation and strong development impact, as well as their capacity to mobilize other sources of funding. Eligible organizations may request funding of between $100,000 and $250,000, provided through the Bank’s Gender Equality Trust Fund.

Applications must be received by midnight on 30 May 2021.

“This call for proposals is an opportunity for direct and concrete support for women entrepreneurship enablers to scale up their growth and impact, and advance women’s financial inclusion on the continent,” said Vanessa Moungar, Bank Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society.

While all countries will be considered, proposals from the following countries that already align with the ongoing AFAWA Guarantee for Growth Program pipeline are strongly encouraged to apply: Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zambia.

For more details on the process and to access the proposal application click here.

AFAWA aims to unlock $5 billion in financing for small and medium enterprises owned and managed by women by 2026. AFAWA is supported by the Bank’s partners and donors, the Group of Seven (G7) countries as well as the Netherlands and Sweden, and the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi). The funding, which aims to strengthen the ecosystem for women’s entrepreneurship, is in line with the Bank’s agenda to further gender equality and women’s empowerment.


We are living through a decisive moment. The COVID-19 pandemic’s devasting impact is reaching every corner of the world. As we look back at this period, we will see history divided into a pre-COVID and a post-COVID world.

And a defining feature of the post-COVID world will be the digital transformation that has permeated every aspect of our lives. Chief Technology Officers can say that the pandemic has done their job for them, accelerating the digitalization of economies and societies at an unimaginable pace.

The digital transformation has gone hand in hand with the rise of digital technologies. These technologies have supported governments to implement social protection schemes at pace and scale. They have enabled e-health and online education, and they are helping businesses continue to operate and trade through digital finance and e-commerce.

However, ensuring that the digital transformation happening all around us does not become another facet of the deep inequalities of the countries in Asia and the Pacific is probably one of the greatest challenges we face as countries start to rebuild.

That is why inclusion must be at the heart of digital transformation if the promise to “leave no one behind” is to be met. In particular, we need to embed inclusive objectives in the four core foundations of the digital economy: Internet access, digital skills, digital financing and e-commerce.

Chances are you are reading this on your laptop or mobile phone, giving you access to the digital world. It is hard for most of us to imagine what life would be like during the pandemic if we didn’t. Sadly, this is a reality for over 2 billion people in the Asia-Pacific region. And among those two billion are some of the most vulnerable groups. For example, some 20 per cent of students in East Asia and the Pacific and almost 40 per cent of students in South and West Asia could not access remote learning this past year. This will have lasting effects that perpetuate inter-generational inequality and poverty.

To address the digital divide, our Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway initiative focuses on four interrelated pillars: infrastructure connectivity, efficient Internet traffic and network management, e-resilience, and affordable broadband access for all.

However, Internet access alone is not enough. There is a persistent and still expanding digital skills gap in the Asia-Pacific region. Among the top ten most digitally advanced economies in Asia and the Pacific, around 90 per cent of their populations use the Internet. At the beginning of the century, this share stood at around 25 per cent. By contrast, for the bottom ten economies, Internet users have grown from around 1 per cent in 2000 to only 20 per cent today.

In response, our Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development is equipping policymakers and women and youth with digital skills by conducting demand-driven training programmes.

On digital finance, while the percentage of digital payment users has increased over recent years, the gap between men and women users persists. Additionally, in East Asia and the Pacific, there is a US$1.3 trillion formal financing gap for women-led enterprises.

And while the Asia-Pacific region is emerging as a leading force in the global e-commerce market – with more than 40 per cent of the global e-commerce transactions – these gains have been led by just a few markets.

As a response, our Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship project addresses the challenges women-owned enterprises face by developing innovative digital financing and e-commerce solutions to support women entrepreneurs, who have been hit harder than most during the pandemic. We have supported a range of digital finance and e-commerce solutions through this initiative – such as a digital bookkeeping app and an agritech solution – providing more inclusive options for women entrepreneurs to thrive. To date, the project has supported over 7,000 women to access financing and leveraged over US$50 million in private capital for women entrepreneurs.

Inclusion is undoubtedly central to the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (ESCAP) technology and innovation work that focuses on addressing the core foundations of an inclusive digital economy.

The recent ESCAP, ADB and UNDP report on “Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leaving No country Behind” underlined the key role digital technologies played during the pandemic and how they can also play a critical role in building back better. However, the report shows that digitalization can also widen gaps in economic and social development within and between countries, unless countries can provide affordable and reliable Internet for all and make access to the core foundations of the digital economy central to building back better.

While digital transformation is certain, its direction is not. Governments, civil society and the private sector must work together to ensure that digital technologies benefit not only the economy but society and the environment, and have inclusion at their heart. Only then do we stand a chance of realizing the transformative potential of digital technologies to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.


The Global Technology Governance Summit (GTGS) was organized on 6-7 April in virtual format. The summit aims to be the foremost global multistakeholder gathering dedicated to ensuring the responsible design and deployment of emerging technologies through public-private collaboration.

We hand-picked a selection of relevant events  harnessing a few of the most pressing issues in the deployment of technologies. Watch the recordings :

Taxing Digital Value

Digital trade has continued to flourish during in the pandemic and governments enacted over 100 new digital taxes. How is the rise of cross-border digital services changing business models and national policies?

Closing the Digital Divide

While digital technologies enabled hundreds of millions to participate online during the pandemic, the 3.7 billion people without internet connectivity have fallen further behind. What are the most urgent and promising innovations in bridging the digital divide?

The Future of Digital Infrastructure

Public sectors with effective digital infrastructures have greater flexibility and resilience to deal with future risks and uncertainties. How will the role of 5G, quantum computing and AI at the edge evolve for the next generation of the public sector?

Digital Payments: Realizing the Vision

COVID-19 accelerated the uptake of cross-border digital payments, making it convenient for consumers to purchase goods and services around the world, but significant challenges persist. How can businesses, policy-makers and regulators reduce friction and improve connections between digital economies globally?

Future-proofing Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent 90% of businesses and half of employment worldwide, yet their slow adoption of new technologies risks exacerbating economic inequality and dragging down global industrial productivity. How can we make SMEs “future-ready” in a context of rapid technological change?



At the heart of the digital divide is a yawning innovation gap. Many national policies and strategies — even in developed countries — often fail to close it.

This has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, putting countries with low digital technological capabilities at an increasingly significant risk of marginalization.

The result?

Talent is unfulfilled, small- and medium-sized enterprises are struggling, and slow digital transformation of communities is hampering progress on reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The question is: how can we foster innovation to ensure that advances in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things, and mobile communications are widely and fairly distributed?

The role of standards

International standards are part of the answer. They are an essential aid for developing countries to build their infrastructure and stimulate economic development. Standards development must underpin global efforts to build back better from the pandemic.

Standards also drive competitiveness — not just for individual businesses, but throughout the entire global economy — by fostering efficiency, effectiveness, responsiveness, and innovation.

Standards development has been central to the work of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for over 150 years, from the telegraph to fifth-generation (5G) mobile technologies.

Each new technical standard normally stems from a collaborative process of several years between ITU Member States, equipment manufacturers, network operators, standards development organizations and academia.

Most recently, ITU published the detailed specifications for IMT-2020 radio interface technologies, which can leverage the advantages of 5G for a wider range of uses, from autonomous vehicles to smart cities.

This builds on the innovative 5G applications we have already seen in healthcare, public safety, manufacturing, and education during the pandemic.

Collaborative spirit

Building trust is at the heart of all that we do in the standards community. The collaborative spirit, exemplified by ITU’s public-private membership, is why I am pleased to participate in events like the United Nations Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation, together with eminent speakers from government, the private sector, academia and civil society.
Multi-stakeholder co-operation is also characteristic of a major ITU-led forum, the World Summit on the Information Society.

COVID-19 continues disrupting progress on all aspects of sustainable development as well as inflicting loss of life and damage to livelihoods around the world. Consequently, the need for collaboration, cooperation and coordination across sectors and borders has never been more important than today.

In challenging times, we each need to bring our own specific competencies to the table, avoid duplication of efforts, and pool resources to build vibrant digital-innovation ecosystems.

What is at stake, ultimately, is nothing less than the future of our economies, our societies, and our planet. The enabling technologies for digital transformation can be harnessed to put the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development back on track.

Only then can we turn today’s digital revolution into a true human development revolution for all.

Based on Mr Johnson’s remarks during the sixth annual Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (STI Forum), where he opened a virtual side event, “Fostering STI Ecosystems for Impact: Enabling Technologies Advancing Human Infrastructure”.


Heads of WTO member delegations today exchanged views about issues on which they can realistically reach agreements in the run-up to the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) later this year, and what needs to happen to make such deals possible. Fisheries subsidies, agriculture and the COVID-19 pandemic featured prominently in the discussions, with several members stressing that delivering concrete negotiated results was critical for the WTO’s credibility. The 3 May gathering was both a formal session of the Trade Negotiations Committee and an informal meeting of Heads of Delegation.


Summing up members’ interventions at the end of the day, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said what she had heard matched what she had been told in her own consultations: “Views are coalescing around the most feasible priorities for delivery between now and MC12 — although of course there are gaps on how we get there and on the content of prospective results.”

She said three concrete deliverables stood out: an agreement to curb harmful fisheries subsidies; outcomes on agriculture, with a focus on food security; and a framework that would better equip the WTO to support efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic and future health crises.

Looking to the weeks and months ahead, the Director-General expressed hope that by July members would be able to finalize an agreement on fisheries subsidies and achieve clarity about what can be delivered by MC12, scheduled to run from 30 November to 3 December in Geneva.

On fisheries subsidies, she urged members to exercise the necessary flexibility to overcome the remaining hurdles. With ministerial involvement likely required to finalize an agreement in July, she called on delegations to work with the chair of the negotiations, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, to prepare a draft negotiating text with a minimal number of outstanding issues for ministers to resolve. “We are almost there, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said, stressing she stood ready to help members and the chair translate increased flexibility into an agreement.

Noting that for many members, meaningful outcomes on agriculture were necessary to make MC12 a success, DG Okonjo-Iweala said that the pandemic, and rising hunger around the world, made a strong case for a WTO “food security package”. Elements for a prospective package included public stockholding, the proposed exemption from export restrictions of World Food Programme humanitarian purchases, domestic support and transparency, with some delegations also raising cotton and the special safeguard mechanism.

The Director-General welcomed the view expressed by many delegations that MC12 can deliver concrete responses on trade and health. The WTO’s spotlight on export restrictions and the need to increase vaccine production volumes was gaining attention and engagement from leaders, she said.

Reporting on a 14 April event where vaccine manufacturers, international organizations, civil society and members looked at how the WTO could contribute to efforts to combat the global scarcity of COVID-19 vaccines, she said it was clear that underused manufacturing capacity existed in several developing countries.

DG Okonjo-Iweala praised members’ support to India amid the upsurge in COVID-19 cases there, which followed India’s own exports of a large number of vaccines. “That is what the WTO membership should be about — working together, supporting each other,” she said. She asked members to bring the same sense of common purpose to bear on engaging in text-based negotiations on the TRIPS waiver proposal aimed at finding a pragmatic compromise that works for all.

With regard to dispute settlement, where many members called for resolution to the impasse over the Appellate Body, the Director-General expressed hope that by MC12 members “can reach a shared understanding on the types of reforms needed”.

The General Council chair, Ambassador Dacio Castillo of Honduras, is consulting on proposals about issues specific to least-developed countries such as the G-90 proposals on special and differential treatment as well as on small economies and areas such as the e-commerce Work Programme, she said.

She noted that groups of members had signalled a desire to move ahead in areas such as services domestic regulation, e-commerce, investment facilitation, women’s economic empowerment, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises as well as issues related to trade and climate change.

For issues not in a position to be concluded this year, the Director-General said members had called for post-MC12 work programmes on multilateral issues relating to agriculture, services, and special and differential treatment as well as in joint statement initiatives in areas including plastics pollution and environmental sustainability.

DG Okonjo-Iweala said that in the coming days, she would intensify her own outreach with heads of delegation, organizing meetings “in various configurations large and small” to support the chairs of negotiating groups in their efforts to broker compromise among members. She reiterated her commitment to ensuring adequate representation and transparency in these meetings. “Nothing will be done behind closed doors that people don’t know about,” she emphasised. She indicated that she would work closely with the General Council chair and the chairs of the negotiating bodies as well as MC12 chair Kazakhstan to conduct these meetings.

Emphasising the tight timeframe for members to resolve their outstanding differences, the Director-General said the “path to July” would involve a large number of intensive meetings aimed at narrowing gaps. “Week in, week out, this is what we will do now.”


The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hard the economies of many African countries, and pushed many more citizens into poverty, but some countries like Rwanda and Togo have used digitization to keep their economies running.

Speaking during the launch of a Pan-African peer exchange series on the benefits of responsible digital government payments, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Ms. Vera Songwe said the pandemic had a huge toll on African economies with GDP growth estimated to have dropped from 3.3% in 2019 to -2.6% in 2020. It is, however, anticipated that growth would return to 3.3% in 2021.

The ECA further estimates that about 100 million people have been pushed into poverty by the pandemic, Ms. Songwe said, adding the scars of COVID-19 were going to ‘remain with us for a very long time’.

Digitization, the ECA Chief said, presented opportunities for African countries to lift the poor out of poverty.

“Digitizing tax payments and related processes can raise additional resources for African governments to fight COVID-19 and help move countries back to growth,” said Ms. Songwe in opening remarks during the launch of the series that will see policymakers sharing challenges and successes and set a high bar for what can be accomplished on the continent through digitization of government payments.

“As economies digitalize, the benefits from digital payments and e-commerce multiply, thereby accelerating recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, sustaining development, and facilitating achievement of the sustainable development goals, through taxes and wages, among others.”

The ECA has been in the forefront, nudging African countries to turn to and accelerate digitization to not only keep their economies running, but to also respond to the rise in poverty among marginalized citizens.

 Ms. Songwe congratulated Togo and Rwanda for using digitization to manage the pandemic in a way that would have been impossible if there were no digital platforms, including social protection cash payments to cushion citizens from the effects of the crisis.

Sharing her country’s experience of using digital cash transfers to citizens during the pandemic, Ms. Cina Lawson, Togo’s Postal Affairs and Digital Economy Minister, said they built a USSD platform in 10 days, and people who registered, didn’t need Internet connection to connect.

“We had 1. 6 million Togolese registering on this platform. From onboarding to receiving cash, it was all digital. If the platform deemed you eligible, you would straight away receive an SMS with the money. It takes a minute from onboarding to receiving cash,” she said.

The number of people who registered onto the platform represented about 44% of the population, and 840,000 people became beneficiaries, which is approximately 22% of all Togolese, explained Ms. Lawson.

She said the platform guaranteed transparency as transactions were traceable. An independent firm was hired to audit the transfers daily. The country is using the same platform to register citizens for COVID-19 vaccinations.

For his part, Rwanda’s Minister of State, National Treasury, Mr. Richard Tusabe, in sharing his country’s experience with digitization, spoke about the ‘Ejoheza savings scheme’, an inclusive scheme which targets both salaried and non-salaried workers and has a social component. He said about 95% of Rwandan citizens are not covered in any pension scheme hence the need for the savings scheme which came in handy during the pandemic.

“So, to capture the 95 per cent to start to save and be able to retire with dignity, Ejoheza was started in December 2018. It is also a USSD platform. The government then set up a matching fund, and when you save up to $18, the government gives you a matching equivalent,” said Mr. Tusabe.

The two ministers shared experiences, challenges, and good practices and undertook to keep learning from each other’s experiences in using digital innovations to improve the productivity of businesses and ensure positive economy-wide benefits.

In her remarks, Ms. Ruth Goodwin-Groen, Managing Director of the United Nation’s Better Than Cash Alliance, commended the two countries saying; “This is what we need. You understood what your citizens needed, and you responded quickly with responsible digital payments.”

Ms. Goodwin-Groen lauded the partnership with the ECA to launch the series, adding this was a unique opportunity for governments to convene and collaborate by sharing experiences, challenges, and key learnings from responsibly digitizing payments.

The launch will be followed by a series of three round-table workshops over the next two months for policymakers only. Each round-table workshop is specifically designed to focus on a critical aspect of digital government payment, such as Government to People (G2P) and People to Government (P2G), for example tax, pension, and health care. The final session will share insights and recommendations from the workshop participants and will be an open session.

Click here to access the series launch recording:


The pandemic has, however, resulted in mixed fortunes for some e-commerce companies, reversing the profits of firms offering services such as ride-hailing and travel.

The dramatic rise in e-commerce amid movement restrictions induced by COVID-19 increased online retail sales’ share of total retail sales from 16% to 19% in 2020, according to estimates in an UNCTAD report published on 3 May.

UNCTAD released the report as it hosted a two-day meeting on measuring e-commerce and the digital economy.

According to the report, online retail sales grew markedly in several countries, with the Republic of Korea reporting the highest share at 25.9% in 2020, up from 20.8% the year before (Table 1).

Meanwhile, global e-commerce sales jumped to $26.7 trillion globally in 2019, up 4% from 2018, according to the latest available estimates.

This includes business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, and is equivalent to 30% of global gross domestic product (GDP) that year.

“These statistics show the growing importance of online activities. They also point to the need for countries, especially developing ones, to have such information as they rebuild their economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Shamika Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics.


Table 1: Online retail sales, selected economies, 2018-2020

Economy Online retail sales

($ billions)

Retail sales

($ billions)

Online share

(% of retail sales)

2018 2019 2020 2018 2019 2020 2018 2019 2020
Australia 13.5 14.4 22.9 239 229 242 5.6 6.3 9.4
Canada 13.9 16.5 28.1 467 462 452 3.0 3.6 6.2
China 1,060.4 1,233.6 1,414.3 5,755 5,957 5,681 18.4 20.7 24.9
Korea (Rep.) 76.8 84.3 104.4 423 406 403 18.2 20.8 25.9
Singapore 1.6 1.9 3.2 34 32 27 4.7 5.9 11.7
United Kingdom 84.0 89.0 130.6 565 564 560 14.9 15.8 23.3
United States 519.6 598.0 791.7 5,269 5,452 5,638 9.9 11.0 14.0
Economies above 1,770 2,038 2,495 12,752 13,102 13,003 14 16 19

Source: UNCTAD, based on national statistics offices.


Mixed fortunes for some firms

The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in mixed fortunes for leading B2C e-commerce companies, according to the UNCTAD report.

Data for the top 13 e-commerce firms, 11 of which are from China and the United States, shows a notable reversal of fortunes for platform companies offering services such as ride-hailing and travel (Table 2).

All of them experienced sharp declines in gross merchandize value (GMV) and corresponding drops in ranks.

For instance, Expedia fell from 5th place in 2019 to 11th in 2020, Booking Holdings from 6th to 12th and Airbnb, which launched its initial public offering in 2020, from 11th to 13th.

Despite the reduction in services companies’ GMV, total GMV for the top 13 B2C e-commerce companies rose by 20.5% in 2020, higher than in 2019 (17.9%). There were particularly large gains for Shopify (up 95.6%) and Walmart (72.4%). Overall, B2C GMV for the top 13 companies stood at $2.9 trillion in 2020.


Table 2: Top B2C e-commerce companies by GMV, 2020

Rank by GMV Company HQ Industry GMV

($ billions)

GMV change


2020 2019 2018 2019 2020 2018-19 2019-20
1 1 Alibaba China E-commerce 866 954    1,145 10.2 20.1
2 2 Amazon USA E-commerce 344 417 575 21.0 38.0
3 3 China E-commerce 253 302 379 19.1 25.4
4 4 Pinduoduo China E-commerce 71 146 242 104.4 65.9
5 9 Shopify Canada Internet Media & Services 41 61 120 48.7 95.6
6 7 eBay USA E-commerce 90 86 100 -4.8 17.0
7 10 Meituan China E-commerce 43 57 71 33.0 24.6
8 12 Walmart USA Consumer goods retail 25 37 64 47.0 72.4
9 8 Uber USA Internet Media & Services 50 65 58 30.5 -10.9
10 13 Rakuten Japan E-commerce 30 34 42 13.6 24.2
11 5 Expedia USA Internet Media & Services 100 108 37 8.2 -65.9
12 6 Booking Holdings USA Internet Media & Services 93 96 35 4.0 -63.3
13 11 Airbnb USA Internet Media & Services 29 38 24 29.3 -37.1
Companies above 2,035 2,399 2,890 17.9 20.5

Source:  UNCTAD based on company reports.
Note: Alibaba year beginning 1 April, Walmart year beginning 1 February. Figures in italics are estimates. GMV = Gross Merchandize Value (as well as Booking Value).


Business-to-business sales dominate e-commerce

The report estimates the value of global B2B e-commerce in 2019 at $21.8 trillion, representing 82% of all e-commerce, including both sales over online market platforms and electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions.

The United States continued to dominate the overall e-commerce market, ahead of Japan and China (Table 3).

B2C e-commerce sales were estimated at $4.9 trillion in 2019, up 11% over 2018. The top three countries by B2C e-commerce sales remained China, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Cross-border B2C e-commerce amounted to some $440 billion in 2019, an increase of 9% over 2018. The UNCTAD report also notes that the share of online shoppers making cross-border purchases rose from 20% in 2017 to 25% in 2019.


Table 3: E-commerce sales: Top 10 countries, 2019

Rank Economy Total e-commerce sales

($ billions)

Share of total e-commerce sales in GDP (%) B2B e-commerce sales

($ billions)

Share of B2B e-commerce sales in total e-commerce (%) B2C e-commerce sales

($ billions)

1 United States 9,580 45   8,319 87   1,261
2 Japan 3,416 67   3,238 95      178
3 China 2,604 18   1,065 41   1,539
4 Korea (Rep.) 1,302 79   1,187 91      115
5 United Kingdom     885 31      633 72      251
6 France     785 29      669 85      116
7 Germany     524 14      413 79      111
8 Italy     431 22      396 92        35
9 Australia     347 25      325 94        21
10 Spain     344 25      280 81        64
10 above 20,218 36 16,526 82   3,691
World 26,673 30 21,803   4,870

Source: UNCTAD, based on national sources.
Note: Figures in italics are UNCTAD estimates.


E-commerce firms perform poorly in digital inclusion

Despite e-commerce firms’ sizeable fortunes, an index released by the World Benchmarking Alliance in December last year rated them poorly on digital inclusion.

The index ranked 100 digital companies, including 14 e-commerce firms, based on how they contribute to access to digital technologies, building digital skills, enhancing trust and fostering innovation.

E-commerce enterprises underperformed compared to companies in other digital industries such as hardware or telecommunication services.

For instance, the highest-ranked e-commerce company was eBay at 49th place. Overall, e-commerce companies obtained a score of just 20 out of a possible 100.

According to the UNCTAD report, a main factor for the poor performance is that e-commerce companies are relatively young, typically founded only in the last two decades.

“These firms have been more focused on shareholders rather than engaging with a wide group of stakeholders and compiling metrics on their environmental, social and governance performance,” the report says.

Nonetheless, there are some bright spots. For instance, several e-commerce companies provide free training to entrepreneurs on how to sell online including in some cases, specifically targeted at vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities or ethnic minorities.


2022 E-Government Survey – Preparatory Process

Member States Questionnaire (MSQ) for the United Nations E-Government Survey 2022
Please click here to download Member State Questionnaire 2022 (MSQ) form

In preparation for the UN E-government Survey 2022 and with the aim to improve the Survey and its methodology, UN DESA is organizing consultation sessions with stakeholders to gather feedback and suggestions for the UN E-Government Survey 2022.

The dates for the sessions will be structured as per different time zones and respective regions:

  • 5th May 2021: 12PM Standard GMT (Global during the WSIS Forum 2021)
  • 15th May 2021: 2AM Standard GMT (for Asia Pacific) (14th May 2021, 10PM EST)
  • 17th May 2021: 6PM Standard GMT (for the Americas) (2PM EST)
  • 24th May 2021: 12PM Standard GMT (for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) (8AM EST)

Call for inputs by UN Member States:
Submit by May 31st, 2021 by filling out the online form at

About the Survey
Since its inception in 2001 by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, theSurvey has become an indispensable ranking, mapping and measuring development tool for digital ministers, policymakers and analysts delving into comparative analysis and contemporary research on e-government. The Survey assesses global and regional e-government development through a
comparative rating of national government portals relative to one another. It is designed to provide a snapshot of country trends and relative rankings of e-government development in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

About the Methodology
The Survey tracks progress of e-government development via the United Nations E-Government Development Index (EGDI). The EGDI, which assesses e-government development at the national level, is a composite index based on the weighted average of three normalized indices. One-third is derived from the Telecommunications Infrastructure Index (TII), one-third from the Human Capital Index (HCI), and one-third from the Online Service Index (OSI)the latter based on data collected from
an independent Online Service Questionnaire (OSQ), conducted by UNDESA, which assesses the national online presence of all 193 United Nations Member States, complemented by a Member State Questionnaire (MSQ). The Survey also includes the E-Participation Index (EPI), a supplementary index to the United Nations E-Government Survey focusing on the government use of online services
through “e-information sharing”, “e-consultation” and “e-decision-making” and the Local Online Services Index (LOSI), a study assessing progress made in local e-government development through the e-government portals of cities.


Households and small businesses in Ukraine will have improved access to digital financial services thanks to the support of IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Ukrainian Association of FinTech and Innovation Companies (UAFIC), who, together, aim to promote financial inclusion in the country.

According to the Government of Ukraine, increasing the uptake of financial services, while protecting consumer rights and improving financial literacy, are key strategic goals for the nation. Ukraine aims to increase non-cash transactions as a share of the total volume of transactions from 49 percent in 2019 to 65 percent over the next five years.

To support these efforts, IFC, in partnership with the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO and the U.K. Government’s Good Governance Fund, will be working with the UAFIC, the country’s largest non-governmental organization focused on the national financial technology market and fintech ecosystem. IFC’s experts will help the association establish a public-private dialogue process to evaluate opportunities for a digital marketplace— an e-commerce platform that brings sellers and buyers together in one place.

“In the past year, both fintech firms and banks have realized that being part of open banking technologies is more advantageous than competing against each other,” said Rostyslav Dyuk, Chairman of the Board at UAFIC. “The financial ecosystem is accepting new signals for open, collaborative partnerships on the market. Open banking will bring banks and fintech firms to a platform model where they can share customer data and develop new products through Application Programming Interfaces.”

The partnership will also help promote legal and regulatory reforms that can make higher-quality financial services more accessible for Ukrainians. One of those initiatives is Open Banking, a practice that provides third-party financial service providers, such as tech start-ups and online financial service vendors, access to financial data of customers in a secure and convenient manner, under conditions that customers grant approval for. The efforts are expected to contribute to the State Strategy of Ukrainian Financial Sector Development, which aims to ensure that 80 percent of payment services providers work in Open Banking by 2025.

“Innovative technologies are reshaping the banking industry in many countries. Digital transformation and access to affordable digital financial services is critical for Ukraine’s economic growth and resilience in a post-COVID world,” said Jason Pellmar, IFC Regional Manager for Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. He added, “Building on our extensive global experience, IFC will help Ukraine create a competitive environment for the uptake of essential digital financial services.”

Under the new agreement, IFC and UAFIC will also design a financial literacy toolkit for SMEs and support a series of knowledge-sharing trainings to help create an efficient and vibrant fintech market.

The initiative is part of IFC’s four-year Financial Inclusion for Growth Project, implemented in cooperation with the National Bank of Ukraine, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Digital Transformation, aimed to leverage digital technology and innovative business models to advance financial inclusion.

About IFC

IFC—a member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work in more than 100 countries, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries. In fiscal year 2020, we invested $22 billion in private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit


Application Window Opens: 26 April 2021, 00:00 (EST)
Application Closing Date: 10 May 2021, 23:59 (EST)


The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) makes public and private finance work for the poor in the world’s 46 least developed countries. With its capital mandate and instruments, UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development.

UNCDF is bringing its expertise in promoting access to finance through its Leaving No one Behind in the Digital Era Strategy in Nepal. The objective of our strategy is to accelerate economic recovery after COVID-19 and promote economies and societies more inclusive and resilient to external shocks through increasing digital payments, preparing MSMEs for digital transformation and developing a digital-ready workforce.

Through this RFA, UNCDF is looking for partners, including private sector, to develop/scale up human-centred digital innovations that accelerate the economic recovery after COVID-19 and support women and/or youth’s economic empowerment, school to work transitions, and/or increase resilience from external shocks. Solutions to be supported may include development of digital financial services that go beyond digital payments (i.e., savings, insurance, credit, etc.), development of innovative digital tools that increase access to finance for youth and/or women (i.e., crowdfunding platforms) ensuring continuity of learning for youth, supporting digital innovations developed by youth and/or women entrepreneurs to contain the pandemic.

Selected applicants will be signing a Performance-Based Agreement (PBA) with UNCDF. The foreseen budget assigned by UNCDF for each applicant will be. between USD 50,000 and USD 100,000. Applicants are l expected to fund at least 30 percent (30%) of the total project cost in cash (for costs such technical resources, staff, and operational expenses). The solution proposed must be implementable in 2021, with a project duration of 6 months and ending by December 2021.

In case of questions write at


The e-commerce leadership programme stands to facilitate mentorship, knowledge-sharing and collaboration amongst project beneficiaries in Central America.

Following more than two years of training for e-commerce businesses in Central America, ITC ecomConnect – the e-commerce initiative at the International Trade Centre – launched a leadership programme to provide advanced companies the opportunity to mentor fellow beneficiaries.

The programme allows businesses who gained extensive knowledge during the one-on-one e-commerce coaching to leverage their experience and scale the e-lab methodology applied during the project.

‘E-labs’ were organised by the ITC to provide the most seasoned businesses with specific support, covering testing, learning, and measuring. By testing different online channels, learning digital marketing techniques, and measuring performance, participants developed e-commerce strategies and insights that they could later pass on to less advanced beneficiaries.

Fostering knowledge-sharing and inter-regional collaboration

The programme saw a total of 36 Central American business owners. To foster inter-regional collaboration and camaraderie, they were grouped into 18 teams consisting of entrepreneurs from various parts of Central America, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panamá.

“I find it very enriching having students in other countries of the region,” says Anna Sophia, Founder of Achiote, a participating company in Guatemala. “Sometimes I feel that communication stays local. If we only talk to Guatemalan companies, we are always in the same ‘tray’. It is important to get out of the bubble and connect with other entrepreneurs, like my mentee in El Salvador.”

Each team chose the online sales channel they wanted to learn more about – including Etsy, eBay, or hosting their own e-commerce website. Following an initial meet-up, participants underwent intensive training, learning essential e-commerce skills such as developing an ‘E-commerce Canvas’, opening corresponding online sales channels, content creation work plans, and creating a digital marketing strategy.

“The leadership programme seems very complete”, says Lisbeth González, Founder of Liz Sirena in Panama. “It gives us, the mentees, the possibility to apply everything we have learned with the direct support of a tutor who has already gone through the same process. I would love to share what I have learned and help other entrepreneurs grow through e-commerce.”

Even if the local trainers of the project did not directly participate in the Leadership Programme, they recognize the good results it produced. “There is definitely a lot of value in motivating businesswomen to support each other”, says Luis Cedeno, a local e-commerce trainer at the Ministry for Commerce and Industry in Panama. “Through teaching, you can also learn. The programme generates a ripple effect because the student also feels a natural inclination to help other businesswomen.”

Anna Sophia echoes this sentiment. “I am very excited to be able to pass on experience and knowledge to a motivated colleague,” she says. “It would be great to replicate the E-commerce Leadership Programme at a wider scale, including more mentees. I really like to see how my student responds to the advice I give her.”

At the end of Spring 2021, participants from the E-Commerce Leadership Programme will have the opportunity to present their work at a pitching competition. With this, both mentors and mentees will benefit from training on pitching a business online.

About the project

The E-Commerce Leadership Programme is part of the “Linking Central American Women Business Enterprises (WBEs) with the Global Gifts and Home Decoration Market” initiative. The project is 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.


Infrastructure obstacles often hamper developing countries, including small island developing states (SIDS).

Digitalization could help these nations in development, and aid posts in efficient cross-border e-commerce and customs clearance. Vanuatu has become an example of these efforts.

Vanuatu Post is moving to interface its post and customs data for cross-border e-commerce and customs clearance. In December 2020, Vanuatu graduated from least developed country status and has become the first Pacific island nation to move its customs and biosecurity processes online.

The interface efforts are part of the collaboration between the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). A collaboration supported by the multilateral partnership known as the Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Assistance for the Least Developed Countries (abbreviated to EIF) and promoted by the World Trade Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, among others.

The agencies identified 22 least developed countries in which the interface between the UPU’s Customs Declaration System and UNCTAD’s Automated System for Customs Data could be implemented to exchange electronic advance data (EAD).

“The goal is to facilitate an efficient customs clearance process, reducing release times, and fostering a steady flow and delivery of postal items,” said Siva Somasundram, the UPU’s Director of Policy, Regulation and Markets, who spoke at an Aid-for-Trade Stocktaking Event on March 25, 2021.

“Ultimately it is all about improving the visibility, timelines and quality of service for items in the postal network in a way that is sensitive of national customs and security objectives,” Somasundram said.

These steps are vital as new regulations in 2021 mandate pre-arrival processing of EAD. Without EAD items may be severely delayed or deemed inadmissible. If countries cannot comply with this rule, they may be unable to send items containing goods to several UPU member countries.

Additionally, in the post-pandemic world, with global supply chains restored, Somasundram said he expects a surge in international parcel volumes.

“With this comes the increased need to ensure that our member countries, in particular developing and least developed countries, are well positioned to benefit from the expected surge and have the reach and required digital supporting infrastructure to facilitate those flows and e-commerce generally,” Somasundram said.

The postal network, with more than 650,000 postal outlets worldwide, is uniquely positioned to support government policies for e-commerce inclusion and development, he said.

“We can thus clearly see the relevance and importance of our endeavor today in supporting all the national stakeholders, and in particular Vanuatu Post, in their efforts to be e-commerce ready and be part of the e-commerce story,” Somasundram said.

He added that the collaboration on Vanuatu is a framework for other collaborations in the region.


The term “digital economy” will soon become a redundancy, because economies will be largely, if not entirely, digital. But how can we ensure that digital economies are also inclusive and resilient? Three practices leaders in UNCDF’s Policy Accelerator Team–Ahmed Dermish, Olivia Kelly-Lonkeu and Amani Itatiro–discuss the importance and complexity behind supporting policy ecosystems that ensure digital economies are inclusive versus exclusive, particularly in the world’s least developed countries.


El Chequeo Digital ya se implementa en nueve países de América Latina y el Caribe. Conoce nuestra experiencia con esta herramienta que permite a las mipymes de la región no sólo diagnosticar su nivel de madurez digital sino avanzar en su camino de digitalización.

A casi un año del inicio de la pandemia y las medidas de confinamiento y distanciamiento social, vemos como resultado una digitalización forzada en las empresas. Hemos presenciado un aumento drástico del uso de la tecnología para mejorar el desempeño o alcance de las empresas en áreas relacionadas con la gestión de procesos internos, la relación con clientes y proveedores y/o la generación de nuevos modelos de negocio.

Según Satya Nadella, director ejecutivo de Microsoft, en seis meses se ha logrado la progresión digital que se esperaba alcanzar en los próximos dos a tres años. Esto se ha visto reflejado, por ejemplo, en un aumento masivo del comercio electrónico en todos los países de América Latina y el Caribe (ALC), con un 157% de crecimiento regional entre el primer y segundo semestre del 2020. Otra señal es el surgimiento acelerado de sitios web empresariales, que experimentó un crecimiento de más de ocho veces en Colombia y México, y cerca de cuatro en Brasil y Chile, entre abril del 2019 y marzo del 2020.

A pesar de estas cifras alentadoras y de un entendimiento cada vez mayor de los beneficios que traen los procesos y canales digitales, muchas empresas de la región aún siguen operando en el mundo analógico. Esto es particularmente notorio en las micro, pequeñas y medianas empresas (mipymes), a quienes les resulta especialmente difícil y confuso dar el primer salto hacia la digitalización. En este artículo compartimos nuestra experiencia durante el último año promoviendo la implementación de una herramienta concreta para apoyar a este segmento empresarial en su transformación digital y que esto pueda traducirse en mantenerse en el mercado y mejorar su productividad.

De novato a competente digital: un ejemplo chileno

En Valparaíso, Chile, hay un almacén familiar llamado La Veguita, que viene vendiendo frutas y verduras por más de 30 años. La Veguita es un negocio conocido en el barrio, que se considera incluso un punto de referencia para los vecinos, razón por la cual siempre contaba con clientes y ventas aseguradas.

Sin embargo, en octubre de 2019 con el estallido social de Chile, y luego en marzo 2020 con la llegada de la pandemia del COVID-19, los horarios de atención se vieron restringidos y La Veguita, como tantos otros negocios de Chile y de la región, se encontró en una la situación muy complicada. Como sus ventas empezaron a disminuir, la dueña de La Veguita decidió hacer un curso de marketing digital en Sercotec, una cooperación estatal dedicada a apoyar a las mipymes de Chile y a realizar acciones para fomentar la venta online.

En su búsqueda de cursos y herramientas, descubrió el Chequeo Digital, una herramienta de autodiagnóstico desarrollada por el BID y la Fundación País Digital, quepermite a las mipymes medir el nivel inicial de digitalización de su negocio, e identificar sus fortalezas y debilidades. Mas allá de eso, con base en los resultados del chequeo, la herramienta también recomienda acciones y rutas a tomar para que las empresas puedan avanzar en su camino de digitalización.

La primera vez que la dueña de La Veguita realizó el Chequeo Digital en febrero de 2020, su nivel de madurez digital era “novato”. Seis meses después, en agosto de 2020, su nivel de digitalización avanzó a “competente”. Desde fines de 2019 a la fecha, la dueña de La Veguita ha participado de distintas capacitaciones, lo cual le ha permitido avanzar en el proceso de digitalización de su almacén, y así adaptarse a las nuevas realidades y retos introducidos por la pandemia. Hoy en día, La Veguita, con la ayuda de las redes sociales, está entregando comida a domicilio: crearon una guía de despacho y un catálogo con los productos que venden. Además, ampliaron su cartera de clientes; mientras que antes sólo atendían a clientes del barrio, ahora llegan a barrios vecinos.

Chequeo Digital: una herramienta esencial en el camino de la digitalización

El Chequeo Digital es una herramienta sencilla y gratuita que permite a las mipymes de la región realizar su autodiagnóstico digital en menos de 25 minutos y obtener resultados inmediatos de su nivel de madurez.  Saber de dónde parten es clave para poder encarar procesos de transformación digital adaptados específicamente a las necesidades de las empresas. La herramienta permite obtener recomendaciones personalizadas a implementar en el corto y mediano plazo para arrancar o acelerar la transformación digital y la mejora de habilidades digitales de las mipymes, facilitando además su articulación con la oferta de recursos disponibles localmente. Adicionalmente, las empresas pueden realizar su chequeo cada tres meses para ir monitoreando sus avances, por lo que la herramienta no solo les sirve como guía para iniciar su camino hacia la digitalización, sino que las acompaña durante su travesía.

Para el desarrollo de la herramienta, se revisaron más de 50 modelos de madurez digital desarrollados por instituciones públicas y privadas de Europa, Asia y América, junto con un análisis de más de 15 plataformas internacionales desde la perspectiva de la experiencia del usuario, rescatando las mejores prácticas en cuanto a diseño y usabilidad. Adicionalmente, se realizaron entrevistas a mipymes de diversas industrias y ubicaciones geográficas, así como a una serie de paneles con expertos, logrando recopilar visiones y recomendaciones de diversas instituciones públicas y privadas que en el día a día interactúan y apoyan el desarrollo digital de las empresas de menor tamaño.

El Chequeo Digital beneficia no solo a las mipymes sino también a las instituciones que prestan servicios de apoyo a su digitalización. En primer lugar, puede actuar como una ventanilla única que consolide y ponga a disposición los recursos de apoyo existentes en un solo lugar, pues por lo general esos recursos suelen estar atomizados y son difíciles de identificar y priorizar para las empresas. Igualmente, permite tener un mejor entendimiento de las principales brechas digitales que enfrentan las empresas al generar datos valiosos que ayuden a diseñar y enfocar mejor los programas de apoyo a la transformación digital.

En los últimos meses, el BID ha acompañado la implementación del Chequeo Digital en nueve países de América Latina y el Caribe, así como el desarrollo de programas integrales de transformación digital de mipymes en Argentina, El Salvador, Perú y Uruguay. En la nueva realidad que trajo consigo la pandemia, la digitalización ya no es una opción y el BID seguirá trabajando con los países para que ninguna mipyme se quede atrás.


Aprendizajes de Chile

A más de un año de la implementación del Chequeo Digital, el Ministerio de Economía, Fomento y Turismo de Chile ha podido observar un gran interés por parte de las empresas de menor tamaño en conocer su nivel de madurez digital y, por ende, por incorporar tecnologías digitales en sus negocios. Este interés aumentó a raíz de la pandemia, principalmente motivado por la necesidad de las mipymes de buscar nuevos canales de venta y nuevas formas de llegar a sus clientes, encontrando en la tecnología un gran aliado.

“Hemos visto que la pandemia ha sido un catalizador de la transformación digital, lo que ha generado un intensivo uso de la plataforma entre mayo y agosto, meses en los que enfrentamos el confinamiento más estricto. Esto es reflejo de una realidad que nos trajo la pandemia, donde las mipymes han tomado conciencia de los beneficios de la digitalización. Al conocer su nivel de madurez digital, estas empresas pueden conocer sus falencias y fortalezas, y definir qué herramientas necesitan para seguir creciendo. Esperamos que cada vez más mipymes vayan incorporándose al uso de herramientas digitales y aprovechando la utilidad que atrae para sus operaciones”, indica el subsecretario de Economía y Empresas de Menor Tamaño, Julio Pertuzé.

Respecto a las características de las mipymes que se han realizado el Chequeo Digital, más del 95% corresponden a micro y pequeñas empresas. De acuerdo con los resultados de su autodiagnóstico digital, el 57% tienen niveles de conocimientos técnicos de digitalización muy incipientes, resultado que contrasta con la actitud frente a la importancia de las tecnologías digitales, donde un 77% tiene clara la importancia de la digitalización.

A partir de estos resultados y confirmando la tesis de que el interés de las mipymes por digitalizarse existe, la intención del Ministerio de Economía es que esta herramienta además de servir de evaluación y guía sea una puerta de entrada a la oferta disponible para que las mipymes se digitalicen. En un futuro próximo se busca conectar a la empresa chequeada, de acuerdo con sus resultados, con una oferta específica de capacitaciones e iniciativas para avanzar en su camino de la digitalización.


Este artículo fue preparado con la contribución del Ministerio de Economía, Fomento y Turismo de Chile.


At a meeting on e-commerce negotiations held on 20 April, WTO members participating in the talks announced that a “clean” negotiating text on the issue of e-signatures and authentication has been finalised. The co-convenors of the talks — Australia, Japan and Singapore — commended members for their hard work and urged them to accelerate their efforts in order to meet deadlines fixed for this year. “We need to maintain the energy with which the group started this year,” they said.

The clean text on e-signatures and authentication seeks to ensure that the electronic signatures used in an online transaction are not denied their value or legal effect because they are submitted in electronic format. The facilitator of the small group discussion on this topic, Mrs Gintare Kemekliene (European Union), reported that the clean text is the result of the hard work and flexibility of members and derives from 11 proposals tabled by members at the start of the process.

The deadlines set by the co-convenors for this year include a total of ten clean texts on various issues by the summer break and  substantial progress at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), which will take place from 30 November to 3 December 2021 in Geneva. The text on e-signatures and authentication will be part of the outcome the e-commerce initiative seeks to deliver by MC12.

Ambassador George Mina (Australia), as co-convenor, commended members for arriving at a stable and clean text on electronic signatures and authentication. He said that the text is a fundamental element of e-commerce as it contributes to more efficient and more secure commerce and will promote digital trade and economic growth. The ability to avoid printing, mailing and filing of signatures and authentication in physical format when the rest of the transaction is done in the online environment is a massive boost to efficiency and productivity, he added.

Earlier this year, members finalised a clean text on unsolicited commercial messages, otherwise known as spam.

Ahead of the discussion on telecommunications services, Ambassador Hung Seng Tan (Singapore), a co-convener, said that telecommunications issues are wide-ranging and of significant interest to all members. He underlined that the telecommunications landscape is evolving rapidly and is one of the fundamental pillars supporting the digital economy. Having clear rules in this area will provide businesses with certainty and encourage digital adoption and innovation, he said.

Ambassador Tan added that it is timely for participating members to consider how to narrow the digital divide so that the e-commerce initiative can be helpful in driving economic growth for all members.

Reports from small group discussions

The facilitators of small group discussions reported on the work undertaken in the last few weeks to bridge differences on text proposals covering online consumer protection, paperless trading, open government data, source code, customs duties on electronic transmission, and open internet access. A new small group discussion was established recently on e-contracts and a report of the discussions was presented.

Members also revisited proposals on telecommunications services. The first proposal seeks to update the WTO Telecommunications Services Reference Paper – a document issued in 1996 covering regulatory principles on telecommunications services – to ensure that the disciplines cover the internet and the telecommunications services that shape the ecosystem of online commerce. The second proposal addresses the production, supply and treatment of e-commerce related network equipment and products, which are needed to facilitate online transactions. Members also discussed a proposal related to transparency in telecommunications services.

In his concluding remarks, co-convenor Kazuyuki Yamazaki (Japan) said that the e-commerce initiative will address data-related issues in the next meeting. He added that data is the life blood of e-commerce and it is crucial to deepen the discussion on data-related issues for the initiative to have a meaningful outcome. He also said that while the initiative is seeking to achieve a high standard, its objective is also to ensure the participation of as many WTO members as possible. It is important to understand the difficulties that developing countries are facing in the area of capacity-building and the digital divide, he noted.


The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a credit line of up to $1 billion to help Brazil push forward its digital transformation agenda through more and better connectivity, the adoption of new technologies by the private sector, digital talent building, and the modernization and improvement of public services.

The financing is part of a conditional credit line for investment projects (CCLIP) that will be made available through three different resource allocation channels: federal government agencies, subnational governments (state and municipal), and national or regional development banks. This mechanism will provide the country with a strategic financing instrument to foster integration and alignment with digital transformation public policies in four areas under the Brazil Plus Digital program:

  • Digital Infrastructure, whose goal is to improve both the coverage scope and quality of broadband services by way of digital infrastructure that will contribute to Brazil’s social and productive development. In addition, this strategic objective will support the construction of datacenters and improve international connectivity, turning Brazil into an inclusive regional digital hub.
  • Digital Economy, whose goal will be to encourage development, financing, and adoption of digital technologies both by the production sector and the population at large, as well as the promotion of regulatory testbeds and sandboxes, open initiative, public purchase of innovative solutions, collaboration among the private sector, governments and academia, and digital extension programs and new business models for small and midsized enterprises.
  • Digital Government for the design and implementation of strategies for public institutions’ debureaucratization and enhanced services in order to contribute to increased public satisfaction, efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency in public management and a more competitive economy.
  • Enabling factors that can contribute to the development of the human talent necessary to drive the digital transformation, digital literacy for the public in order to promote the use of digital tools and socioeconomic inclusion, development of comprehensive digital transformation strategies, and enhancement of the regulatory framework in crosscutting areas such as cybersecurity.

Ceará will be the first state to benefit from the CCLIP, with a $28 million loan under the Digital Government agenda aimed at implementing the digitalization of the Judiciary Branch of government, increasing its efficiency and user satisfaction. This program will help improve service delivery productivity and management effectiveness of the State of Ceará Court of Justice (TJCE, after its Portuguese initials).

The main beneficiaries of the State of Ceará program will be citizens and businesses using TJCE’s services, estimated at 2.5 million people, who will receive faster, more efficient services at lower costs. In addition, TJCE’s nearly 3,800 employees will also benefit from the program’s digital skills training.

The IDB loans associated with the credit line are for a 25-year term, with a 5.5-year grace period and an interest rate based on LIBOR. The State of Ceará will provide an additional $7 million in local counterpart funding.

About us

The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.

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