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Elon Musk could save social media whether he succeeds or fails in making Twitter an open space for responsible free speech. It is an enormous task, much more complex than Musk’s previous business successes with Tesla and SpaceX.

By trying to fix Twitter, he is fostering deeper debates on many wicked policy issues, from upholding freedom of expression and tackling the risks of misinformation to policing the truth and the overall responsibility of platforms for the content they host.

If Musk succeeds 

… which is not likely, he will manage to solve one of the most complicated policy issues of our time. He would succeed in building an open space for discussion while containing hate speech, trolling, and other misuses of platforms.

He hinted that his first step would be to stop the anonymity of contributions. Critics say that this policy could pose a threat to many people, especially those under authoritarian regimes.

In addition to anonymity, Musk will also have to deal with the question of banning people from Twitter or any social media. He also indicated that he would be against lifetime banning, which would allow reinstating the account of the former US President Trump (although Trump said he is not interested) and possibly other similar ramifications.

Making a distinction between banning users and banning specific Tweets will be a crucial policy strategy decision. Musk will also have to make Twitter a viable business operation to protect his investment of US$44 billion.

He recently indicated that commercial and government users might be charged a slight cost for using the platform, while casual users would continue to use the service for free. Establishing a more transparent business model, including its service payment model, would bring more clarity and avoid a situation where users pay for free platform use with their data.

If Musk fails 

… which is more likely, he will still catalyse an increase in the clarity of discussion on the regulation of platforms. The current situation in which social platforms arbitrate public debate by allowing their version of the truth is not viable.

In a way, tech platforms are becoming an Orwellian ministry of truth without having any credible legitimacy to moderate such delicate societal issues. Assigning such power to tech platforms not only goes against the first amendment of the US constitution but also against the visceral vibrancy of modern society, which expects to speak out loud (or read on Twitter).

Tech platforms assumed this unique position via their bible: Section 230 of the Communications Defamation Act from 1996, which shields them from any responsibility for the content they provide. It was a reasonable law that helped the early development of the internet. But, with the power that platforms have acquired meanwhile, this immunity opens major political and ethical issues about their influence on public debates.

The main question we need to address is: Whether such an important societal function as arbitrating freedom of information should be the responsibility of private companies or public institutions such as governments, courts, and parliaments? So far, the public debate, especially in Europe, has shifted toward public institutions, as they have much more legitimacy than private companies. Governments are (theoretically) more accountable to the public. They also tend to be more transparent than private companies.

Whatever happens with Musk’s Twitter reform, his actions will significantly advance discussions on the roles and responsibilities of tech platforms in shaping online public spaces.

Did you know that the United Nations estimates that the funding gap for building [digital] infrastructure in developing countries is over one trillion dollars annually? Today, all modern infrastructure projects, as well as all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), include at least some digital components and/or are dependent on digital systems — which, in turn, are increasingly vulnerable to cyber risks and threats. Embracing digital technologies to improve society requires us to understand the “dark side of innovation” and incorporate cybersecurity and cyber resilience into all development projects.

For the last decade, nations worldwide have embarked on a digital transformation journey embracing and embedding information and communications technologies (ICTs) into their networked environments and infrastructures  to improve productivity, efficiency, innovation, and competitiveness. In particular, developing countries — which often suffer from weak legal and regulatory frameworks alongside poor governance and high poverty — are prioritizing digitization and connectivity to foster economic growth , enable skills development, encourage modernization, and advance human and social development.

This is why development organizations — including the United Nations, multilateral development banks, national development organizations, and major donors — are promoting digitization as a key enabler of inclusive and sustainable economic growth and social development.   They also aim to narrow the “digital divide” between the connected and unconnected. These entities are allocating significant funds toward digital development in lower- and middle-income countries to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs and other desired development outcomes in those countries.

But despite the clear benefits of digital technologies to economies and societies, most digital investments and development assistance programs have not placed the necessary attention (or de-risking mechanisms) on the risks stemming from the misuse of ICTs, including becoming tools for cybercrime, data exploitation, critical infrastructure failures, disruptions of essential services, increased surveillance, disinformation, digital authoritarianism, and other risks to health and safety. And because the rapid adoption of digital technologies in developing countries was not accompanied by adequate investments in cybersecurity, they are now experiencing greater vulnerabilities and malicious activities  that are threatening the security and resilience of their digital infrastructure and systems and eroding trust in the digital environment.  Without the proper safeguards, increased digitization in developing countries may provide new breeding grounds for organized crime, terrorism, and other digital-related threats  that ultimately undermine development efforts.

Understanding the specific cybersecurity risks these countries face is critical in this context. Developing local institutional, governance, legal, and workforce capacity is more crucial than ever to harness and manage their digital transformation, mitigate related risks, and will enable these countries to develop more resilient economies and societies. This calls for the broader development community to elevate cybersecurity as a first-order strategic and operational priority in all development programs and carefully evaluate cyber/digital risks throughout their programming lifecycle, from a project’s identification to its design, appraisal, and implementation.

Organizations working in this space must also recognize that ICTs are commodities rather than long-term capital assets — meaning they must be replaced every 5-7 years.  This means all development projects using digital technologies must factor in the ongoing cost of ICT support, training, and systems upgrades — to ensure sustainable and resilient services, infrastructures, and ultimately development outcomes. To achieve their desired economic future, recipient countries must also provide funds for the continuity of digital projects, equipment upgrades, workforce training, and retention into their national budget.  

These recommendations are underpinned by an extensive study we conducted to identify key challenges and benefits of incorporating cybersecurity, cyber resilience, and cyber capacity building into digital investments and the broader development agenda. Our report, “Integrating Cyber Capacity Building into the Digital Development Agenda,” concluded that international development organizations and donors must recognize the digital vulnerability of every modern infrastructure project and development assistance program and mainstream cybersecurity and cyber resilience into all development projects —  including sectoral projects not strictly digital (for example, health, energy, transport).

To address this shortfall and protect their digital investments, they must build cybersecurity de-risking mechanisms to identify and mitigate the cybersecurity/technology-related risks in their digital development projects — much like the mandatory environmental and social safeguards that are the linchpins of infrastructure, health, energy, and transportation projects.

Following the release of our report, we organized an event that included speakers from World Bank, USAID, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It focused on catalyzing action across multilateral development banks, national and international development organizations, and other large donors to prioritize cybersecurity and cyber resilience as cross-cutting issues in the global development agenda. The session provided an important opportunity to hear how these respective organizations are integrating cybersecurity considerations, resources, responsibilities, and management tools into their development projects and building safeguards into their procurement, assistance, or investments operations to mitigate cyber harms.

This blog is based on the key findings and recommendations from the report “Integrating Cyber Capacity Building into the Digital Development Agenda,” commissioned by the Global Forum for Cyber Expertise (GFCE) with the financial support of the World Bank’s Digital Development Partnership. Download it here.

The UPU’s newest study, Blockchains for a Sustainable Postal Future, made possible by funding from the government of Japan, highlights two domains for DLTs: logistics and inclusive financial services. Findings were shared in a virtual event attended by more than 200 participants from 100 member countries on 28 April.

The UPU’s Financial Inclusion team launched its latest innovation-focused study on the use of blockchains and distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) during the virtual event. The study intends to provide guidance to postal operators that are thinking of piloting or implementing blockchain based technologies in their operations.

“DLTs can ensure integrity and reliability of data, as well as resilience of systems through secure transactions on distributed P2P networks,” said Yoritaka Naito, Director of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for the government of Japan. “As a network industry, the postal sector should be one of the most promising areas where DLTs can be applied as appropriate.”

Interest in blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) has continued to grow with more posts exploring the role DLTs may have in their digital growth.

Austrian Post was a world leader with its release of the first-ever Crypto Stamp in 2019. For Austrian Post’s philately department, turning to blockchain was a matter of maintaining relevance in a changing world.

“The focus was, how can we survive this decreasing market,” said Patricia Liebermann, Head of Philately of Austrian Post. “It was the right decision because now we are in a growing market, and the philately sector became the expert in our entity for blockchain projects and blockchain-related activities.”

Despite challenges in the early uptake of DLTs, a decentralized solution has the potential to benefit posts and communities, the UPU study explains.

Given the Post’s high regard, DLTs could have a positive impact on unbanked and underbanked populations that have been excluded from formal financial systems, according to the study’s executive summary.

DLTs could be used in collective insurance, digital wallet, identity management, managing direct cash transfer projects, P2G payments, remittances, and transaction information management.

Additionally, DLTs may benefits logistics with increased transparency of data shared between stakeholders, as well as an added layer of cybersecurity.

Partnerships with global payment platforms, such as Visa, can help posts prepare to accept cryptocurrencies and Central Bank Digital Currency for their services. Visa partners with more than 60 crypto players and platforms globally, and its cards make conversion and spending of cryptocurrencies seamless so that posts don’t have to accept cryptocurrencies directly.

“What we’ve learned over time is the value of partnerships and networks,” said Maike Hornung, Europe Crypto & Global CBDC Strategy Lead for Visa. “Especially if there is a newly evolving technology, posts can really help to introduce these innovations to populations as they did with the telegraph, the telephone and money transfers.”

Posts can also play a critical role in the circular economy, promoting a sustainable way of living and a new paradigm for our economies. In this respect, DLTs can play a role for Posts to be an integral part of the sustainable economy.

“Over the last few years, startup companies have focused on the sustainable, circular economy that aim to reduce waste. They are thinking hard and loud on how you can bring in the postal services,” said Günther Dobrauz-Saldapenna, Partner at PwC Legal Switzerland. “You can create new postal packaging that are sustainable, but will still need to stamp it for delivery. This is exactly the kind of area where DLT and blockchain technologies are creating new ideas that can help overcome traditional challenges,” he added.

In the coming months, the UPU will publish detailed case studies and pilot “blockchain blueprints” to help posts learn and implement financial inclusion solutions via DLTs.

Read the study.

In September 2013, young leaders from around the world gathered at the BYND 2015 Global Youth Summit in Costa Rica to voice their views on the digital future they wanted.

I was impressed at how quickly and readily young people assumed responsibility in their roles as innovators, creators, and solution-shapers for the digital future. Given the chance, they were eager and willing not only to express their ideas, but to wrestle with tough issues, collaborate across cultures and language divides, and work towards meaningful, consensus-based outputs.

Nearly 10 years later, millions of young people around the world have lived through a global pandemic that has seen the role of digital technologies become more vitally important than ever.

The COVID-19 crisis has injected new impetus into global efforts, via various policy fora, to address digital challenges and opportunities. Yet all too often we forget to involve those who have the deepest knowledge and first-hand experience – young digital natives.

New inheritors

Young people will inherit the world that is being shaped by today’s technological advancements. They will also play an active role in defining the evolution of tomorrow’s digital platforms and services.

That’s why I felt that, as the United Nations digital technology agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) needed to meaningfully engage young people – the world’s first generation of true digital natives.

They are best placed to help us understand the challenges they face in fully harnessing the potential of digital technologies, and their input on innovative digital development solutions can help steer the world towards a more equitable future.

Co-creating solutions

‘Digital’ now defines basic social interactions in continually evolving ways. Growing up in a world like this is vastly different from my own generation’s experience.

My four children have frequently taught me new ways to leverage technology in my own life. They have also opened my eyes to the various dangers that young people face in the online world.

We urgently need to bring young people from diverse backgrounds on board – especially those who face daunting challenges in getting meaningfully connected to the digital world.

Digital policy-makers need to work hand-in-hand with these young people to co-create bold new solutions. That means not only bringing young people into the policy arena as equal partners, but remaining genuinely open to hearing their voices.

Futurecasters Secretary-General Gessienne Grey said it best at the 2020 Futurecasters Global Young Visionaries Summit:

“Until now, we were not a part of the global conversation; but today, we are being consulted. We are speaking out and being heard. Delegates, we have the floor.’’

Spotlighting youth and tech

This year, ahead of ITU’s upcoming World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC), young people will take the floor again.

In Kigali, Rwanda, from 2-4 June, young visionaries and change-makers from around the world will come together at the Generation Connect Global Youth Summit. They will speak out with their diverse voices, and global digital development policy leaders will listen.

For the first time, the outcomes of the Generation Connect Youth Summit will be directly fed into WTDC discussions in the form of a ‘Youth Call to Action’ for consideration by conference decision-makers.

By infusing WTDC with new and diverse perspectives, the Youth Summit will help shape the digital development agenda for the next four years and beyond.

At a time when the power and potential of digital technologies are under the global spotlight, WTDC delegates will lay the groundwork for digital transformation, including in the world’s most marginalized communities, for years to come.

Preparing a call to action

Ahead of the Youth Summit, the Generation Connect movement is already abuzz with young people from all over the world who care about driving change through digital technologies.

Right now, Generation Connect Regional Youth Envoys are soliciting the ideas, concerns, and perspectives of their peers, in order to amplify these on the global stage in Kigali in a few weeks’ time. I am proud to work alongside many of these inspiring young change-makers on the Generation Connect Visionaries Board.

Kigali will be an important stop on the road to digital youth empowerment, but our journey will by no means end there.

After the Youth Summit, ITU will keep encouraging all our young participants and partners to continue advancing digital technologies as a force for good in their local communities.

Do you want to help empower other young people to get connected?

Join the global conversation, and work alongside ITU to help achieve our vision of a connected future for all.

  • We are living at the beginning of a new technological revolution around Industry 4.0 technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • Industry 4.0 refers to the “smart” and connected production systems designed to sense, predict, and interact with the physical world, so as to make decisions that support production in real-time.
  • Developing countries need to diversify their production towards more technologically advanced sectors.

Just like rapid technological change can accelerate progress, it also risks leaving many people behind. Historically, every wave of technological progress since the Industrial Revolution has been associated with sharper inequalities between countries. Before the 1800s, there was little income disparity across countries; today the average gap in per capita income between developed and developing countries is over $40,000.

What would the effect of Industry 4.0 be? Would it facilitate or hinder the industrialization of developing countries? Would it reduce or increase inequalities?

What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 refers to the “smart” and connected production systems that are designed to sense, predict, and interact with the physical world, so as to make decisions that support production in real-time. In manufacturing, it can increase productivity, energy efficiency, and sustainability. It increases productivity by reducing downtime and maintenance costs.

Estimates suggest an increase in production line availability by 5 to 15%. It can also offer opportunities for energy saving and sustainability through optimisation. For example, in a case study of a multinational in the plastics sector, Industry 4.0, using energy sensors reduced the power consumption in one of its plants by around 40%, which saved over $200,000 a year in energy. However, only a few countries develop and trade Industry 4.0 technologies.

So far, the US and China lead in publications and patents. They also have the largest digital platforms, half the world’s hyperscale data centres, the highest rates of 5G adoption, 94% of all funding of AI start-ups in the past five years, and 70% of the world’s top AI researchers.

High-tech manufacturing and research and development capacity are another critical element for Industry 4.0, which also increase the opportunities for firms in developed countries to get a leading advantage. For example, European firms have made a lot of investments in IoT. Together with China and the US, they account for about three-quarters of all IoT spending.

How would Industry 4.0 impact inequalities?

Technological change affects inequality through jobs, wages and profitsIn the case of Industry 4.0, new technology mainly increases productivity.

As companies become more productive, they are also more competitive and more likely to hire more higher-skilled workers in better jobs. Countries in which firms adopt Industry 4.0 could expect a higher increase in productivity and competitiveness, and wages.

At the same time, Industry 4.0 also brings some specific challenges. For example, many studies predict a large share of jobs lost in the economy due to AI and automation. But they do not consider that not all tasks are automated, and, most importantly, new products, tasks, and professions are created throughout the economy. Industry 4.0 in manufacturing can bring huge gains in productivity, but most firms in developing countries are way far from using Industry 4.0.

Harnessing Industry 4.0 for inclusive development

Developing countries would not be able to broadly deploy Industry 4.0 if they have weak manufacturing. They need to diversify their production towards more technologically advanced sectors.

The state has a crucial role in promoting potential sectors, strengthening innovation systems, building coherence between STI (science, technology and information) policies and other social and economic ones, and ensuring a participatory approach in this process. Governments should also promote affordable, high-quality access to the Internet and build digital skills in the business sector, including SMEs. They should also create the conditions required to deploy Industry 4.0 in manufacturing.

These include the development of national strategies directing the coordinated deployment of Industry 4.0, the creation of a multistakeholder mechanism institutionalising a participatory approach to foster Industry 4.0, and building international cooperation to accelerate the transference of technology and know-how.

To foster the adoption of Industry 4.0, governments should raise the awareness of the private sector, promote investments and facilitate financing for the deployment of Industry 4.0. Policy-makers in developing countries should also be attuned to changes in trade patterns and global value chains and how they would affect their workforce. Workers who cannot be trained or retrained and lose their jobs should rely on stronger mechanisms of social protection.

The critical role of international collaboration

The international community should come together to help countries harness this new technological wave. The risk is to perpetuate the gaps seen in previous technological revolutions.

In this regard, five critical areas are:

  1. Sharing knowledge and information and conducting research;
  2. Helping design policies, strategies and implement initiatives;
  3. Helping build capacity of all actors of the national innovation system on Industry 4.0;
  4. Promoting technology transfer through new innovative partnership approaches, addressing market, innovation systems and capabilities failures;
  5. Helping to set legal frameworks, guidelines, norms and standards.

The United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development offers member states a platform to explore ways of strengthening and better coordinating STI-focused international cooperation, in the spirit of multilateralism, to harness Industry 4.0 technologies and innovation for the benefit of all.

Disinformation has become a global problem affecting citizens, governments and businesses.

Identifying and isolating so-called “fake news” poses a major challenge across today’s growing digital information ecosystem. But advances in artificial intelligence (AI) could increasingly help online information users sort out fact from fiction.

The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) collects data on how misinformation – or disinformation, when deliberate – travels and spreads. The index, put out by a US-based non-profit organization, can help governments, media professionals, and other web users assess the trustworthiness of online content.

Companies can use the GDI in evaluating where to place their advertising and avoid associating their brands with untrustworthy news sites.

Tall-tale triage

Using AI tools and techniques, the GDI “triages” unreliable content from several of the world’s most prominent news markets. Combining AI results with independent human analysis, the index then rates global news publications based on their respective disinformation risk scores.

“Fake news comes from a handful of people who have huge, vested interest,” said Sam Pitroda, inclusive tech advocate and chairman of software development firm the Pitroda Group.

Disinformation has become a lucrative business for websites that monetize the traffic generated by false or malicious content. But it creates harmful effects in all areas of society.

Fake news sites have hindered the global fight to cut greenhouse gas emissions and curb global warming, notes the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

“AI has huge potential to reduce the damage done by fake news, but it will take time. It is not going to eliminate fake news,” Pitroda added at a recent AI for Good webinar hosted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Labelling misinformation

Plenty of room remains to filter and, if necessary, regulate misinformation, according to participants at the webinar.

“Society cannot work without a clear understanding about what is true and what is not,” said Arthur van der Wees, co-founder of the Institute for Accountability in the Digital Age (I4ADA). “Anyone needs tools and other capabilities to be able to distinguish between truth and misinformation.”

Misinformation labelling could help to establish and maintain basic standards for news and information.

The globally accepted nutrition fact panel for food products could provide a suitable template, as could the labelling required by some countries on digitally retouched photos in the fashion and influencer industry.

Still, flagging false or misleading online content may not be enough to thwart determined creators of false content. After all, capturing people’s attention and reinforcing their pre-existing “filter bubbles” can drum up more website traffic and ad revenue.

Fake news generators, therefore, deliberately feed into a target audience’s confirmation bias, making some people reluctant to accept “official” warning labels.

Information is trusted online regardless of its truthfulness, often because users are actually looking for shared values aligned with a certain group, website or platform, argued Silvia De Conca, assistant professor in law and technology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. “We need to decouple facts from values, and that changes the perception,” she added.

Humans in the loop

With reams of new information generated daily, in multiple languages, content moderation and fake news flagging are increasingly ambitious tasks. AI can with the filtering process. However, full automation may leave too much to chance.

“Humans do need to be in the loop. AI is merely a tool for accelerating certain human judgements,” said Daniel Rogers, GDI’s executive director and co-founder. “Computers are good at repeating a raw task many times, but anywhere a judgement is involved, you need a human.”

Communities of users can contribute significantly to effective monitoring. Crowd-sourced knowledge and collaboration among professional news organisations, for example, can help to validate and verify raw information.

Within the United Nations system, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) advocates a human rights-based approach to data in relation to the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

Keeping the web healthy and reliable requires eliminating any monetary incentives for the spread of misinformation.

Ultimately, clear international standards are needed to categorize online data and its ownership.

“We actually need to get to that point of specificity about data,” said Mei Lin Fung, chair and co-founder of People-Centered Internet initiative. “We can’t talk about data ownership. It is about very specific data rights: by whom, to do what, for what purpose, when, etc.”

Watch the full AI for Good session recording.

Day 5 : April 28th, 2022
UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week is the leading forum to discuss the development opportunities and challenges associated with the digital economy. This week’s edition, held under the theme “Data and Digitalization for Development”, puts a special emphasis on data and cross-border data flows, as well as the crucial role they play in economic and social development. With this bulletin, CUTS is keeping you posted on the proceedings.

#UNCTADeWeek


Cambodia: E-commerce development and ecosystem in Cambodia

This session discussed the various projects and initiatives being established to help the digital ecosystem flourish in Cambodia, such as building digital literacy, improving access to finance, and supporting women-owned e-commerce businesses. E-commerce is one of the fastest expanding economic sectors, and represents an important new source of growth for developing countries. In this regard, Cambodia has made remarkable progress in developing its e-commerce ecosystem, now ranking among the top performing countries in the region. Cambodia is preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the last five years have seen accelerated e-commerce revenue growth. This has brought about both opportunities and challenges that require the government to engineer conducive policy and foster institutional support.

Read more…


Policy recommendations for a data-driven digitalization of agribusiness in Africa

The global digital transformation process has impacted all sectors, even the most traditional ones. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 400 digital solutions had been deployed to contribute to the modernisation of agribusiness. Indeed, the digital sector delivers the significant potential for growth in the agribusiness sector, and data is playing an increasingly important role in the deployment of IoT (Internet of Things) solutions powered by artificial intelligence. However, the majority of agritech start-ups still face challenges to scale their businesses. This session discussed the challenges faced by agritech start-ups in Africa and recommendations to maximize the benefits of technology in the agribusiness sector.

Read more…


The data divide in digital trade: Are trade rules up to the challenge?

The session broadly focused on the role and relevance of international trade rules and institutions in addressing the data divide, focusing on whether: (i) existing and evolving digital trade rules address data divide concerns; (ii) trade rules and institutions can facilitate an inclusive global framework on data governance.

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Digitalization for Development: …where is small business?

There are many examples of how digitalisation and data accelerate the competitiveness and development of businesses and countries. However, a significant segment of the global economy, micro and small enterprises (MSEs) that contribute close to 40 per cent of jobs worldwide has remained largely excluded from the benefits of the “digital revolution”. Many MSEs remain trapped in informality, low levels of performance and growth. They often miss crucial data and information that is key to growth and sustained development.

Read more…


Global and regional trade negotiations on e-commerce: What is at stake?

Uptake of digitalisation and e-commerce has been further accentuated by the pandemic. In this context, e-commerce has received increased attention in multilateral and regional trade negotiations and agreements. Digital trade and e-commerce can have wide-ranging implications for competition, privacy, consumer protection, and broad economic and social development. In this session, experts from governments, international and regional organizations, and civil society explored the various development dimensions of global and regional trade negotiations on e-commerce.

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The role of data and digitalization in supporting sustainable cross-border e-commerce

The shift towards a more digital world, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has induced changes in shopping behaviours that are likely to have lasting effects. Cross-border e-commerce in particular is growing at double the rate of domestic e-commerce, driven by consumers seeking competitive pricing and products unavailable in their home country. This shift posed unique challenges to the goal of making e-commerce more sustainable, as well as possible solutions. This session aimed to explore challenges and opportunities concerning the phenomenon of e-commerce spreading across borders and its impact on sustainability.

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Vanuatu: Using data to boost digital transformation in developing countries

This session was dedicated to the digital transformation of Vanuatu, convening a number of digital experts and practitioners. It first discussed the legal and regulatory framework existing in Vanuatu, before exploring how the country and local firms can effectively leverage data for its digital transformation.

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E-commerce and tax justice: Re-thinking sustainable tax policies

This session explored the linkages between e-commerce and tax justice. The significant recent expansion of digitalisation around the world has prompted an increasing perception by individuals, states and small businesses that large corporations, especially offshore providers, seemingly manage to pay little taxes while making significant profits. Discussions reflected on the role states should play in reconsidering the hundred-year-old framework of international taxation, which may no longer adequately serve its tax justice purpose.

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Shedding new light on the evolving regulatory framework for digital trade

The regulatory framework for digital trade is evolving. The joint effort to expand the OECD Digital STRI to cover Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Africa can shed new light on the evolving regulatory landscape affecting digitally enabled services and cross-border data flows. To this end, the session discussed with the Economic Commissions on the findings, with a special focus on the emerging regulatory trends in developing countries.

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Search for the trade-off between national digital regulations and cross-border data flows: Prospects and limitations for the free-market data economy in the post-COVID world

Driven by the COVID-19, the global data economy relying on cross-border data flows gradually becomes a new engine of economic growth. Yet it also breeds new inequalities and reproduces the existing ones, widening the digital divide between those who profit from the data-driven technologies embedding and those who do not. Despite some adverse effects and developed countries’ upper hand, overall free data sharing can benefit developing economies. Regardless, data protectionism is on the rise, slowing technological progress and limiting positive socioeconomic impact. A balanced global legal framework for data sharing, devised by all stakeholders, could be a solution to ease regulatory overload.

Read more…


Overcoming barriers to trust in cross-border data flows

This session explored how lack of trusts creates barriers to cross-border data flows, and the resulting economic and societal impacts of such disruptions. Discussions also discussed potential solutions to enhance trust and facilitate the free flow of data through appropriate data governance frameworks. Existing policy mechanisms or ongoing initiatives were reviewed in this regard, with panelists reflecting on how they can be leveraged to further improving data governance.

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Closing Session

Concluding ths week of debates around the theme ‘“Data and Digitalization for Development’, the closing session highligthed key takeaways on how the digital world is managed and how its digital governance could support sustainable development.

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Women were largely excluded from the first, second, and third industrial revolutions, leading two centuries of economic domination by men. The foundations for the fourth are digital and being laid right now. The absence of women would be a major blow to closing the gender gap in the 21st century.

Women score better than men in most leadership skills and in key skills such as problem solving and innovation. Yet, only 7.4 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. Women entrepreneurs tend to be in sectors that are less profitable and less capital intensive. The world is losing due to gender inequality. Advancing women’s equality, in a best case scenario can add as much as US$28 trillion according to McKinsey & Company.

Digital gender divide

There is a profound digital gender divide in the world. The share of women leaders in the UK tech sector stands at just 5 percent. The 2018 OECD report showed that 327 million fewer women than men have a smartphone and can access the mobile Internet. Women are constrained by the lack of digital resources, lack of financial resources, and fear of online safety. Socio-cultural thinking discourages women to set foot in the tech sector.

Influencing the 21st century

The tech industry will continue to bring change in habits and behaviors and will create significant wealth. Tech companies have already changed our lives in many ways and they are at the forefront of bringing in the new trends. The absence of women entrepreneurs in the tech sector will lead to a digital world being designed for the 21st century without female leadership.  With 60 percent of the global GDP set to be digitized by 2022, it is critical for women entrepreneurs to get on board.

What is needed to close the digital gender gap?

More women in the tech sector will help address the issues women face and can lead to more women tech entrepreneurs

As more women work in the tech sector, they will build experience to later start their own tech startups. Extending digital knowledge, access and providing connected devices to lower income females will be impactful. Regulations should be placed to have companies introduce a minimum quota for women hired. Tax incentives should be given to companies in the tech sector who support greater gender equality. In the US, only 24 percent of workers in the tech sector are female. A gender certification process for companies giving opportunities for women could be brought in by governments.

Women have to be digitally upskilled with edtech solutions 

Women entrepreneurs need to upskill fast as many of the future businesses will be in a digitally transformed state. E-Learning requires 40-60 percent less time which is a great opportunity for all. For example, Coursera, UdaCity and EdX are effective open online courses. Edtech provides E-Learning platforms that leverage digital technologies to access educational curriculum. Quizlet is an online application which allows students to learn various subjects through games and learning tools using AI powered tutoring. Top Hat is another great tool for managing online learning.

Boardroom representation of women has to be increased to give more leadership roles to women

Globally, women hold around 17 percent of corporate board seats. Research shows women are better in most leadership skills than men but still only 5.3 percent of Board Chairs are women. Furthermore, women entrepreneurs are discriminated against when seeking loans and investments. There must be a concerted effort to have more women on the corporate boards of banks and venture capital firms, and to mobilize funding for women entrepreneurs.

Tech incubators and accelerators have to be inclusive for women entrepreneurs with scalability and ecosystem support

Most women owned businesses are smaller in size. Tech accelerators should be inclusive to give the resources, investment and guidance for women entrepreneurs to scale up. A UK government study showed that over 60 percent of startups say having been in an accelerator was vital for their success. Governments and international organizations could help women entrepreneurs work with global accelerators based in Silicon Valley.

Women tech role models have to be promoted to empower the next generation of women to enter the tech sector

A 2017 PwC survey found that 78 percent of students could not name a famous woman working in the tech sector. Only 3 percent of females in the UK say a career in tech is their first choice. Development organizations, business corporations and the media have to promote successful women tech entrepreneurs and make them role models.

Without robust actions, progress toward gender equality will be unacceptably slow. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Gender Gap Report, it will take 257 years to achieve economic gender parity. Closing this gender gap faster should be a global priority  which can only be achieved through bold actions by all international partners.

The South Centre today provided its comments to the OECD Inclusive Framework’s Task Force on Digital Economy (TFDE) on the Amount A: Extractives Exclusion. These rules are part of the overall OECD project on the taxation of the digitalized economy known as Pillar One. They determine the amount of a Multinational Enterprise’s (MNE) profits that will then be partially redistributed to market jurisdictions, which are expected to be largely developing countries.

Extractive Exclusion is of critical importance to developing countries as it is meant to ensure that revenues from natural resources such as mining, oil, gas, etc are excluded from the scope of the tax, known as Amount A.

The South Centre’s comments have been reproduced below.

South Centre Comments on Amount A: Extractives Exclusion


Session reports


Monday, 25 Apr
12:00 – 13:00 Building online dispute resolution for Southeast Asian consumers
12:00 – 13:00 Creating a level playing field for digital trade
12:00 – 13:00 Digital self-determination – an alternative approach to data governance issues
16:00 – 17:00 How will current proposals for international e-commerce rules governing data flows affect digitalization for development?
17:00 – 18:00 How algorithmic decision-making can facilitate cross-border trade for small business
17:00 – 18:00 How algorithmic decision-making can facilitate cross-border trade for small business


Tuesday, 26 Apr

10:00 – 11:00 Promoting inclusive data policy through capacity building
12:00 – 13:00 Digitalization and data flows in francophone west and central Africa: Impacts of potential digital trade rules in the WTO on digital industrialization and development
14:00 – 15:00 The importance of data in cross-border payments in Africa
15:00 – 16:00 Innovative data governance mechanisms for development 4.0: Challenges and opportunities
17:00 – 18:00 Data-driven business to business e-commerce in Africa
17:00 – 18:00 The role of standards in digital transformation and digital trade


Wednesday, 27 Apr
10:00 – 11:00 From eTrade Readiness Assessments to implemented recommendations
10:00 – 11:00 Whether ‘data localisation’ and ‘national champion’ approach would lead to an inclusive digital economy?
11:00 – 12:00 From data to AI: Digital transformation competency framework for the public sector
14:00 – 15:00 TradeTech: How frontier technologies will transform global trade and development
15:00 – 16:00 Measuring international data flows
16:00 – 17:00 Data protection certification for cross-border data flows
16:00 – 17:00 How to create greater international collaboration on data governance
17:00 – 18:00 Data regulation: Implications for the digitization of the economy and development


Thursday, 28 Apr
10:00 – 11:00 Advancing cross-border paperless trade: Nurturing a digital trade environment
11:00 – 12:00 The AfCFTA and data governance frameworks in Africa
>12:00 – 13:00 Assessing the role of digital platforms in data governance and ethics
12:00 – 13:00 Designing innovative data solutions for the global south
14:00 – 15:00 Marketplace activity in Africa and South America: what new data shows
14:00 – 15:00 Tackling the digital gender divide – Peer learning across developing regions
15:00 – 16:00 The value of data in the information economy
16:00 – 17:00 Tackling the data governance challenges of emerging digital technologies
17:00 – 18:00 Exploring a global framework for data governance


Friday, 29 Apr

10:00 – 11:00 The data divide in digital trade: Are trade rules up to the challenge?
14:00 – 15:00 Shedding new light on the evolving regulatory framework for digital trade
15:00 – 16:00 E-signatures and e-transactions: What works, what more is needed, and what are the implications of proposed trade rules on this topic?
15:00 – 16:00 Meaningful access to advance digital societies
16:00 – 17:00 Overcoming barriers to trust in cross-border data flows


The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in collaboration with eTrade for all and other partners will host its annual eCommerce Week. This event will take place in Geneva and online from 25 to 29 April 2022.

The theme for the 2022 edition is ‘Data and Digitalization for Development.’ Data and cross-border data flows, and the critical role they play in economic and social development, as well as challenges related to the data divide, will be given special focus.

The eCommerce Week2022 will also highlight how the COVID-19 pandemic affects digital transformation globally.

Throughout the event, a special focus will be placed on specific and actionable solutions to pressing issues related to digital transformation of our economies.

For more information, visit the event webpage.

Day 4 : April 28th, 2022
UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week is the leading forum to discuss the development opportunities and challenges associated with the digital economy. This week’s edition, held under the theme “Data and Digitalization for Development”, puts a special emphasis on data and cross-border data flows, as well as the crucial role they play in economic and social development. With this bulletin, CUTS is keeping you posted on the proceedings.

#UNCTADeWeek


Advancing cross-border paperless trade: Nurturing a digital trade environment

Paperless trade can support the post-pandemic recovery of countries. This session discussed the tools for advancing cross-border paperless trade and conducting readiness assessments for cross-border paperless trade. Panelists shared experiences on how readiness assessments may be conducted, offering a comprehensive framework for countries to take the agenda forward, to develop and update their national policies, strategies and planning and ultimately nurture environments for e-commerce and digital trade. Discussions were based on a newly-developed toolkit for cross-border paperless trade, as well as experiences from nine country assessments completed and seven ongoing assessments.

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Launch: eTrade Readiness Assessment of Kenya

The session broadly focused on the main findings of the eTrade Readiness Assessment (eT Ready) of Kenya, highlighting the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation in the country. It explored the vision of the role of e-commerce for achieving key national policy objectives, including inclusive economic opportunities for women, youth and people living with disabilities. The importance of relevant domestic policies and regulations, trade agreements, and regional and continental cooperation frameworks in support of e-commerce development was also discussed.

Read more…


Impact of data governance & cross-border data flows on digital industrialisation, agriculture and indigenous data sovereignty

This session analysed the impact of data governance and cross-border data flows on agriculture and digital industrialisation in developing and least developed countries. Due to servicification and the shift online from COVID-19, data governance and the impact of cross-border data flows have become even more important. Discussions particularly examined the implications of data flows for indigenous data governance and sovereignty, since the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy has encouraged governments to recognise the sovereignty of indigenous peoples over their data.

Read more…


Reducing costs, building trust through electronic SPS certification

This session provided an overview of the current status of sanitary and phytosanitary certification (SPS eCert), and how developing countries are using it. It discussed how information on food safety, plant and animal health, as well as SPS eCert, can be communicated in a more efficient, cost-effective, and reliable manner by transitioning from paper to electronic SPS eCert. The key obstacles faced by developing countries,as well as opportunities and ways to scale up SPS eCert in the future, were also addressed.

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The AfCFTA and data governance frameworks in Africa

There is no doubt about the importance of data in global trade in the 21st century. However, there is a lack of policies for the proper regulation of data flows. This session explored the possibility of a continental Data policy framework for unlocking cross-border trade in Africa. This has become increasingly relevant in the context of the AfCFTA protocol, since the impact of different individual country policies in the status-quo is affecting the ability of firms to effectively engage in cross-border digital trade, in turn hindering the level playing field ideal.

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Intergovernmental Group of Experts: Lessons learned from policy responses to the pandemic

After the opening plenary session of the fifth session of UNCTAD’s Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-commerce and the Digital Economy introduced this year’s topic (Recovering from COVID-19 in an increasingly digital economy), this third session focused on “Lessons learned from policy responses to the pandemic”. The discussions focused on lessons that can be extracted from policy responses, particularly from the angle of the importance of digitalization and the increasing development lags resulting from digital divides between countries.

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Digital platforms, competition and data protection

This high-level panel discussed different perspectives for enhancing competition in digital markets and ensuring better data protection for users. Data and platformisation are the two main drivers of value creation in the digital era, as the business model of digital platforms heavily relies on data. Massive levels of data collection, storage, processing and use, as well as data-driven network effects and consumer inertia, enable the platforms to capture a significant amount of data. However, in the absence of real competitors, dominant firms tend to offer less privacy protection than they otherwise would. Consumers are forced to either use a service with poor privacy safeguards or forego the service altogether.

Read more…


Assessing the role of digital platforms in data governance and ethics

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the global economy in a number of ways. In this regard, the e-commerce sector in particular has demonstrated a considerable level of growth. Online giants such as Amazon and Alibaba have seen an even greater upward trend compared to other companies, and they continue to thrive. But as this growth prevails, evaluating digital companies’ performance on data protection, cybersecurity, child online protection, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) ethics becomes a necessity. To do so, the Digital Inclusion Benchmark ranks their performances, help identify areas of improvement, and create a springboard for discussion involving companies, investors, regulators, and other stakeholders.

Read more…


Designing innovative data solutions for the global south

This session presented a set of capacity-building efforts and policy frameworks championned by the Datasphere Initiative, such as Datasphere Sandboxes and Datasphere Dialogues. These initiatives aim to help developing countries tackle some of the major challenges they are facing due to the exponential growth of data production and use, particularly on data governance, data sovereignty, data protection, and inclusion.

Read more…


Faster customs, faster trade – Digitizing cross-border trade procedures: learning from success stories

This session explored some of the successful digitally-enabled trade facilitation solutions adopted to expedite the movement of goods and support the economy, while coping with contingency measures in crisis situations. With digital trade being a priority on trade facilitation reform agendas worldwide, restrictions ensuing from the COVID-19 pandemic have now made contactless digital procedures an utmost necessity, hastening efforts to mainstream digital technologies in cross-border trade.

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Saudi Arabia: Infrastructure of e-commerce in Saudi Arabia

The session focused on the spread of online purchases from various e-commerce sites in Saudi Arabia. It was recalled that the country ranks 25th in the list of the largest e-commerce markets around the world, with revenues of $7 billion in 2020. Saudi Arabia is ahead of Thailand in the ranking and is just behind Belgium.

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Data flows and global trade regimes: Issues of inclusive development

At the centre of global digital trade regimes is the issue of cross-border data flows. While some countries see free data flows as a prerequisite for development and economic growth, others oppose unregulated global data flows pointing that it is resulting in near absolute concentration of data and digital power with a few digital corporations.

Read more…


How Can Women Digital Entrepreneurs Boost Inclusion? Peer learning dialogue across regions

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition to a digital economy which has led to positive economic growth in several countries. However, many women are yet to reap the fruits of digitalisation. Many research papers have emphasised that women’s participation can and will lead to massive social and economic growth with one study claiming an increase of USD280 billion in South East Asian economies (International Finance Corporation report). This session engaged on the issue of the gender digital divide and sustainable development. It discussed good practices and outlook toward partnership-building at a regional and global level, to help increase women’s participation in the digital economy.

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Marketplace activity in Africa and South America: what new data shows

In this session, experts on Africa and South America explored the meaning and relevance of marketplaces in the uptake of electronic commerce. Discussions sought to understand how the trends can be explained looking at differences between the two regions, and how this understanding can be used to better frame policy and business decisions. It coincided with the launch of the first Latin-America wide dataset on ecommerce marketplace activity, the “Marketplace Explorer”, providing an opportunity to compare its findings with results found in Africa.

Read more…


Building best in class digital trade corridors

Digital trade is at the core of establishing more inclusive and dynamic trade practices. The United Kingdom (UK) and Singapore have recently entered a Digital Economy Agreement (DEA) that presents a host of opportunities for both countries. But it also presents multilateral benefits and sets an international precedent as noted by this session’s panelists. They discussed the importance and implications of the DEA framework, the opportunities it entails for businesses, and its scalability for other regions in the world. Emerging markets in particular can use it as an important foundation for setting the path to modern trade corridors. Indeed, speakers agreed that DEAs are a key oppotunity for the future of achieving greater sustainability and inclusiveness in trade.

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Potential of e-commerce to lessen the gender digital divide

Lack of available data on women’s participation in e-commerce may lead to inconclusive and ineffective policies and strategies, which in turn may hinder their involvement and growth. Tackling this issue, this session built on the findings of the Gender Digital Divide Index (GDDI) prepared by WinDt Consulting and DAKA Advisory to explore policy recommendations which could promote greater inclusivity in e-commerce. Discussions focused on improving digital transformation for women, by equipping them with digital skills and literacy for their participation in the e-commerce economy.

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Exploring a global framework for data governance

UNCTAD’s Digital Economy Report, 2021 recognised the intransigent positions of the countries supporting the total prohibition of data localisation requirements whilst committing the unfettered free flow of data across borders. In contrast, many developing countries believe regulating the data economy may not be conducive to building the digital capabilities and enhancing their technological development. The report recommended that to address the contrasting views of technologically-developed nations and those catching up, it is important to develop a global framework for data governance. In this context, the experts in this session shared their views on what this governance framework may look like.

Read more…

The partnership will help improve women digital entrepreneurs’ skills and ease their access to global trade.

UNCTAD’s eTrade for Women initiative has joined forces with Deutsche Post DHL Group, a leading player in international logistics, to help women overcome some of the barriers to global digital trade.

According to a recent UNCTAD study, inadequate access to reliable and affordable trade logistics is among the top challenges many e-commerce businesses face in developing countries.

Such obstacles often affect more women business owners than their male counterparts as they also tend to have less access to knowledge, funding and support.

“This collaboration with DHL enables us to continue the public-private dialogue and build more inclusive digital economies,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, who leads UNCTAD’s technology and logistics division.

“Women have a key role to play in e-commerce, hence enhancing their participation will have a huge development impact,” Ms. Sirimanne added.

The partnership came ahead of UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week 2022, a global forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with e-commerce and the digital economy.

Targeted support to women in the developing world

As a pilot activity, two small business owners who are members of eTrade for Women communities entered the highly selective DHL GoTrade GBSN Fellowship Program on 5 April.

They are Sofia Chandi, who runs a floral business in Ecuador and Edith Tialeu, who sells African home decor items and accessories across Africa and Europe from Cameroon.

The 12-month programme will provide Ms. Chandi and Ms. Tialeu with training, mentoring as well as new business skills to improve the overall management of their businesses, including by offering them logistical support to reach new markets.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to connect people and improve lives,” said Steven Pope, head of GoTrade, Deutsche Post DHL Group.

“The partnership with UNCTAD will increase our impact by enabling women-owned businesses to get better access to the global marketplace and become agents of change for their communities.”

Joint efforts between eTrade for Women and Deutsche Post DHL Group are expected to expand the fellowship scheme to benefit more women digital entrepreneurs in developing countries in the coming years.

The eTrade for Women initiative is funded by the Netherlands and Sweden.

The COVID-19 pandemic has catalysed digital transformation and offered opportunities for developing and emerging economies. However, despite the rapid economic growth generated by robust technologies and digitalisation, inequalities remain in many countries, including women’s participation in the digital economy. Data show that reducing gender gap in the digital space will not only benefit women but also contribute to societies and economies. Thus, cooperation amongst stakeholders is pivotal to narrow the gender divide and provide women larger access and opportunities in the digital economy.

As part of the eCommerce Week organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and eTrade for All, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) co-organised How Can Women Digital Entrepreneurs Boost Inclusion? Peer-learning Dialogue Across Regions, a thematic session held on 28 April 2022 to discuss challenges, opportunities, and new approaches to forward-looking strategies on sustainability in the region. ERIA is a partner of eTrade for All. The session was part of a series of events highlighting the positive impact of promoting inclusive digital economies.

To highlight the importance of female entrepreneurship in the digital ecosystem to promote inclusivity, the session was participated in by leading women entrepreneurs from Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa and moderated by Dr Giulia Ajmone Marsan, ERIA’s director for strategy and partnership.

Opening the session was Ms Garcia-Quiles Viridiana, programme management officer of eTrade for Women at UNCTAD, who pointed out that women lag behind men in participation in the digital economy. She added that narrowing the gender divide in the digital economy is pivotal to boost inclusive economic development. She enumerated three key strategies to close this gap: boost digital skills for girls and women to engage in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) area; promote more women leaders to become role models for other women; and support inclusive digital businesses in providing women-led businesses with a platform to connect and grow as reflected in the eTrade for Women programme by UNCTAD.

Ms Aimi Ramlee, director of digital innovation and growth at Tyne Solutions and co-founder of the SoutheastAsiaWomen.org, discussed the digital economy ecosystem for women in Southeast Asia. She said that limitations of the digital ecosystem and infrastructure have become some of the main barriers over the years for some countries in Southeast Asia. She added, however, that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the push towards digitalisation and may provide more opportunities for women’s participation. With this positive development, she also noticed that more targeted government policies have been created in the region to serve a better digital ecosystem for leveraging women’s participation in the digital economy. Ms Ramlee also shared information on SoutheastAsiaWomen.org, an organisation that provides mentorship programme amongst women in the region.

Ms Birame Sock, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Kwely Inc, shared her experience building a start-up in Senegal, Africa. She conveyed the need to build a more conducive business ecosystem rather than focus on building digital infrastructure in Africa. She also cited the importance of access to digital resources, skills, and entrepreneurial mindsets to enable more involvement of women in the digital economy. She weighted the importance of women supporting women to break the gender bias and provide a more supportive working environment for women.

Ms Claudia Rosales, founder and CEO of Women Ework, shared her experience building her human resource company in Latin America, and its objective of creating a talent pool to support women in building back a better future as too many had lost their jobs during the pandemic. She underscored the importance of enhancing and empowering leadership skills for women through different activities including training, workshops, and dialogues. She also shared her experience as a member of UNCTAD’s eTradeforWomen programme,  which enabled her to better understand how women can overcome challenges, to take utmost advantage of what the digital economy ecosystem offers, to enhance her entrepreneurship skills, and to gain more networks and visibility in the digital world.

Ms Poornima Jayawardana, financial sector specialist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), stated that accelerating the progress of gender equality and promoting women’s economic empowerment have been some of ADB’s priorities towards 2030. She shared some ADB strategies to promote inclusivity, including promoting innovative technology, committing to support countries across Asia and the Pacific in developing and improving their regulatory frameworks, providing technical assistance and knowledge work in ensuring that women and girls are equitably benefitting from jobs and investment across Asia and the Pacific, as implemented, for instance, in the Eastern Indonesia Financial Innovation Lab, which helps women entrepreneurs access financial services. She mentioned ADB’s key lessons in promoting inclusive economic development in the post-recovery period, including the commitment to eradicate the gender gap, provide more opportunities for women in STEM and information communication technology, provide better digital literacy and infrastructure, and apply a social-norm approach to break stereotypes of women.

Is digital technology a source of emissions, or does it offer solutions to the climate change crisis? The answer is both.

Rapid digital transformation is having an impact on infrastructure sectors that produce significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as power and transport. Policymakers in developing countries have noticed and are trying to identify a suitable role for digital technology in the green agenda.

Digital innovation creates new possibilities for climate change mitigation and adaptation but expands the carbon footprint of the ICT sector.  According to the World Economic Forum, digital technology has the potential to cut GHG emissions by 15 percent. And since the remaining global carbon budget is limited, every reduction counts. So, how can countries effectively use digital for good? Korea’s experience offers valuable insights for countries looking to invest in sustainable digital transformation.  

Building a nexus between green and digital

Korea is a leader in the greening of the ICT sector. It was among the first adopters of a green policy initiative — in 2008, it announced its “Low Carbon, Green Growth” commitment under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This led to the 2050 Carbon Neutrality Act, which promotes economic growth, carbon neutrality, and improved quality of life.

 

chart

Korea’s key green policy milestones

The Korean government takes a whole-of-government approach to the issue. The Presidential Committee on Carbon Neutrality, which manages the country’s efforts to achieve net-zero emissions, involves all 18 ministries. The Ministry of Science and Technology (MSIT), for example, plays a critical role in linking technology innovation and the concept of zero-carbon. Its strategy identifies ten core technologies to achieve carbon neutralization by 2050. One of them, digitalization, focuses on data center power consumption and the application of management systems.

There is also an urgent need to green the ICT sector itself. The rapid digital transformation increasingly generates more demand for networks, data centers, computing power, and data-enabled analytics and applications . The manufacture of devices, telecom networks, and data centers contribute the most to GHG emissions.

ICT sector carbon footprint development 2015–2020 including electricity supply chain and grid losses
ICT sector carbon footprint development 2015–2020 (including electricity supply chain and grid losses) Source: Graph extracted from ITU (2020)

Korea plans to introduce green data centers to reduce its power consumption by over 20 percent by 2030. It also intends to apply AI-based nested generation operation and management systems by 2040 , emphasizing efficient management and high-tech monitoring of energy consumption. A data center in Chuncheon, for example, reuses waste heat, generates photovoltaic and solar thermal power, and uses a natural cooling system to increase energy efficiency. This approach increases the use of renewable energy and reduces long-term operating costs.

A World Bank report, Greening Digital in Korea: Korea Case Study for Greening the ICT Sector, explores the country’s pathway to digital sustainability and offers meaningful lessons to other nations working to reduce the ICT sector’s climate impact.

Digital as an enabler for climate action

Electricity and energy demand are expected to grow, leading policymakers to look for ways to manage energy resources more efficiently. However, operators find it challenging to forecast usage with traditional energy distribution systems. The frequent failure of grid operations can lead to excessive energy use.

Korea is increasingly harnessing digital technologies to manage distributed energy sources in real-time collectively. This system reduced the monitoring and maintenance cost and enhanced overall energy use management. Recently, MSIT applied digital twin technologies to build energy-efficient infrastructures. A digital twin, a virtual representation that serves as a real-time digital reflection of a physical objection, can help better manage the operations and optimize energy use.

Enabling policy environment to accelerate climate action

Digital transformation is a double-edged sword — it increases energy consumption and can liberate green innovation for climate action. Korea offers valuable policy practices to developing countries  in their journey towards a carbon-neutral future. For example:

  • Leadership and early government commitment: Korea is committed to long-term and comprehensive policies, research and development, and significant climate funding allocations. A clear goal and a timeframe for guiding policies and strategies are critical.
  • Adopting a cross-ministerial approach for strategy development and implementation: All 18 ministries and local governments focus on leveraging digital for advancing the green agenda. A whole-of-government approach is making it a national priority.
  •  Enabling private sector participation: Korea provided a clear incentive structure for industry leaders (such as SK Telecom, KT, NAVER, Samsung Electronics, KAKAO, and LG Electronics) to share best practices and contribute to climate action through technology innovation.
  •  Increasing public awareness and managing the culture change: Social agreements and education for a sustainable future are also essential. In Korea, 89.2 percent of the population confirmed that they feel the effects of climate change, and 88.5 percent are willing to accept the inconvenience of policies introduced to address the issue.

Korea’s example is worth studying for any country looking to reduce emissions in the ICT sector while also looking to technology to address climate change.  Learn more from the Green and Digital: Accelerating Climate Action — Learning from the Korean Journey webinar.

The World Bank today approved $200 million to help the Government of Ghana increase access to broadband, enhance the efficiency and quality of selected digital public services, and strengthen the digital innovation ecosystem in Ghana to help create better jobs and economic opportunities.

Digital is one of Ghana’s best-performing sectors and grew on average by 19 percent per year between 2014 and 2020. Today, Ghana is among the digital leaders in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Digital Economy diagnostic conducted in 2020 identified key bottlenecks that needs to be removed to further accelerate Ghana’s digital transformation. Building on previous investments, particularly through the ongoing World Bank-supported e-Transform Ghana project, this newly approved Ghana Digital Acceleration Project is supporting a regulatory shift to create an enabling environment for digital inclusion and innovation; streamline governance and delivery of public services; and facilitate smallholder engagement in data-driven digital agriculture.

“Expanding digital access and adoption, enhancing digital public service delivery, and promoting digitally enabled innovation are essential for Ghana’s digital transformation, which will help drive a robust post-COVID-19 recovery,” said Pierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. “The Ghana Digital Acceleration Project covers all these elements and will help advance the whole-of-government digital transformation agenda to accelerate adoption of digital technologies and innovation by key productive sectors, such as agriculture, to foster an economy-wide digital transformation.”

The project will help strengthen the local digital entrepreneurship ecosystem and improve the survival and growth rate of digital technology-enabled startups. This goal will be achieved through supporting more effective innovation ecosystem coordination, better service provision by Entrepreneur Support Organizations, expansion of access to early-stage financing, and promotion of advanced digital innovation skills.

The Ghana Digital Acceleration Project is expected to increase access to mobile internet and broadband services of 6 million people by encouraging private sector investment in last-mile connectivity in underserved rural areas. It will also promote digital inclusion for women, persons with disabilities and rural communities through regulatory updates and investments among others. This will help to remove barriers to broadband and digital service access for Ghana’s lowest-income people and to close the regional digital gap.

“Public sector digitization under this operation will continue the e-Transform project’s digital public service delivery ongoing efforts, to help generate significant economic and development benefits for people, businesses and the government, such as increased efficiency gains and time savings for the society and the economy,” said Maria Claudia PachonSenior Digital Development Specialist of the World Bank and Task Leader of the project. “The digitization of government services will also result in significant cost savings due to decreased travel and processing time to obtain services, as well as transaction costs such as manual entry errors, fraud, and corruption.”2016Cnuced.

Day 3 : April 27th, 2022
UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week is the leading forum to discuss the development opportunities and challenges associated with the digital economy. This week’s edition, held under the theme “Data and Digitalization for Development”, puts a special emphasis on data and cross-border data flows, as well as the crucial role they play in economic and social development. With this bulletin, CUTS is keeping you posted on the proceedings.

#UNCTADeWeek


From eTrade Readiness Assessments to implemented recommendations

With the COVID-19 pandemic prompting more businesses and consumers to go online via e-commerce, it has become critical to consider the need to improve national digital readiness. Countries all over the world are strengthening national capacities in order to reap the benefits of increased e-commerce opportunities. However, many developing countries, particularly LDCs, are struggling to address existing e-commerce bottlenecks. In 2017, UNCTAD launched its eTrade Readiness Assessments Implementation Review to address the need for effective national digital economy adoption. This etrade readiness review serves as a working document that assists countries in developing effective national and regional strategies.

Read more…


Japan: Cooperation on digital fields of Japan and India

The session focused on the contribution made by the government of Japan to enhance the supply chain globally, especially in the Indo-Pacific region. It also highlighted the practices adopted by the government of Japan including incentive programs to promote data visualisation and utilisation, as well as creating business platforms to facilitate synergies between Japanese companies and startups with innovative technologies abroad across the ASEAN, India, Israel, Europe and the USA.

Read more…


Whether ‘data localisation’ and ‘national champion’ approach would lead to an inclusive digital economy?

Propagation of the digital economy is believed to be accelerating economic inequality within and across countries, with those who control the digital ecosystem cornering most gains. One of the emerging responses to this situation is the creation of ‘national champions’ by adhering to the ‘data localisation’ policy. This can lead to balkanisation of the internet due to restrictions in the cross-border data flow. While the liberal regulatory approach seems to be failing in yielding just economic outcomes, the protectionist approach could damage cross-border e-trade, innovation, and competitiveness. This session discussed the impacts of leveraging ‘data localisation’ policies to create globally competitive national champions. It particularly explored the implications on domestic market competition and consumers, as well as on cross-border e-commerce ecosystems.

Read more…


Enhancing market connection for women in the agriculture sector through digital traceability systems

The pandemic-induced lockdowns had demonstrated the importance of using digital channels to reach new markets and stay connected with existing customers. Moreover, as consumers increasingly lose trust in food value chains, buyers are under pressure to increase traceability and provide full transparency to consumers on where their goods are sourced. The use of digital traceability systems, including blockchain technology, offers greater transparency in the supply chain and increased visibility for women-owned small holder farmers to international buyers. This session focused on the digitalisation of supply chains and how technology solutions could contribute to a more inclusive, fairer, and transparent trade in the coffee sector.

Read more…


From data to AI: Digital transformation competency framework for the public sector

In this session, experts from international body, UNESCO and civil society organisations which work in the field of capacity building for digital governance discussed the different components of utilising technology and data for public good. Panelists discussed the risks and opportunities associated with the use of digital technologies in capacity building, also reviewing various initiatives that are being taken to strengthen the public sector on digital governance.

Read more…


Data and digitalization for the logistics of e-commerce

The linkages between e-commerce and logistics have come to the forefront of public debate during the current supply chain crisis. Confronted with lock-downs and travel restrictions resulting from the COVID19 pandemic, e-commerce has surged by about 25% in 2020, leading to additional demands for shipping, port and intermodal transport services. The mismatch between surging demand and slowed-down logistics operations have led to historically high air and maritime freight rates, a surge in greenhouse gas emissions from international freight transport, as well as delays, congestion and schedule-unreliability. UNCTAD’s Review of Maritime Transport 2021 estimates that the high freight rates lead to an additional surge in consumer price inflation by 1.5 percentage points globally, and 7.5 percentage points in Small Island Developing States. This session discussed the importance of data and digitalisation solutions to further improve logistics operations for e-commerce.

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 Trust in cross-border e-commerce: The case for consumer product safety

The session focused on how the enhancement of the exchange of data and information among governments, business and consumers can benefit growth and trust in digital markets, as well as being a tool to foster development for communities around the world. Discussions also highlighted the current policy framework in pursuit of a common agenda to enhance consumer information and data sharing on product safety in online markets, as a way to help digital markets to be more trustful, transparent and fair.

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Digitizing global trade documentation: Making legislative frameworks inclusive, transparent, and efficient

The share of digital trade has accelerated during the pandemic, and with it the pressure to handle cross-border transactions in a timely and cost-effective manner. The digitisation of trade through compatible and inclusive legal frameworks is key to pandemic recovery. This session discussed the benefits of compatible legal frameworks for digital trade in goods and services from different perspectives, including developing countries, MSMEs, and female entrepreneurs. It also provided recommendations on the adoption and implementation of compatible electronic transaction frameworks, with the aim to improve inclusivity, transparency and efficiency in the global trading system.

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TradeTech: How frontier technologies will transform global trade and development

This session focused on global data transmission, its impact on FDI, and opportunities and challenges for developing countries. New digital technologies are rapidly changing society, from artificial intelligence to the internet of things, digital currencies and tokenization. It is important to look at their implications for trade and development. Leveraging TradeTech requires more than just technological innovations. The right ecosystem is necessary to drive global adoption and scalability, especially for developing countries.

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The domino effect: Boosting development through more inclusive digital entrepreneurship

Digitization is a key link between trade and the economic empowerment of marginalised groups like women, who are two times more likely to start and run an online business than the alternative. With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the world’s shift towards e-commerce, ensuring the inclusivity of this transition has become even more relevant. This session featured speakers who highlighted positive steps and remaining frontiers for both the private and public sectors, towards growing and supporting digital business, especially for women.

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Implementing digital transport and trade – Enabling the e-commerce driven economy in COVID-19 times and beyond

This session explored how digital transport policies, regulations and infrastructure can be effectively developed to facilitate trade, towards fast economic recovery from the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic and the imposition of restrictive measures to curb its spread implied a rapid and lasting uptake of e-commerce. This has increased demand for delivery of products purchased online, leading stakeholders to re-examine their approaches to digital transport and trade to optimise their participation in global supply chains.

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Data regulation: Implications for the digitization of the economy and development

This session focused on the implications of management and governance of data, how developing countries should approach it and how to go about developing frameworks around data governance that will promote equity, support the development objectives of developing countries and determine the best institutional frameworks.

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Digital and data policies and practices to enable MSME ecommerce, regional digital integration, and FDI in developing countries

This session discussed the role of digital trade and cross-border data transfer policies in developing countries. It also explored how national and regional digital integration and data transfer frameworks can unleash cross-border e-commerce for MSMEs, as well as help attract foreign investment in developing countries’ digital ecosystems.

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Competition and data protection issues are increasingly intersecting in a data-driven world. Efforts to address antitrust and privacy concerns should go hand in hand, experts say at UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week.

A small number of companies such as Google, Amazon, Meta, Apple and Microsoft dominate global digital markets. Their business models heavily rely on massive data collection, storage and processing to achieve market power.

This can undermine “competition on the merits” and potentially shut out smaller rivals, as the dominant platforms use the granular data they collect – such as search histories, social networks, contacts and prior purchases – to tailor and micro-target advertisements to specific consumer segments.

At UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week 2022, a high-level session on April 28 brought together governments, regulators and economists to discuss how to tackle data-driven market dominance of digital platforms while ensuring better consumer protection.

Crossroads of competition and data protection

“The rapid growth of digital platforms entails new challenges in terms of regulating data use and developing data-based economies, specifically in the proper management and treatment of data, respect for users’ privacy, and enhancing competition between digital platforms,” said Carmen Ligia Valderrama Rojas, Colombia’s minister of information and communication technologies.

But the current competition regime remains inadequate or insufficient in handling competition issues in digital markets.

“The current regulatory landscape is patchy, reflecting starkly different approaches adopted by different countries, with strong influences from the major economic powers,” according to the  UNCTAD 2021 Digital Economy Report.

“An international framework is urgently needed to address this situation.”

Breaking down silos

“Competition law has tools to address competition issues in the digital markets, but it can be bolstered when combined with data protection legislation,” said Guilherme Mendes Resende, chief economist at Brazil’s administrative council for economic defense.

Experts at the meeting urged better cooperation between authorities looking at competition and their counterparts overseeing data protection.

“Competition agencies must understand and address how their failure to address market power has enabled violations of data protection at scale, and in turn how failure to enforce data protection rules has supported and sustained massive market power,” said Dr. Cristina Caffarra, a competition economist and senior consultant at Charles River Associates.

“It is time to end the siloing of competition and privacy. Privacy experts need a seat at the antitrust table,” Dr. Caffarra added.

Striking a balance

Data protection and competition objectives are sometimes in tension.

One example is in voluntary privacy-enhancing measures taken by digital platforms such as Apple and Google.

As the measures by the digital platforms limit access to consumer data by third parties, they have also been criticized for distorting competition.

That points to the importance of striking a delicate balance between competition and data protection.

“The boundary between competition law and data protection regulation is getting blurred,” said Payal Malik, who heads the economics division at India’s competition commission.

“We cannot draw a line in the sand and these two instruments should be seen as a regulatory collective.”

The intersection between competition and data protection regimes is an emerging issue without globally established precedent, said Teresa Moreira, head of competition and consumer policies at UNCTAD.

She pointed out that the challenges raised should be discussed at the international level, considering the different legal frameworks and law enforcement practices by authorities across the world.

“Increased national, regional and global cooperation between competition and data protection authorities is crucial in this area,” Ms. Moreira said.

Proactive regulatory intervention

Data-driven market concentration is self-reinforcing and there is a need for well-designed, proactive regulation.

Such intervention helps preserve the privacy of consumers and puts them in control of their data, which in turn promotes rigorous competition.

In March 2022, the European Union reached a general agreement on the Digital Markets Act.

The agreement seeks to complement competition intervention in digital markets with so-called ex-ante regulation, which aims to prevent competition problems ahead of time rather than relying on enforcement afterwards.

“In the European Union, we empower people to make choices about their data and require organizations to handle this data responsibly,” said European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders.

Mona Ataya, a Palestinian-Lebanese entrepreneur who runs the largest online marketplace for women in the region, is one of UNCTAD’s six eTrade for Women advocates.

When COVID-19 struck, many people found themselves shopping online for the first time in the Middle East, a region where e-commerce was weak, according to an UNCTAD index.

But thanks to Mumzworld, a Dubai-based online marketplace, over 300,000 products for babies, children and mothers were at their fingertips.

Mona Ataya, a founding partner and CEO of the marketplace, was ahead of the curve when she set up the company in 2011.

As a working mother raising three children, she experienced first-hand a market gap. “Access to products for mothers was limited, prices were very high.”.

Ms. Ataya became motivated to empower mothers through e-commerce, giving them access to the best products at the best prices – and the support they needed.

“We believed that if we were able to create an e-commerce ecosystem around us, we would be able to help solve these very important needs and fill the gaps in the market,” she told a special session of UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week 2022, running from 25 to 29 April in Geneva and online.

As an eTrade for Women advocate for the organization, she’s now on a mission to empower women entrepreneurs in the region by inspiring them to take the digital leap.

Trust and loyalty

By helping solve the challenges mothers faced in the region, Ms. Ataya has built a business that reaches 2.5 million homes and employs over 350 people.

It has become one of the go-to marketplaces for global brands wanting to reach Middle Eastern consumers.

But she had to overcome many challenges on her road to success, including building trust and loyalty among sceptical suppliers and customers.

“Suppliers didn’t believe in e-commerce,” she said. “They believed baby products needed to be touched and felt.”

Mumzworld also had to build customers’ trust in online payments and in buying a product they were looking at on a screen instead of in a store, Ms. Ataya said.

“A mother will not buy her baby products from you unless she trusts and loves you.”

She says she won them over by providing an online experience that gives choice, transparency and immediacy.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, her online store can also personalize the services and products it offers each customer.

“The consumer of today needs to be able to get what she wants, when she wants it and needs to be confident that she got the absolute best choice.”

More women needed in e-commerce

Despite having faced challenges, Ms. Ataya encourages younger women to follower her path.

“It’s not an easy route, but it’s not an impossible route,” she said.

“The digitalization of the global economy is key to the way the world is moving,” she said. “Women remain very underserved, and we need to bring more of them on board.”

She said her new role with UNCTAD allows her to share her knowledge, skills and successes with more women in the region and beyond.

“When you see women doing things that are big, that are successful, that are inspiring, you summon the courage to do the same thing.”

Mumzworld, she says, is proof that women can succeed in e-commerce if they have a strong vision, build a team that shares it and satisfy an unfilled need for customers.

“Whatever you do, ensure that it’s creating value. Don’t do things for just the commercial gains.”

UNCTAD’s eTrade for Women initiative is supported by the governments of Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.

Day 2 : April 26th, 2022
UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week is the leading forum to discuss the development opportunities and challenges associated with the digital economy. This week’s edition, held under the theme “Data and Digitalization for Development”, puts a special emphasis on data and cross-border data flows, as well as the crucial role they play in economic and social development. With this bulletin, CUTS is keeping you posted on the proceedings.

#UNCTADeWeek


Promoting inclusive data policy through capacity building

This session organised by DiploFoundation, the International Trade Centre and CUTS International, Geneva reflected on ways to build the capacities of developing country players in policy discussions on data flows. The three organisations have been partnering for several years on delivering a digital commerce online course to geneva delegates and capital-based policymakers.

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Financing the new digital frontier

The session focused on the role and importance of fintech, which has provided a new wave of financial solutions supported by smart technologies. It also highlighted the rise of blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which can facilitate democratised finance, deliver customer-centric offerings, bank the unbanked and give them access to the digital world, thereby enabling more people to take part in the digital economy in the near future. Subsequently, these can also lead to catalysing social change and supporting an innovative entrepreneurship ecosystem.

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Strengthening individuals worldwide in protecting their data

The session aimed to understand the current state of data protection in different parts of the world, and discuss the role of both individuals and institutions in protecting people’s data. Large digital firms are increasingly thirsty for data, and some voices are advocating for greater digital self-determination of individuals and tackling the data supremacy of large firms.

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ECOWAS E-commerce Regional Assessment

This session presented the Regional ECOWAS eTrade Readiness Assessment, in the context of the preparation of the E-Commerce Strategy by the ECOWAS Commission with the support of UNCTAD. This regional assessment served as a diagnosis – the first step of the forthcoming strategy that aims at supporting the region’s efforts to use technology to accelerate structural change and development, and foster regional integration, including through economic diversification, job creation, and more inclusive trade activities.

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Unlocking the value of data for all through the Datasphere Initiative

The Datasphere Initiative is a global network of stakeholders fostering a holistic and innovative approach to data governance to build agile frameworks to responsibly unlock the value of data for all. The session discussed how governing the Datasphere will determine the future of human society in the 21st century and why technical, policy, and institutional innovations are needed to unlock the value of data for all.

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Cross-border e-payments as a facilitator of digital trade in Africa

This session discussed recent initiatives that introduced effective and user-friendly systems of cross-border payments, and explored issues surrounding data in the payment environment in Africa. It highlighted initiatives such as The Smart Africa Alliance’s e-Payment Blueprint and the Afreximbank’s new Pan-African Payment System (PAPSS), which are designed to solve major payment barriers to intra-African trade. Challenges and ways to drive forward cross-border e-payments for the facilitation of digital trade across Africa were also discussed.

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There’s no app for that! — What it takes to leverage the promise of data for MSMEs and cooperatives in the digital economy

This session explored what kind of institutional support MSMEs and cooperatives in the global South require to effectively participate in the platform economy. It also discussed possible features of data governance frameworks which could help small businesses and cooperatives take advantage of data-related opportunities. Discussions built on empirical experiences from India, Kenya and other developing countries of what it takes for MSMEs, social enterprises and cooperatives to embrace the promise of data and digitalisation.

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Powering an inclusive digital economy: The critical role of development cooperation

This high-level session discussed the importance of development cooperation in facilitating an inclusive digital transition in developing countries, along with potential solutions to current challenges facing stakeholders in this transformation. Ensuring that digital transformations contribute to more inclusive outcomes requires that national efforts in developing countries are effectively supported by the international community. Building the capacity of low- and middle-income countries to participate in and shape the digital economy will require smart solutions based on partnerships and transparency, while avoiding duplication of efforts.

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Boosting participation of women in the digital economy of developing and LDCs

This session focused on the importance of digitalisation for women’s economic empowerment in LDCs. Digitalisation offers a variety of opportunities for female empowerment and for a more equal participation of women in markets and entrepreneurship. Yet, women face numerous challenges and inequalities. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many entrepreneurs to move their businesses online, which has been particularly challenging for women entrepreneurs in LDCs and developing countries.

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Understanding the development impact of digital services trade

As one of the fastest-growing areas of trade, digital services trade holds great potential to open new markets and improve productivity, along with other economic benefits. This session presented key findings from a recent German-funded study on digital services trade in developing countries. Panellists evaluated the impact of digital services trade on sustainable development, and identified potential areas for improvement and growth. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in this sector were also discussed.

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Democratizing digital intelligence: Maximizing the value of data for businesses in emerging markets

To compete in today’s data driven economy, it is important for businesses to understand how to harness the power of data to improve their operations and innovate further. However, in emerging markets, there are certain barriers for businesses such as limited skillset to understand and analyze the data, limited resources to acquire tools and limited access to datasets. If this issue is not addressed, it will widen the global gaps of productivity and profitability between companies and local ecosystems. While the adoption of technology and harnessing the value data is essential, it is also important to consciously consider the risks of privacy, cyber threat and surveillance. In this context, this session discussed the ways in which civil societies, business associations and policy makers can support businesses to harness the use of data for their operations and how can the safeguards be developed to mitigate risks.

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ITC provides technical support to Uzbekistan’s national e-commerce strategy, highlighting the country’s digital development as driver of economic growth.

Uzbekistan is currently finalizing its national e-commerce strategy. Under its EU-funded ‘Ready4Trade Central Asia’ project, the International Trade Centre has offered the country technical support in designing the strategy.

Since last year, ITC has worked closely with Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade and Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications, as well as the country’s E-commerce association in turning the design process into reality, producing a draft document ready for the Government’s endorsement. The process of finding practical solutions to developing e-commerce included multiple consultations with public and private stakeholders.

The Central Asian nation recognizes more and more that e-commerce can be a solid catalyst for trade and economic growth, particularly for developing economies and economies in transition. The relative ease in which businesses – from start-ups to small businesses – can benefit from an online presence, is accelerating the growing trend in “going digital”.

The digital pathway

The development of the digital economy is defined as the main “driver” of economic growth with an increase in its share by at least 2.5 times, as stated in the New Uzbekistan’s Development Strategy for 2022-2026 Decree, signed 1 February 2022.

With a population of around 35 million people, the largest within the Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan offers a significant domestic market for e-commerce firms. This is important because most Uzbek e-commerce companies will first target the domestic space before branching out to cross-border e-commerce.

Those that have the capacity to target new markets are already trading successfully through renowned online platforms such as Etsy, eBay, Amazon, and others.

A recent statement by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, H.E. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, at the Opening Ceremony of the First Tashkent International Investment Forum, held 22-24 March 2022, indicated Uzbekistan’s intention to reach new export markets.

In view of the path towards digital transformation, wide-scale reforms in the fields of IT and e-commerce are currently underway in the country.

Finetuning Uzbekistan’s national e-commerce strategy

Several developments are shaping the national e-commerce strategy in Uzbekistan.

Among these is the formation of the National E-Commerce Strategy working group in July 2021. The working group consists of public-private players and development partners, who identify important activities for the e-commerce strategy action plan. Once endorsed by the government, implementation of the strategy will officially commence.

A new version of the e-commerce law was adopted by the Legislative Chamber in the first reading in March 2022. Other developments include creating digital payment solutions, courier companies, and logistics systems.

The Center for Digital Transformation was recently assigned by the Presidential Decree as the organ that will oversee the development of e-commerce.

These developments coincide with online giants such as Amazon and Alibaba’s expression of intention to launch operations in the Uzbek market. Amazon recently added Central Asian states to the list of countries permitted to register and sell their goods on its platform.

Meanwhile, a cooperation agreement with China’s largest e-commerce player, Alibaba Group, intends to provide Uzbek entrepreneurs with unique access to the electronic B2B system and a separate e-commerce section, thus providing them with an opportunity to use the online marketplace.  

About the project

With the project ‘Ready4Trade Central Asia’, the European Union and the International Trade Centre are joining forces to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade in the region. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and business support organizations. The project operates in five countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

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