News

e-Residency

When starting a business related to e-commerce, many e-resident entrepreneurs stumble upon a decision — that is, whether to start selling goods on Amazon or do it through their own online store.The previously published article explored the advantages of Amazon trading.

In this blog post, we introduce a more in-depth analysis of the benefits of using Amazon. We’ll also cover the step-by-step process of how your Estonian company can become an Amazon seller.

Trading through your own online store is appropriate if your brand, product, or company is already well-known in the market. However, if you are introducing a new company or product to the market, then in order to test the demand, trading on Amazon is a much easier and cheaper option to start. Later, if it goes successfully, you will have all the reason and resources to invest in your own website.

In this case, potential buyers do not have to search for your company using a search engine or even through trading platforms. When searching for a product, they will find your listing on the most popular marketplace in the world with ready-made customer traffic. Amazon attracts over 180 million monthly visitors and offers over 500 million products.

Hence, the main advantage of becoming an Amazon Seller is a multi-million dollar customer base willing and able to buy products across various categories. This can translate into much higher conversion rates and, therefore, more sales while maintaining low startup costs (compared to starting and advertising your own online store).

5 steps to become an Amazon seller as an e-resident entrepreneur

STEP 1. Register Your Company in Estonia

e-Residency allows you to register a company in Estonia remotely (without visiting Estonia). Estonia has arguably the most favourable conditions for trading on Amazon in Europe. This is due to Estonia’s seamless digital solutions, low bureaucracy, and low-cost, remote business management tools.

Company in Estonia OÜ offers full legal support for e-residents who want to start trading on Amazon. We will be happy to offer you some necessary tools for launching an Estonian company, including a legal address in Tallinncontact person services, and support with company registration.

STEP 2. Open a Corporate Account with Payment Service Provider (PSP)

An IBAN account from a PSP enables Sellers withdraw money from their Amazon account, store funds in multiple currencies, and receive a credit card that can be used to pay for Amazon services. PSPs are suitable for the following platforms:

  • Amazon.co.uk (UK)
  • Amazon.de (Germany)
  • Amazon.fr (France)
  • Amazon.it (Italy)
  • Amazon.nl (Netherlands)
  • Amazon.es (Spain)
  • Amazon.com.tr (Turkey)
  • Amazon.se (Sweden)

After establishing a company in Estonia, the specialists of the Company in Estonia OÜ can provide you with a list of PSPs suitable for joining Amazon.

STEP 3. Register a VAT Number

It is difficult for Sellers wishing to trade on Amazon to register as a VAT payer in Europe without having a company in the EU. It is essential to register as a VAT payer both in the country of trade and in the country of business registration (Estonia).

Company in Estonia OÜ can help you obtain a VAT number in Estonia, the UK, or Germany within 2–4 weeks.

STEP 4. Create Your Amazon Seller Account

Once you have a company and a corporate account, you can proceed to creating an FBA Seller Account. It usually takes a short time to sign up, as the procedure involves only a few steps. It’s important to note that it is required to link a credit card to withdraw funds received from sale of goods on Amazon.

STEP 5. Set Up Accounting Services

Amazon companies need to maintain regular accounting records to avoid fines, financial problems, and blocking of funds on their Amazon accounts.
Company in Estonia OÜ offers specialised accounting services for companies trading on Amazon at a fixed monthly cost.

We will take care of all of the above-mentioned steps. Our freshly-introduced complete package for trading on Amazon Europe includes the following:

  • registration of an Estonian company
  • obtaining a VAT number in the UK, Germany or another country
  • creating an Amazon Business Account
  • opening a corporate account to receive payments from Amazon
  • specialised accounting services (both in Estonia and in the country of trade).

If necessary, we can help select a logistics company to deliver goods to Amazon warehouses and consult Amazon Sellers based on our 5+ years of trading experience.

Company in Estonia OÜ is a team of specialists who will help you set up a company for trading on Amazon Europe.

But don’t just take our word for it — let our numbers convince you!

  • We process about 50+ new requests every day in 5 languages.
  • 100+ regular client-companies are set for permanent accounting.
  • We offer flexible opening hours and guarantee a prompt quote from a company representative within 60 minutes.
UNCDF

Building on the ongoing collaboration with UNCDF in implementing the “Leaving No One Behind in the Digital Era” strategy, Airtel Uganda Limited is building a new model of partnership with two financial technology firms to empower rural customers to access and use digital services.

Airtel Uganda Limited is a subsidiary of Airtel Africa PLC, a provider offering mobile funds transfer and banking services in Uganda. For this new partnership model, Airtel and UNCDF are working with Ensibuuko Uganda Limited and MobiPay AgroSys Limited.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed by the three parties on 3rd March 2021 and witnessed by UNCDF, builds on the strides made by Airtel to develop digital products, and deepen coverage toward increasing access to mobile and financial services in rural areas of Uganda.

Penetration of Digital Financial Services into rural Uganda is often challenged by limited digital and financial infrastructure coverage, inadequate access to phones and the lack of relevant product offerings for women, youth, refugees and other vulnerable segments. The partnership builds on the ongoing collaboration between UNCDF and Airtel Uganda to bridge the digital finance divide in often hard-to-reach areas with a focus on Northern Uganda.

The aim is to realize growth in mobile money users and ecosystem support via mobile money agent networks and merchant payment points. Building on the network infrastructure for GSM, providing value-creating mobile financial services is both a revenue generator through mobile money transactions but also a customer retention tool with increased active usage.

Ensibuuko and MobiPay AgroSys have also been partnering with UNCDF to empower Ugandans to use digital services that leverage innovation and technology, thus contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ensibuuko seeks to address the challenges around financial inclusion in Africa through helping the last mile banking institutions go paperless. Ensibuuko’s proprietary microfinance solutions help microfinance organizations to automate their data, processes, and payments, boosting their efficiency in delivering financial services in their communities.

MobiPay works to improve people’s lives through agriculture, commerce, and trade. It offers a cloud-based technology designed to create visibility for farmers and linkages between small-scale farmers and other value chain players. The MOU is timely in leveraging the last-mile delivery network of Digital Community Entrepreneurs (DCEs) in addition to the digitization of Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs).

Through this partnership, Airtel can access this network of entrepreneurs in a mutually beneficial way whereby the DCEs realize new income opportunities from selling and promoting Airtel products while filling an access need for rural customers. The Agri-tech solutions being rolled out to digitize farmer group activities is yet another opportunity to embed Airtel’s mobile and financial services for a more holistic suite of services that smallholder farmers will be able to harness.

Through this cooperation framework, more service points are available in remote rural areas, hence increasing teledensity, quality of service and growth in consumption of mobile financial services.

Ultimately, this partnership aims to onboard 300 new Airtel money agents, 400 Airtel Pay merchants, 500,000 active Airtel money customers, and 1 million newly registered Airtel money customers in Northern Uganda.

WBG

Our digital footprint generates enormous value, but too much of it ends up in Big Tech silos

Humanity has never been so comprehensively recorded. Smartwatches capture our pulse in real time for a distant artificial intelligence (AI) to ponder the risks of heart disease. Bluetooth and GPS keep track of whether some of us shop at gourmet stores and linger in the candy aisle. Our likes and browsing hours on social media are harvested to predict our credit risk. Our search queries on shopping platforms are run through natural language processors to generate uniquely targeted ads whose unseen tethers subtly remold our tastes and habits.

The generation and collection of data on individual human beings has become a big part of the modern economy. And it generates enormous value. Big data and AI analytics are used in productivity-enhancing research and development. They can strengthen financial inclusion. During the pandemic, data on real-time movements of entire populations have informed policymakers about the impact of lockdowns. Contact tracing apps have notified individuals who have been in potentially dangerous proximity to people infected with COVID-19.

But just as data have helped us monitor, adapt, and respond to COVID-19, the pandemic has brought into focus two fundamental problems with how it flows in the global economy (Carrière-Swallow and Haksar 2019). First, the data economy is opaque and doesn’t always respect individual privacy. Second, data are kept in private silos, reducing its value as a public good to society.

 

Whose data anyway?

 

Once the GPS, microphones, and accelerometers in the smart devices located in every pocket and on every bedside table and kitchen counter begin monitoring our behavior and environment, where do the data go? In most countries, they are collected, processed, and resold by whoever can obtain them. User consent is all too often granted by checking a box below lengthy legalistic fine print—hardly a means to serious informed consent. Analysis based on such granular data is a gateway to influencing behavior and has tremendous commercial value. To be sure, this is not a one-way street: consumers get many nice data-driven features for no direct financial cost in exchange. But are they getting enough?

Most transactions involving personal data are unbeknownst to users, who likely aren’t even aware that they have taken place, let alone that they have given permission. This gives rise to what is known in economics as an externality: the cost of privacy loss is not fully considered when an exchange of data is undertaken. The consequence is that the market’s opacity probably leads to too much data being collected, with too little of the value being shared with individuals.

By agreeing to install a weather application and allowing it to automatically detect its current city, people might unwittingly allow an app designer to continuously track their precise location. Users who sign up for a weather forecast with a sleek interface agree to share their location data, believing it’s just to enable the app’s full functionality. What they are providing, in fact, is a data trail about their daily routine, travel itinerary, and social activity. The weather forecaster may never get any better at predicting rain but could end up with a better prediction of the user’s creditworthiness than the scores compiled by traditional credit bureaus (Berg and others 2020).

 

Privacy paradoxes

 

Do we care about our privacy or not? Researchers have documented what is known as a “privacy paradox.” When asked to value their privacy in surveys, people frequently rank it as a very high priority. However, in their daily lives, these same people are often willing to give away highly sensitive personal data for little in exchange.

Why are people willing to hand over their location data in exchange for a weather forecast, but not to share it to protect their health?

This paradox should have heralded good news for contact tracing apps, which rely on widespread usage to be effective (Cantú and others 2020). Unfortunately, in many countries where use of these tools is voluntary, take-up has been very low. Why are people willing to hand over their location data in exchange for a weather forecast, but not to share it to protect their health while helping fight a global pandemic that has killed over 2 million people? One reason may be that—unlike the weather app makers—public health agencies have designed their contact tracing apps to transparently announce how they will be collecting and using data, and this triggers concerns about privacy. Another reason is that authorizing governments to combine location information with data on a disease diagnosis may be seen as particularly sensitive. After all, knowledge of someone’s preexisting condition could lead to their exclusion from insurance markets in the future or open the door to other forms of stigma or discrimination.

 

How to use responsibly

 

The data generated by our smart devices are essentially a private good held by Big Tech companies that dominate social media, online sales, and search tools. Given how valuable these data are, it is not surprising that companies tend to keep them to themselves (Jones and Tonetti 2020). As more data beget better analysis, which in turn attracts more usage, more data, and more profits, these swollen data war chests fortify their platform networks and potentially stifle competition.

This finders keepers model tends to lead to too much data being collected, but the data are also insufficiently utilized exactly when they could be most helpful, kept in private silos while public needs remain unmet. Data sharing can support the development of new technologies, including in the life sciences. Consider how epidemiological research can benefit from scaling up big data analytics. A single researcher analyzing the experience of patients in their home country may be a good start, but it cannot rival the work of many researchers working together and drawing on the experience of many more patients from around the world—the key to the success of a number of cross-border collaborations.

How can data be made more of a public good? Commercial interests and incentives for innovation must be balanced with the need to build public trust through protection of privacy and integrity. Clarifying the rules of the data economy is a good place to start. Significant advances have resulted, for example, from the 2018 implementation in Europe of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which clarified a number of rights and obligations governing the data economy. EU residents now have the right to access their data and to limit how it is processed, and these rights are being enforced with increasingly heavy fines. But even as researchers have started to see the impact of the GDPR on the digital economy, there are still concerns about how to operationalize these rights and keep them from being simply a box-checking exercise.

People should have more agency over their individual data. There could be a case to consider the creation of public data utilities—perhaps as an outgrowth of credit registries—that could balance public needs with individual rights. Imagine an independent agency tasked with collecting and anonymizing certain classes of individual data, which could then be made available for analysis, subject to the consent of interested parties. Uses could include contact tracing to fight pandemics, better macroeconomic forecasting, and combating money laundering and terrorism financing.

Policies can also help consumers avoid becoming hostage within individual ecosystems, thus contributing to market contestability and competition. The European Union’s late-2020 proposals for the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act have many new features. These include third-party interoperability requirements for Big Tech “gatekeepers”—including social media and online marketplaces—in certain situations and efforts to make it easier for their customers to port their data to different platforms.

Policies also have a role to play in keeping data secure from cyberattacks. An individual company does not fully internalize the harm to public trust in the entire system when its customers’ data are breached, and may thus invest less in cybersecurity than what would be in the public interest. This concern has special resonance in the financial system, where maintaining public confidence is crucial. This is why secure infrastructure, cybersecurity standards, and regulation are essential pillars of the open banking policies many countries have adopted to facilitate interoperability in sensitive financial data.

 

Global approach

 

Many countries have been developing policies aimed at a clearer, fairer, and more dynamic data economy. But they are taking different approaches, risking greater fragmentation of the global digital economy. These risks arise in many data-intensive sectors, ranging from trade in goods to cross-border financial flows. In the context of the pandemic, differing privacy protection standards make it harder to collaborate on crucial medical research across borders—true even before the pandemic—because of the difficulty of sharing individual results of biomedical trials (Peloquin and others 2020).

Global coordination is always a challenge, especially in an area as complex as data policy, where there is a multitude of interests and regulators even within individual countries, let alone across borders. Dealing with the fallout of the pandemic has spurred a new opportunity to ask hard questions about the need for common minimum global principles for sharing data internationally while protecting individual rights and national security prerogatives.

The current moment also affords an opportunity to explore innovative technological solutions. Consider whether jump-starting the recovery in international travel could be facilitated by a global vaccine registry. This could leverage old-fashioned paper-based international health cards but would call for development of standards and an interoperable data management system for reporting and consulting on people’s vaccination status—potentially linked to digital identity—as well as agreements on protection of individual privacy and barriers to access for other purposes.

There is a strong case for international cooperation to ensure that the benefits of the global data economy can build a more resilient, healthier, and fairer global society. To find a way forward together, we can start by asking the right questions.

UNCDF

Sabine Mensah, UNCDF regional digital lead for West Africa, explains how digitization benefits entrepreneurs, consumers, governments and small businesses across the region.

Listen to the Capital Musing, an UNCDF Podcast :
https://player.captivate.fm/episode/40df4bfa-fb35-4dc9-a7ab-dca6f3a32ca4

CUTS

The role of digitalization has become critical within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. While digitalization was embedded in many domains prior to the pandemic, the latter created what is known as ‘new normal’ conditions characterised by reduced physical contact and restricted movement. These changes rapidly increased the digitalization of transactions between and among people, pushing a new scope of tradable goods and services and fostering new areas of mutual cooperation among Southern economies, both technologically and financially. As such, this session discussed how the gradually increasing share of South-South trade, and its resilience in the face of COVID-linked disruption, can inform a thorough theoretical and empirical understanding of the nature and implications of South-South trade in building back better in a post-COVID-19 world.

It was noted that the ICT based technology and digitisation has helped southern economies to boost trade and investment. The global south-south cooperation has to be increased and multilateral cooperation in knowledge sharing and partnership brokering is needed for the overall welfare and development of the global south. New opportunities for South-South cooperation can be opened up by building regional cloud-computing infrastructure, strengthening regional broadband infrastructure and promoting regional digital payments, especially in Africa.

The panelists pointed that along with transforming the substance, patterns and possibilities of international trade, the digital revolution is also accelerating trade transactions. This revolution could unlock new efficiencies and gains for businesses and consumers. Several important challenges remain in developing countries, and particularly Africa: (1) inadequate infrastructure, such as limited broadband connectivity; (2) lack of ICT skills; (3) problematic policy and regulatory issues, which represent increasing costs to digital companies, such as onerous legal liability regimes and data privacy rules; (4) limited use and adoption by small businesses of digital technologies, such as e-commerce and online payments; (5) the traditional challenges to cross-border trade, such as complicated customs procedures and expensive logistics; and 6) national digital infrastructure and regulations that are incomplete and do not interact optimally with those of other economies. These challenges are to be jointly addressed through global south-south cooperation.

Discussions also highlighted that the battleground for achieving SDGs lies in rural Africa and rural South Asia. For realisation of SDG targets, massive investments in a range of sectors over a prolonged period of time is required. Leveraging global south-south financing and involving the private sector to achieve the SDGs at a national level in many developing countries remains to be more fully harnessed. Global south should consider a new south-south development cooperation finance architecture. The panelists said that, global south-south cooperation should be developed in Research and Development, and innovation, apart from trade. The pandemic has brought an opportunity for the countries to think and and act for sustainable solutions to build a better tomorrow.

On the panel were Ms. Bineswaree Bolaky, Economic Affairs Officer, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA; Dr. George Kararach, Lead Economist, African Development Bank (AfDB); Myriam Ramzy & Professor Chahir Zaki, Cairo University. Dr. Hany Besada, Senior Research/Programme Advisor, UNOSSC, moderated the session. Dr. Adel Abdellatif, Director a.i., UNOSSC gave the opening remarks while Dr. Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director for Programme and Operations, UNOSSC, gave the closing remarks.

WEF

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a disruptor like no other and its economic and social consequences are expected to outlast the health emergency.

As reported by the IMF, the Middle East and North Africa GDP contracted by 3.1% in 2020, putting the region’s already fragile resilience under pressure. Governments have taken unprecedented fiscal efforts to protect their private sectors and to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic.

Some examples are the $27 billion stimulus plan that the United Arab Emirates has deployed to facilitate lending, the $61 billion support package targeting the private sector or Egypt’s $6 billion economic relief plan focusing on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and consumer liquidity.

In this context, the World Economic Forum’s Regional Action Group on the Middle East and North Africa, a community of over 70 leaders from private and public sectors, has been working under the guiding framework of the 7 Principles for Stakeholder Capitalism to develop ideas that could tangibly transform the post-pandemic future of the region.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been severely affected by the pandemic both on the supply and on the demand side. The substantial loss of revenue, coupled with a drastic drop in capacity, has dramatically affected their ability to function properly and has created a large liquidity shortage for their operations, meaning many SMEs face closure.

In the UAE alone, SMEs constitute over 50% of the country’s non-oil economy, and contribute to about 54% of the private-sector workforce. The pandemic has also exacerbated the pre-existing hurdles for bank lending to SMEs, such as cumbersome registration and legal procedures.

In such a critical scenario, we have been studying together with Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution UAE, the Dubai International Finance Centre and the Dubai Financial Services Authority, the deployment of digital assets (also called asset tokenization) as an alternative to investments for SMEs to jump-start their post-COVID recovery.

How does asset tokenization work?

Asset tokenization (tokenization) concerns digital tokens that can represent either financial assets like stocks or bond, or non-financial assets such as real estate, land, or art on a blockchain network.

These “digital assets” may represent only a part of the underlying asset – otherwise known as a “fractional share”.

Tokenization therefore has three main functions: to facilitate access to capital for issuers, to facilitate access to investments for investors, and to enable the fractionalization of assets.

It is this last concept of dividing assets into smaller components (in this case represented by tokens) that offers the game-changing ability to distribute assets among multiple individuals who could, as a result, have a partial ownership over the underlying assets and gain benefits proportional to their ownership stake.

Traditionally fixed, illiquid assets such as real estate or fine art could be broken down and represented as tokens. Fractionalizing the underlying asset could bring new investment opportunities and liquidity. The benefit is lower barriers relating to minimum investment requirements and geographies, opening up a global pool of capital.

‘Security Token Offering’ – a win-win exchange, managed through blockchain

A pilot around asset tokenization, which was publicly announced during the session “Implementing Stakeholder Capitalism in the Middle East and North Africa” at the Davos Agenda 2021, has the dual purpose of helping SMEs with their financial woes and providing a more standardized and accessible approach to funding, allowing companies to reach a wider range of investors.

For private and smaller-range investors, who traditionally might have faced challenges in investing in SMEs, they benefit from being able to provide funding in exchange of tokens. The tokens that investors receive can then be listed and traded on emerging digital asset exchanges, similar to trading securities on a traditional exchange.

The process is called a Security Token Offering and is created, allocated, transferred, and managed through its life cycle on the blockchain platform, where digital tokens are both issued and exchanged.

The system could integrate and manage the needs of a range of organizations, including: issuance platform and investment banks, courts and arbitrators, regulators, custodial and non-custodial exchanges, and third-party digital asset custodians. The blockchain network acts as a safe marketplace where all of these parties meet.

The benefits of tokenization

  • Tokenization could help SMEs receive the capital needed from a wider range of investors and, on the other side, allow investors to diversify their portfolios.
  • Thanks to the traceability of the process, based on the use of blockchain for both creation and trading of the tokens, banks and financial institutions could effectively receive the collateral required and verify the underlying legal processes.
  • Its versatility could allow tokenization to be applied across different sectors, from real estate to investing in fine arts, to restructuring debts.
  • Tokenization has the potential of revamping the current financial market infrastructure by creating new and more effective financial platforms and by addressing existing market shortcomings. It could help for example in addressing limited retail investor KYC/AML verification and in streamlining reporting and compliance for issuers.
  • It could ensure that SME financing processes are secure, transparent, auditable, and integrated with other digital channels such as e-KYC/AML for investor onboarding.

The challenges of tokenization

  • A lack of harmonized regulations across jurisdictions could undermine the interoperability of the technology. Since regulations can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another, this could be a limiting factor for both the creation and trading of tokens.
  • Inadequate regulation could leave space for potential consumer protection concerns that could affect end-users, investors, and the broader economy.
  • It is unclear how the tokens will be linked to the physical assets they represent and what kind of governance structure they will rely on. For instance, while investing in fine arts, if a painting is divided into multiple tokens and is owned by more than one investor, who acquires the painting and what happens if that painting gets stolen? Or if we consider an apartment unit which is divided into multiple tokens, there is little incentive for the owners of the tokens to bear the cost of the apartment maintenance and rent collection?
  • It’s important to address some of the main questions related to smart contracts, as well as other possible ramifications of tokenization, such as industry disruptions and potential instability in a hyper-liquid market. Given that this is a new technology, there is not enough evidence to confirm its effectiveness and, while we are confident of its potential, the pilot could also show that the technology would be too costly or complex to be implemented.

What next for tokenization in the Middle East and North Africa?

While we look at tokenization as a positive means to help SMEs in their post-pandemic recovery, we are also aware that those efforts need to be complemented by upgraded economic policies that can help turn this opportunity into tangible results for SMEs and the wider economy. Part of this effort is also the crypto assets legislation approved by the UAE Securities and Commodities Authority as a first important step in creating the right regulatory environment for tokens.

We are also confident that the pilot run by the UAE will inform the potential scalability of the tokenization process across the region with concrete economic results. And to fully realize the potential there is an urgent need for economic authorities across the region to upgrade existing regulations or craft new ones to enable a transparent and efficient use by investors and SMEs.

For example, addressing existing regulatory fragmentation across the region, would be a steppingstone to use tokenization to address industry disruptions and the lack of stability that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the markets.

We are confident that if used widely across the region and if coupled with the right economic policies, tokenization can create a safe environment for trade, and it could accelerate the region’s economic integration, which is estimated to add $230 billion per year to regional GDP. It would also enhance the region’s resilience and digital readiness for its post-pandemic future.

WIPO

Innovations that help people overcome mobility, sight and other disabilities have seen double-digit growth in recent years and these “assistive technologies” are increasingly integrated with consumer goods, a new WIPO report shows.

According to the WIPO Technology Trends Report 2021: Assistive Technologies, over 1 billion people currently need assistive technology – a figure expected to double in the next decade as populations age. At the same time, consumer electronics and assistive products are converging, meaning even greater commercialization of these technologies.

The report shows that innovations, ranging from small improvements in existing products to cutting-edge developments in frontier technologies, can greatly improve the lives of persons with functional limitations. These technologies help them overcome daily obstacles in navigating their environments, communicating, working and living independently.

The report uses patent and other data to provide solid, factual evidence on innovation in the global assistive tech landscape, creating a knowledge base to inform and support business leaders, researchers and policy-makers in their decision-making. It finds that China, the U.S., Germany, Japan and the Republic of Korea are the five main origins of innovation in assistive technology.

“Assistive technologies designed to overcome human limitations are now heading to a wider range of consumer products, marking an important innovation evolution with big benefits for a wider range of people,” said Assistant Director General Marco Aleman who oversees WIPO’s IP and Innovation Ecosystems Sector. “For example, devices with brain-machine interface or eye movement recognition that help people with cerebral palsy use computing devices can also be employed in gaming and communication applications. It is very good news that these life-improving technologies are heading toward mainstream commercialization, while also benefiting those who need them most.”

Key findings

Report findings include:

  • The Tech Trends report identified more than 130,000 patents related to conventional and emerging assistive technologies published between 1998 and mid 2020, with 15,592 filings on emerging assistive technologies alone in the period.
  • Filings in emerging assistive technology – including assistive robots, smart home applications, wearables for visually impaired and smart glasses – have grown three times faster (17% average annual growth rate, or AAGR, during the period 2013-2017 for first filing, with the publication of patent applications occurring 18 or more months later) than in conventional assistive technology. Innovations in conventional technologies include improvements and accessories of well-established products like wheelchair seats or wheels adjusted for different terrains, environmental alarms and Braille-enabled devices.
  • Two fast-growing areas in emerging assistive tech are environment (42% AAGR) and mobility (24% AAGR). Emerging environment technologies include navigation aids in public spaces and assistive robots. Emerging mobility tech includes applications like autonomous wheelchairs and advanced prosthetics.
  • The assistive technology field is converging with consumer electronic goods and general medical technologies. Technologies developed for persons with functional limitations are increasingly applied to mainstream products. For example, bone conduction technology that can assist with hearing impairment can also be used in runners’ headsets.
  • A technology readiness level assessment showed that most emerging assistive technologies are in development phase, while 18% are already commercialized.
  • Corporate players are leading the development of assistive technology including specialized assistive tech companies such as WS Audiology, Cochlear, Sonova, Second Sight and Össur. Electronic consumer goods companies (like Panasonic, Samsung, IBM, Google and Hitachi) and car industry companies (Toyota and Honda) are also major players.
  • Universities and public research organizations are more prominent in the emerging assistive technology dataset (23% of patent applicants versus 11% in the conventional), and are particularly active in the field of mobility (34% of patent applicants).

The report concludes that intellectual property has enabled the growth in innovation in assistive technologies. Experts contributing to the report underline the need for this innovation to become more widely available for those who rely on it. Globally, only 1 in 10 people currently have access to the assistive products they need. With this publication, WIPO aims to provide the knowledge-base to support global discussions on assistive technology that come under the umbrella of the UN Convention on Rights for People with Disabilities (CRPD) and the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote greater access to assistive technology.

(PHOTO: WIPO/BERROD)

Press conference: Video on YouTube

About the Technology Trends series

The WIPO “Technology Trends” series tracks technology trends through the analysis of patent and other data to provide solid, factual evidence on innovation in specific fields. Expert contributors from different sectors of the innovation ecosystem enrich the reports with their valuable comments and insights, while information about the wider context – policy, standards, regulation, legislation, implications for intellectual property systems – contribute to a more complete picture of the landscape. The resulting knowledge base informs and supports business leaders, researchers and policy-makers in their decision-making. The series is part of WIPO’s work creating knowledge products that support a global economic environment where individuals and enterprises of all sizes can more easily bring exciting new products to market.

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 193 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society’s evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.

For more information, please contact the News and Media Division at WIPO:

  • Tel: (+41 22) 338 81 61 / 338 72 24
  • E-mail
ISOC

Imagine a world where a global roster of Internet champions can stand up against the threats to the Internet.

 

This ideal was the inspiration for our new flagship program – the Early Career Fellowship!

This groundbreaking fellowship empowers a diverse new generation of Internet thinkers and doers.

The Early Career Fellows will have the opportunity to think, learning from Internet luminaries, today’s leading thinkers and organizations. They’ll explore topics like the Internet Ecosystem, Project Management & Advocacy, and the Internet Way of Thinking with Professor Dr Laura DeNardis of American University, scholars from the Oxford Internet Institute, and experts from the Internet Society, Diplo/GIP, Pyramid Learning and 89up.

The Fellows will also have the opportunity to do, getting direct support to nurture their professional growth. They’ll attend practical modules to help develop their own projects – bringing their ideas to life as they address the real-world challenges facing the future of the Internet.

These components, complemented with discussion, mentorship and leadership tracks, will:

  • Increase the capacity of Internet champions through targeted educational and leadership development activities – and expand their expertise to support the development of the Internet
  • Empower a cadre of talented early career professionals, giving them a safe and constructive platform to enhance their impact on the Internet as a whole, and in their respective communities
  • Ensure the next generation of Internet leaders embody the principles of openness and collaboration – the Internet Way of Thinking and Doing

By the end of the program, Fellows will understand the technical and policy dimensions of the Internet – and the important connections between each.

The future of the Internet exists in programs like the Early Career Fellowship. A future in which Fellows ensure the Internet remains a force for good.

Apply for the Early Career Fellowship!

UNCTAD

Despite COVID-19 hurdles, online businesses in Zambia are clinging to their big dreams while the government strengthens the nation’s e-commerce ecosystem.

Zambia’s coronavirus lockdown shut down some more traditional businesses, but for e-commerce firms this was their chance to scale up operations.

AfriDelivery, a food delivery service with big dreams of becoming a business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce platform, recorded 100% growth in annual terms in 2020.

Afshon Wallace, the company’s founder and CEO, said it grew on two fronts – in business partners and customers – during the pandemic.

“We managed to keep delivering, from shops, restaurants, supermarkets and pharmacies while also finding more businesses to partner with. It’s been a powerful period for us, even though the growth was related to the pandemic,” Mr. Wallace said.

Meanwhile, as the tourism industry demand collapsed, another company, Voyagers Zambia – a travel agency and part of a group that offers travel, safari, insurance brokerage and car rental services – developed an online platform to distribute travel products efficiently.

The company’s director, Grant Gatchell, said tourism relief measures were limited for travel agencies, forcing the group to pivot towards car rental and transport including new products and services.

“In a way the pandemic made us reassess our offering and expand it,” Mr. Gatchell said.

Unforeseen hurdles

Despite the opportunities, the pandemic also brought many challenges and unforeseen costs for e-commerce firms. Operational costs also increased due to measures taken to protect staff.

For Afri-Delivery, exchange rate fluctuations exacerbated the situation by driving up the price of imported motorbikes, the primary delivery vehicle in Zambia, Mr. Wallace said.

Other challenges cited by e-commerce firms include poor access to the internet and electricity, and the high cost of broadband services.

Tax breaks would go a long way to support the nation’s e-commerce firms, some owners say. They also encouraged the government to enter into more double-tax treaties to reduce the cost of imported technology goods and services.

The owners also say they receive limited government support and lack appropriate forums to exchange meaningfully with policymakers, as confirmed by a recent UNCTAD survey on COVID-19 and e-commerce.

“The pandemic has compelled businesses to accelerate digital transformation processes and reinvent their business models,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s technology and logistics director.

“However, stronger government action and close public-private cooperation are needed to improve Zambia’s e-commerce readiness,” she said.

Turning recommendations into action

UNCTAD’s e-Trade Readiness Assessment for Zambia, conducted in 2018, recommended measures across seven key policy areas.

An UNCTAD review found that by mid-2020, Zambia had implemented about 50% of the recommendations, a huge advance for the country.

The southern African nation also saw an improvement of its ranking in UNCTAD’s B2C E-Commerce Index 2020 from 125 to 120.  

The Zambian government is currently developing an e-commerce strategy using a robust, multi-stakeholder approach, and reviewing its national ICT policy.

Other noteworthy advances include:

  1. In the area of ICT infrastructure and services, Zambia’s continued emphasis on setting up communication towers across the country has boosted mobile network coverage to reach nearly 92% of the population.
  2. It revised the national energy policy in 2019 to facilitate more open access regimes, increase private sector participation, promote alternative sources of energy and cost-reflective tariffs in the pricing of services.
  3. On the trade facilitation and logistics front, it’s developing a national addressing system to enhance trade logistics and last mile delivery, as well as a national postal policy.
  4. Zambia is a signatory to the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. It uses ASYCUDA as the Customs Management System (CMS), and uses the ASYCUDA platform to  build a single window environment serving importers, exporters or customs brokers.. This reduces the transit time of goods at the border and enhances trade. Recently, the country ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
  5. In terms of legal and regulatory frameworks, the government is reviewing regulations to address issues dealing with e-transaction and data protection. It has also submitted a bill on cyber security to the parliament. Zambia is also reviewing its consumer and competition laws to protect consumers in electronic transactions.
  6. On the payments side, the Bank of Zambia has developed a switch to support interoperability among banks and other financial services. In response to the pandemic, it took several measures to encourage the use of digital financial services and reduce processing fees for money transfer.
  7. ICT skills education has become compulsory in schools to develop technological capacity among the youth.

Helping beyond Zambia

Besides Zambia, UNCTAD is helping other nations in which it has conducted eTrade readiness assessments – 27 to date – to turn recommendations into action.

In January and February this year, UNCTAD and its partners brought together over 270 public and private sector stakeholders from more than 20 countries to discuss how best to fast-track the implementation of the recommendations.

The participants, who included eTrade for all partners, shared experiences and explored opportunities to foster collaboration.

Supported financially by Germany and the Netherlands, UNCTAD is working with the eTrade for all partners and UN resident coordinators to ensure e-commerce is mainstreamed into national development plans and development partners’ cooperation frameworks.

UNCTAD

UNCTAD’s eTrade for Women advocate for Eastern Europe explains her journey to e-commerce greatness, discusses the impact of COVID-19 and encourages women to take a seat at the policymaking table.

Nina Angelovska has always been a trailblazer. From the age of 21, she’s been shaking up North Macedonia’s digital economy with her startup-turned-mega company, Grouper.mk. Now she’s advocating for more seats for women at the e-commerce policymaking table.

Co-founder of the online shopping platform Grouper.mk, she’s also the president of North Macedonia’s eCommerce Association and the country’s former finance minister.

How did she become a force to be reckoned within the e-commerce space? UNCTAD explores five things to know about Ms. Angelovska that catapulted her to the top.

1. A small grant of $5,000 got Ms. Angelovska on her feet after she won the most innovative business plan award from the North Macedonian National Centre for Development of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Learning at just 21.

She started Grouper.mk with the money in 2011. She saw the potential in group buying at a time when e-commerce was non-existent in North Macedonia and blazed a trail in the new field. Grouper.mk is now recognized as the game-changer in the market. When starting up, Ms. Angelovska says they practically educated thousands of customers to make their first online transaction and encouraged hundreds of merchants to join the e-world for the first time.

2. The company she co-founded and led, Grouper.mk is now 10 years old.

Her firm has grown from strength to strength. Today, it is much more than a group-buying website, it is a platform that connects 3,550 merchants from all sectors to over 250,000 buyers, contributing to growing the country’s digital ecosystem.

3. She was her country’s first-ever female finance minister.

The private sector is where the magic happens, while the public sector provides the enabling environment to facilitate the magic,” Angelovska said. She’s been pushing for change both on the inside and outside these spaces. After she became North Macedonia’s first-ever female finance minister in 2019, she managed public finances amid the biggest global crisis the world has ever experienced – the coronavirus pandemic. She brought her digital acumen to the role and used it to help speed up COVID-19 support to North Macedonians. Her goal: induce positive change, speed up progression to a cashless society, digitalization and de-bureaucratize many processes.

4. Her big insight on her entrepreneurial journey.

“The key in life is to solve the problem you enjoy solving. Just keep wondering and never stop learning. This is what makes you unique and truly defines who you are,” she advises all would-be entrepreneurs.

5. On the powerful potential of women entrepreneurs.

Angelovska says the growth of our economies is at stake if we don’t include more women. “There is so much potential to be unlocked if we have more women entrepreneurs, in tech, in leadership positions and in policy. The countries that do this are the ones that will enjoy faster, more sustainable and definitely more inclusive growth,” she says. Ms. Angelovska takes her digital gender advocacy seriously, amplified by her role as UNCTAD eTrade for Women Advocate. In 2019 UNCTAD appointed her as one of seven women global advocates to advance the place of women in the digital economy. Working with the United Nations is both a great opportunity and a great responsibility to advance gender equality. In her role she’s inspiring and supporting other women entrepreneurs to harness the power of technology and the digital economy to change lives, and influence policy.

What does the future hold?

Ms. Angelovska’s journey is still in its early days, she believes. Her experience at the coalface of the COVID-19 crisis, both as finance minister and president of North Macedonia’s eCommerce Association, has given her new impetus to help people, governments and businesses go digital, especially developing nations.

“I will keep pushing for change and for digital transformation. I will keep striving to inspire and motivate as many women as I can because we really need to unlock the powerful synergy of women entrepreneurship and tech,” she said.

Listen to the latest UNCTAD Unpacks podcast with Ms. Angelovska

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