From 14 to 16 March 2023, at the invitation of Mr. Shahin Baghirov, the Chairman of the State Customs Committee of Azerbaijan, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya,  the Secretary General of the World Customs Organization, visited Baku, Azerbaijan to address the Multilateral meeting on the simplification of Customs procedures along the Middle Corridor, linking Asia and Europe through Central Asia.

In his keynote speech, Secretary General Mikuriya underlined the importance of using international standards and digital technology to harmonize customs transit procedures. In this connection, he referred to the WCO Railway Guidance (2022) to facilitate and control electronic customs transit in cooperation with railway and other government agencies.  Dr. Mikuriya suggested that there is a need to invest in human resources capacity building to enable the implementation of standards and the use technology for appropriate customs control, based on risk management. He also stressed the potential of the transit for landlocked countries to be used as basis for economic development.

The meeting, which saw the participation of Customs administrations of countries in Central Asia and its adjacent region, agreed on launching the data exchange portal. The participants supported this initiative that could lead to more harmonized and efficient customs transit procedures in the Middle Corridor.

Dr. Mikuriya met the Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ali Asadov and discussed the improvement of the Middle Corridor and WCO’s capacity building support in this regard.

He also visited the Customs Academy to meet students, in line with WCO’s theme of the year “Nurturing the next generation”.

During his stay in Baku, Dr. Mikuriya gave a lecture on global trade and the role of Customs at the Azerbaijan State University of Economics. He also received a honorary doctorate degree in economics.

Enhanced information exchange among Supply Chain stakeholders improves operations resulting in many benefits toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Global traceability covering “from farm to fork”, “from cow to consumer”, “from catch to kitchen”, “from field to fashion product”[i]  or any other end-to-end supply chain has always been important. Today, it has become a key driver for businesses in all sectors due to increasing requirements (regulatory, consumer and others).

Farm to fork

COVID-19 has created the most severe impact on supply chains in recent history and caused one of the biggest disruptions in human history. A recent study by the United Nations showed that the impact of COVID-19 to virtually all of the Sustainable Development Goals was in alignment with the findings of an international survey performed by Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply. They found that more than 86% of supply chains had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  [ii] Digital Transformation in Supply Chains, with the adoption of smart technologies such as real-time tracking and tracing technologies, can enhance sustainability, transparency, visibility, precision, control, and resilience aspects of  supply chain partners.

Digitalization is an important instrument in realizing a reliable and sustainable future transport system and supply of goods [iii] . Digitalization of shipment and consignment data is a key building block and a required assumption in universal (real-time) track and trace capabilities that will enable digital ecosystems (digital supply chains) to flourish, overcoming current logistics inefficiencies and gaps in information flows. Organisations will have full visibility and sovereignty of their supply chains and of fully interconnected logistics networks so that transport assets and resources are used for optimum efficiency.

UN/CEFACT has now released its new Business Requirements Specification (BRS) for “Integrated Track and Trace for Multi-Modal Transportation”. The scope covers track and trace from one seller to one buyer. Although this does not cover the end-to-end supply chain, it does represent a major step forward in achieving truly global traceability in each step of the supply chain.


Within the context of this article, the Supply Chain is a network of facilities that procure raw materials, transform them into intermediate goods and then delivers final products to customers through a distribution system. It refers to the network of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in delivering a product or service to a consumer. Global Traceability aims to provide end-to-end insight into the origin of materials, processing history, distribution and location of materials and products (semi-finished and finished) up to delivery and also in the after-market part of the product life cycle.

Customers and consumers especially are increasingly asking for information that requires global traceability (e.g., was the palm oil used in their food sourced from a farm that manages its business in a sustainable way). Businesses are also asking for ever more traceability information from their suppliers upstream in the supply chain. This is often driven by existing and emerging regulations.

The European Commission adopted the Sustainable Product Regulation on 30 March 2022. This draft regulation includes the EU digital product passport. It applies to any physical good, including components and intermediates products, introduced into the EU market or put into service. This definition includes products manufactured in Europe or exported into the EU. In this sense, the regulation impacts global trade.

The German Supply Chain Act (LkSG) was passed in June 2021. This regulation carries new rules to ensure companies doing business in Germany meet the standards set out in United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Similar regulations are also emerging in other countries, such as:

Motivated by factors such as governmental regulations, operational efficiency standards, competitive pressures, and heightened customer expectations, both public and private organizations are searching for mechanisms to reduce risks by gaining data-driven visibility into the physical location, condition, and context of their products and assets.

Problem statement

Most of the increasing requirements mentioned above are driven by various UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is to be expected that more and more regulations will require stakeholders in supply chains to make these SDGs part of their daily operations. Therefore, there is an urgent and compelling need for traceability systems.

A traceability system (TS) would record and allow us to follow the trail of production, as products, parts, materials and services originate from suppliers and are processed and ultimately distributed as final products and services.

Figure 1. Traceability across Supply Chains, GS1.
Figure 1.  Traceability across Supply ChainsGS1.

Unfortunately, existing Traceability Systems do not provide a comprehensive view of the supply chain. The image above looks at the traceability events within a single organization only. Many gaps still exist in the flow of information among stakeholders. ‘Transport and Logistics’ has been among the biggest gaps. Supply chain managers receive little or no relevant information about the product during transportation. That may now change as a result of the new BRS for “Integrated Track and Trace for Multi-Modal Transportation”.

How does the new UN/CEFACT BRS help?

Even though this particular UN/CEFACT publication is not focused on Sustainability, it was incorporated by design. The primary aim of the Track and Trace approach outlined in the BRS is to respond to the question: “Where are my Goods?”. This very closely ties in with the insights into distribution and location of products, that is at the heart of global traceability. The BRS links the Trade view (of Sellers and Buyers of Goods) with the Transport view, which was sorely lacking before.

Transport and Logistics is an industry consisting of process-oriented businesses that focus on managing the flow of resources, both material and abstract, from the origin and/or destination (in the case of reverse logistics). Logistics processes are often complex due to varied modes of transportation (Multi-Modal) and multiple parties involved[iv]. The UN/CEFACT BRS connects the dots across all stakeholders in all modes of transport, all types of goods and sectors as well as all modes of transport.

Supply chain management and complex logistics compel constant monitoring and handling of ever more complex and evolving supply chains. Therefore, it is crucial to track and trace goods, for ensuring the control and management of the different logistics operations. Rather than proposing any new standards to enable this constant monitoring, the BRS describes an approach how stakeholders in Transport and Logistics (T&L) networks may define and design track and trace solutions based on existing global data standards that enable digitalization of T&L activities and associated information flows. It leverages ISO, UN/CEFACT and GS1 standards among others, in association with emerging technological solutions.

Leveraging existing standards requires less time, resources, effort and investment to achieve more business benefits more quickly because the same standards are also used in other contexts, such as the latest UN/CEFACT documents on Textiles and Leather and the upcoming White Paper on Product Conformity Information Exchanges. The latter White Paper may be of particular interest because frequently, information exchanged for traceability may need to be supported by independent attestation that the information is accurate and does indeed relate to the goods/product at hand.

The most beneficial, real-time supply chain data is now most likely generated and delivered by some form of tracking technology, adopted by actors, facilitators in the frameworks of Multi-Modal Transport. Whenever such data is captured, the approach outlined in the BRS can help stakeholders identify if and when such data would need to be exchanged among stakeholders to achieve the minimum required track and trace objectives and by extension enable much better global traceability for products.


Many supply chain-related issues arise due to the lack of sharing information between the stakeholders in the supply chain. The Transport and Logistics sector has had a major challenge in obtaining reliable and timely information to be able to establish truly global traceability systems for products.

Supply chain practitioners state that sustainability in all its dimensions as a trend, is constantly increasing in importance, both driven from customers as well as public sector; the “social and environmental dimensions of Digital Transformation in supply chain management and logistics are expected to have less impact than the economical dimension”.

For assuring technology deployment as a sustainable resource, all three dimensions, economic, environmental and social sustainability need to be taken into consideration”.

The future of supply chain and logistics is hopeful, with the introduction, adoption and evolution of digital transformation technologies, to propel overall sustainability.

The new UN/CEFACT BRS finally enables stakeholders in supply chains to get track and trace information regarding transport and logistics from the operators in T&L in a standardised and consistent fashion regardless of which step in the end-to-end supply the goods (e.g., raw materials, components, [sub]systems, semi-finished or finished product) are being transported.

Using the approach outlined in the BRS, stakeholders may identify what information to exchange and when to achieve the minimum-required track and trace objectives and by extension, enable much better global traceability for products.

The ability to track products and assets (in real-time) throughout the value chain has become increasingly important in a wide range of industries and it would fundamentally transform supply chain management. Organizations will have full visibility and sovereignty of their supply chains as well as of fully interconnected logistics networks so that assets and resources are used for optimum efficiency. Greater efficiency and optimization in supply chain management will facilitate faster adoption of SDGs in compliance with current and future regulations.

The BRS may be downloaded from UNECE.

Note. UN/CEFACT experts participate as independent volunteer experts in their own right, without representing any special interests of their countries or institutions. The opinions expressed herein are the authors’; they are not necessarily those of their employers or organisations in which they are active.

[i] UN/CEFACT released 2 BRS for Traceability and Transparency in Textile and Leather;

[ii] Remko, V.H. (2020), “Research opportunities for a more resilient post-COVID-19 supply chain – closing the gap between research findings and industry practice”, International Journal of Operations and Production Management, Vol. 40 No. 4, pp. 341-355. Source Information: Emerald.

[iii] PwC (2016). The era of digitized trucking: Transforming the logistics value chain. PwC. Source Information: Strategy&.

[iv] M’hand, M. A., Boulmakoul, A., Badir, H., & Lbath, A. (2019). A scalable real-time tracking and monitoring architecture for logistics and transport in RoRo terminals. Procedia Computer Science, 151, 218-225. Source Information: ScienceDirect.

The digital transformation of water technologies and processes will significantly change the water and sanitation services provision landscape in the coming years. Digital technologies can potentially democratise data acquisition, analysis, long-term planning, capacity building and efficient operation of network and non-network services. However, this technological leap will only impact the goal of ensuring safe water and sanitation for all if the solutions are applied at a local level.

Water is a highly local resource. If we consider 50 litres/person/day as a reference for intermediate access (defined by WHO), a family of 4 will need 73 tons of water (73000 kilograms) every year.  A village of 500 will require over 9000 tons of water each year. Contrary to energy or telecommunications, delivering water implies transporting large weights even for basic access provision. Consequently, the solution to water access problems cannot be exclusively global, national, or even regional. Solutions must be local.

This means, in practice, that most water resources need to be sourced locally.

Quantifying and optimising local resources, as well as hydrological planning, can be significantly assisted by digitalisation. The combination of satellite imagery, data harvesting from multiple sources (meteorological, social, environmental) and remote sensing can help regional planners optimise local resource use.

However, the availability of local resources is only part of the problem. Both water and sanitation services must be made available under very different local conditions. Local solutions need to be designed ad-hoc for every case. Digital technologies can assist in this process.

Firstly, by allowing gathering information and maintaining updated records. The provision of water and sanitation services (regardless of whether centralised or decentralised) can really benefit from an updated geolocated information system. Whether trying to keep track of kilometres of buried pipes or the location and routes to individual septic tanks, new digital platforms are great for creating, accessing, and updating such information systems.

Secondly, by assisting in planning, designing, and expanding the services. These tools simplify the task of setting scenarios, assist in using realistic data obtained from multiple sources and can use AI techniques to suggest optimum solutions (even taking into account constraints that were traditionally not considered -e.g., the carbon footprint of the service provision).

Thirdly, optimising the operation of the services using real-time data (obtained from sensors placed in the system or other sources like social media activity from the population). Response to emergencies or situations out of the ordinary can be significantly enhanced by using digital tools, but so can the efforts to reduce water loss.

Finally, digital algorithms and artificial intelligence engines can reduce the existing knowledge and capacity gap that is often an obstacle at the local level. Small and poor communities will have access to tools and techniques previously only available to large corporations or capital cities.

Digitalisation will allow us to personalise solutions to meet local challenges at a rate and a cost that was previously unimaginable. However, we should keep in mind that unless resources, tools and plans are made available at a local level, we will not be able to deliver water and sanitation for all.

Experts at an UNCTAD event outline how to enable women to benefit more from the digital revolution and enhance their participation in trade.

E-commerce and digitalization can empower women in trade, but without gender-sensitive policies and actions, they can widen pre-existing gender gaps in the society and the economy.

To help avoid this, UNCTAD and the Chilean government co-organized an event to address this issue on 7 March during the 67th session of the Commission of the Status of Women.

“We need to avoid replicating the obstacles women face in offline trade in online trade,” said Simonetta Zarrilli, who leads UNCTAD’s trade and gender programme. “The first step for doing so is to identify women’s specific obstacles in the digital economy.”

E-commerce: Challenges hindering women

E-commerce opportunities are closely linked to the availability and affordability of the internet and the skills required to use it.

In developed countries, the gender gap in internet use is estimated at only 1%, while in least developed countries (LDCs) it’s as high as 13%, according to UNCTAD calculations based on data from the International Telecommunication Union.

In 2022, more than 90% of women and men used the internet in developed countries, compared with 43% of men and only 30% of women in LDCs, according to estimates.

Apart from low levels of internet access and use, participants at the event discussed other barriers faced by women. They include lack of access to finance, low knowledge about market requirements or e-payment options, limited business networks and lower levels of entrepreneurial skills.

These challenges make women’s e-businesses smaller and less profitable than those run by men and restrict them to low-value-added sectors.

Experts weigh in on bridging gender gaps

Alejandro Buvinic, head of service in the investment and digital economy division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile said e-commerce is not easy for anyone because one needs a wealth of market and regulatory information, especially if doing cross-border e-commerce.

“To this you need to add the challenge to operate in the digital environment, something still difficult especially for women,” he said.

He added that Chile is bridging knowledge gaps and supporting women-led companies to explore regional markets through its “Mujer exporta” initiative.

But what does it take for a young woman to become an entrepreneur in the digital economy, especially in a male-dominated sector such as video games production?

Fernanda Contreras Stange, head of studio at Gamaga Games said: “Entrepreneurship should be taught to girls from a young age to give them the tools to start their own companies instead of playing the traditional role of supporting businesses run by men.”

In the ground-breaking Buenos Aires Declaration on women and trade, countries committed to making their trade policy more gender responsive, noted Caitlin Kraft Buchman, CEO of the NGO Women at the Table.

“Something similar is needed in the field of digital technology. Neither trade nor technology is gender neutral,” she said.

How to empower women in digital trade

Participants said more women should be included in leadership positions in the tech industry to ensure digitalization doesn’t repeat and magnify gender biases in the analog world.

They underlined the need to make the digital space safe for everyone but especially for women, who face digital harassment and hate speech more than men.

Also, stakeholders should collect sex-disaggregated data to inform gender-responsive digital policies, facilitate public-private partnerships and support digital platforms that pursue development goals through alternative business models.

Participants said gender inequality and digital exclusion are not only morally unacceptable but also make no commercial sense.

"The diagram of the rainwater harvest system."

© UNCTAD | Experts discuss overcoming gender gaps in trade during UNCTAD-Chile’s joint event.

When the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) adopted its Geneva Declaration of Principles back in 2003, it put ethical concerns at the forefront.

“Ethics today has taken a front seat of any future discussion of digital development,” said Tawfik Jelassi, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), at this week’s WSIS Forum 2023. “We do not want digital platforms to become the global online wild west — full of misinformation, hate speech, online harassment, conspiracy theories and cyberbullying.”

UNESCO is advocating for digital development that is respectful of human rights and dignity, accessible to all, and governed through an inclusive approach for multiple stakeholders.

The growing phenomenon of the metaverse as “a clone of our environment” creates risks of addiction and “cyber loneliness,” said Prof. Alfredo Ronchi, General Secretary of the European Commission–MEDICI Framework. Social science and humanities must both come into play to define a sustainable role for humans.

“Cyber loneliness… is a kind of addiction to this parallel life, training users to shift from real to meta life,” so that behaviours tested in the metaverse “might be accepted in real life as well,” he said.

Embedding ethics from the start

Moira de Roche, Vice President of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), said the industry needed a cohesive, widely accepted ethical code, with training for engineers and software developers to ensure responsible design and implementation for technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). This could incorporate human rights as a basic design principle for certified AI design professionals.

“Creators of AI platforms and products should [all] abide by the same code of ethics,” she added. “We must guard against having too many codes. It dilutes the concept and allows people to pick and choose.”

Values and ethics have become a central concern for the industry, agreed Luis Neves, CEO and Managing Director at GeSI, the global initiative for enabling digital sustainability.

“Companies should embed sustainability in their corporate strategy,” he said. “While they have corporate social responsibility in their communication departments, they now need to embed sustainability as a purpose in every single unit of their operations.”

Machines, likewise, can be designed with a purpose, with the underlying ethical considerations expanding beyond governance, justice, and accountability to also include hospitality and diversity.

“Ethics is a glue for regulatory systems,” Karamjit S. Gill, Professor Emeritus at the University of Brighton, UK, and Editor-in-Chief of AI & Society. “As we mix hard and soft glues to mend a broken piece of glass, we mix ethics and culture to fix the broken aspects of the digital divide.”

Bringing everyone online is still an imperative

Portuguese regulators have defined inclusive Internet access as an ethical imperative. “Our goal is to guarantee optical fibre and mobile broadband coverage in isolated areas, and submarine cables linking islands to the mainland, with sensors to facilitate research on climate change,” said João Cadete Matos, Chairman of ANACOM, the national communications authority.

For many countries, the COVID-19 pandemic initially stalled digital infrastructure investments. But public health measures to contain the virus made digital access imperative for social and economic life.

“Least developed countries in Africa suffered the most, since the only accessible tool was social distancing,” said Henri Monceau, Director of Digital and Economic Department at the Francophonie (Organisation internationale de la Francophonie). “Companies not connected prior to the pandemic, without e-commerce, did not survive the crisis.”

Cambodia, aiming to become a high-income country by 2050, has invested rapidly in digital infrastructure. Internet access now reaches more than 90 per cent of the population, with affordable rates below 5 per cent of disposable income each month, said Sok Puthyvuth, the country’s Secretary of State for Post and Telecommunications.

But the new generative AI platforms that have taken the world by storm this year are not directly available to most Cambodians. ChatGPT, for example, is only accessible via a virtual private network (VPN), said Puthyvuth, adding: “Chat GPT has definitely put ethics at front stage in today’s discussions.”

Addressing gender inequality

Digital transformation has also raised ethical issues in Pakistan, where the Smart Village concept outlined by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) seeks to bridge digital divides — including the gender digital divide — in rural and remote areas.

The Smart Village approach, designed with the whole of government and whole of society in mind, promotes digital education, health, agriculture, and business. So far, about 90 per cent of active participants in three communities have been women, said Aisha Humera, Additional Secretary at Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoIT&T).

With a few taps on her mobile phone, a textile worker in a remote area of northern India can apply for social benefits to be paid directly into her bank account, sign up for skills training, and electronically sign an application for a loan. In Thailand, farmers can receive fertilizer subsidies into a bank account linked to their national ID. Singaporean citizens and residents can do almost any transaction end-to-end online, no matter where they are, from registering a birth to filing taxes and opening a new business.

The common enabler behind all these experiences is digital public infrastructure, which includes the solutions and systems that facilitate essential society-wide functions and services such as:

  • Identification: the ability for people and businesses to securely verify their identity, as well as complementary trust services such as electronic signatures and decentralized, verifiable credentials (e.g., academic qualifications, passports, and driver’s licenses).
  • Payments: easily transferring money between people, businesses, and governments.
  • Data exchange: seamless flows of data across government and the private sector, with safeguards for personal data protection like consent.

Digital public infrastructure is unique and important for four main, inter-related reasons:

  1. It is foundational and cross-cutting. Verifying an identity or making and receiving a payment are at the core of most transactions, and thus having digital public infrastructure prevents the need to re-invent the wheel with every new system. This is a distinction between digitalization in specific sectors, which is very important, and the processes supported by a digital public infrastructure.
  2. It complements and works together at policy, process, and technology levels. For example, a person can use their digital ID to exercise consent over sharing their personal data from official sources, or a small business could use payment transaction data to access cheaper credit. These connections can also be described as a digital stack.
  3. It enables sectoral applications to be easily built ‘on top’. Government agencies and the private sector can focus on their core business and innovate when they do not need to recreate the wheel and can instead depend on the processes that digital stacks support, enabled by common standards (e.g., for data and semantics) and open application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow different systems to communicate with each other.
  4. Public benefit – not necessarily public ownership. We argue that the ‘public’ refers to governments having a primary role and responsibility in deciding whether and how DPI is provided in the interests of the broader society and economy, such as through regulating, operating, and/or partnering with the private sector.

Just like railways and roads were instrumental for how economies and societies have evolved and integrated, digital public infrastructure positively transforms how people and businesses around the world access services  and economic opportunities and how governments can meet the needs of their constituents. Apart from improving the quality of these services and allowing the development of new products and services, digital public infrastructure can also make them more inclusive by removing physical and cost barriers.

The concept of digital public infrastructure has been pioneered by India (the India Stack) and Singapore (the Singapore Government Technology Stack and National Digital Identity Stack). Notably, the India Stack has paved the way for innovations for data empowerment and protection, such as account aggregators that empower people to consent (or not) to a financial services provider accessing their personal data held by other entities. This provides a scalable approach for people to control and benefit from the value of their data and a boost for financial inclusion and open banking.

When confronted with crises, digital public infrastructure is key to building national resilience.  Research on the social protection response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the World Bank Group’s G2Px initiative found that the countries that were able to use digital databases and data exchange platforms reached, on average, 51 percent of their population with cash transfers, whereas countries that could not rely on existing databases to cross-reference eligibility reached only 16 percent. Thailand’s PromptPay, a leading example of a fast payment system, allows people and businesses to link a financial account with their ID or phone number, which helped the government to roll out cash assistance during COVID-19 more quickly and with greater assurance. Ukraine has included in its digital government application (Diia) a digital wallet where citizens can store digital documents (including a passport recognized by neighboring Moldova and Poland) to continue using public services  and receive emergency payments.

The design and implementation of digital public infrastructure must also consider and mitigate the risks of exclusion of those without digital access and skills, cybersecurity threats, and personal data protection vulnerabilities . For instance, we have recently estimated that 850 million people have no official identification. Employing human-centered design techniques helps to identify potential barriers vulnerable populations may face, and strong data protection laws and enforcement provide safeguards against the misuse of personal data. Other challenges that countries face include technology and vendor lock-in and inadequate legal frameworks that dissuade the shift from manual to digital transactions.

To help countries realize these benefits and navigate the risks, the World Bank Group’s Identification for Development (ID4D) and Digitizing Government-to-Person Payments (G2Px) initiatives have been supporting the DPI agenda at the country, regional and global levels (as you can see in the 2022 Annual Report). For instance, technical assistance and financing are being provided to countries like Indonesia, Nigeria, Togo, and the Philippines. It has been inspiring at workshops this week in Bangalore, India, to hear what these and more than 15 other countries are doing to build their own DPI, including leveraging a digital public good for foundational digital ID systems (MOSIP) and a new initiative that is assisting with the design of interoperable, human-centered digital G2P payment ecosystems (G2P Connect).

Additionally, ID4D and G2Px are one of several parts of the World Bank Group supporting the Indian G20 Presidency to generate consensus on what digital public infrastructure  is, to generate momentum for its development, and to scale up technical and financial resources to support low- and middle-income economies.

In an increasingly digital world, the need for digital public infrastructure to foster resilience and enable service delivery and innovation is more crucial than ever.  It is key to develop this foundational infrastructure that supports multiple sectors so that everyone, from a business owner in a bustling city to a rural farmer, can equally participate and thrive in the digital economy with confidence and trust.

As digital technologies continue to gain momentum in lower-income countries, tax authorities are increasingly adopting technology solutions to improve their core functions and to collect revenue more efficiently.

Our recent paper reviews recent literature on the use of technology for tax administration. Technology has the potential to improve tax collection in three areas: identifying the tax base, monitoring compliance, and facilitating compliance. But even the most user-friendly technology cannot function without basic infrastructure and a stable internet connection. Resistance from taxpayers and collectors, an unsupportive regulatory environment and lack of strategy for adoption by institutions also hinder the potential benefits of new technology. In this blog, we propose reforms to ensure investments in new technology improve efficiency and revenue collection.

Potential of technology in taxation

Technology can transform three core functions of tax administrations:

However, there are barriers to realising technology’s full potential.

Technology limitations and how to address them

  • Infrastructure: If hard infrastructure, such as electricity and a stable internet connection, is missing, or if the technology chokes or crashes in peak periods, or functions only intermittently, this can lead to user frustration. In addition, because small-scale, rural and less educated taxpayers have limited internet access, they are the most negatively affected by inadequate infrastructure. Tax authorities could reach these groups of taxpayers with limited internet access by offering use less sophisticated technologies such as offline declaration and payment solution using non-smart phones.
  • The Human Factor: Taxpayers and tax officials may resist the introduction of new technology for varied reasons: lack of awareness and training, high adoption costs or loss of opportunity for corruption and avoidance. On the one hand, more sophisticated taxpayers could exploit loopholes in the technology to avoid taxes. On the other, less IT-savvy taxpayers may mistrust the new solutions. Different approaches should be followed for such taxpayers, with increased enforcement and vigilance on the former and trust-building for the latter. At the same time, tax officials may prefer using manual practices due to entrenched habits and fixed mind-sets, rent seeking and lack of awareness. This can be tackled through an adequate change management strategy, as well as targeted training and assistance.
  • Institutional Strategy: The effectiveness of new technologies can be significantly hampered where there is no strong buy-in from key leaders, and no long-term national strategy. To run smoothly, sequencing of technology adoption is also crucial since many functions are inter-dependent. For example, a new integrated and automated tax administration system is unlikely to succeed if the pre-existing data are not first properly cleaned up. Likewise, retraining tax officials should precede introducing the new technology and continue after the launch.
  • Regulatory Framework: Data sharing between revenue authorities and public and private actors does not happen systematically, often due to privacy and confidentiality concerns. Policymakers can set up a central automated platform which would be accessible from multiple government institutions and banks to identify taxpayers and crosscheck information. Lastly, as technology evolves, regulatory frameworks should be updated for cybersecurity to preserve privacy and confidentiality and to protect citizens from data leakages.

Policy and research agenda

As technology develops at a faster and faster pace and its role grows in tax administration, the availability of administrative tax data will only increase. Tax authorities can seize this opportunity by collaborating with researchers to evaluate the impact of technology interventions, guide their expansion or modification, and understand their efficiency and equity implications. Such collaboration could also be beneficial to upgrade the capacity of staff in tax administrations to use data analytic tools.

iDICE initiative will create 6 million jobs and position Nigeria’s as Africa’s leading hub for young tech and creative entrepreneurs.

The African Development Bank and partners on Tuesday launched a new Investment in  Digital and Creative Enterprises (iDICE) programme.

The initiative, with investments totalling $618 million, will attract direct investments in more than 200 technology and creative start-ups and provide non-financial services to about 450 digital technology, small and medium enterprises. With a  potential to generate $6.4 billion  into the  Nigeria’s economy, iDICE is expected to create 6 million new jobs for young Nigerians.

Speaking at the launch event in the capital Abuja, Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo emphasised the importance of a coordinated approach to innovation across Africa. “Government must provide more support for start-ups and small businesses, and investors must provide more funding,” Osinbajo said.

The African Development Bank Group is the largest funder of iDICE, providing $170 million. The French government, through the Agence Française de Développement, will contribute €100 million ($116 million), and the Islamic Development Bank pending approval from its board is expected to  provide $70 million. The Nigerian government, through its executing agency, the Bank of Industry, will provide $45 million in counterpart funding. Other  institutional and  private sector investors are also expected to provide additional funding for the implementation of the strategic initiative.

African Development Bank  President Akinwumi Adesina stressed the  need to leverage the  huge potential of  iDICE for sustainable job creation and economic transformation. “We are retooling Nigeria to be more competitive in an increasingly digital world. We are creating hope for a new Nigeria, driven by the power of the youth.”

The African Development Bank expects the iDICE model to be rolled out in other regional member countries through the Bank’s Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank initiative, which will be designed to create a financial and non-financial services ecosystem to support start-ups run by young Africans, and to create jobs.

The French Ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Blatmann, said the digital technology and creative industries had enormous potential to create jobs and spur economic growth in Nigeria. “The iDICE programme…is designed to support young entrepreneurs and innovators who are driving these industries forward,” she said.

Through iDICE, around 175,000 young people, including university students, will gain direct access to technology to build creative skills, stimulate innovation, and help new businesses to flourish. iDICE will help consolidate Nigeria’s leadership position  as Africa’s pre-eminent hub for young entrepreneurs and start-up investments. In 2022, African start-ups raised $5.4 billion, with Nigerian companies receiving the largest share at $1.2 billion.

iDICE will also enhance regulatory policy frameworks such as the 2022 Start-up Act, provide access to financing through the creation a DICE Fund, an independently managed venture capital fund; and  mobilise over $217 million in investment capital. The fund will also provide technical resources to de-risk digital and creative companies at scale and  sustainable manner.

Click here (link is external) to view images from the iDICE launch.

To hear young people and authorities discuss their expectations, click here.

Members of the Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) Digital Transformation and Innovation Group (DTIG) have outlined their key priorities for 2023, including plans for the WSIS Forum 2023, the first-ever Postal Data Hackathon, and the work to define Crypto and NFT stamps.

The group, which held an important meeting last month to discuss its activities for the year ahead, is responsible for developing and implementing the UPU’s Digital Strategy, which aims to promote the use of digital technologies and innovative solutions in the postal sector.

DTIG prepares industry policies, recommendations, regulations, and technical assistance, as well as hosting training and innovation events and advocating for a sustainable digital future for the Post. “DTIG is helping to ensure that the postal sector can adapt and thrive in the rapidly changing digital landscape,” said Hon Chew Lee, DTIG’s co-chair.

In its role to support postal digital transformation, DTIG works on four key pillars – research and development (R&D), capacity building, innovation and collaboration, and technical assistance. For R&D, DTIG identifies the new technologies, solutions, and trends that can be applied to the postal sector, and facilitates its adoption by the postal network.

As part of this, during its last meeting DTIG held a roundtable on the role the postal sector can play in the digital identity ecosystem, with participation from Posts and experts from around the world. “The participants mentioned that there are a number of unique opportunities that Posts offer to support government goals in digital inclusion and universal access to digital ID-enabled services,” explains Lee. “Enabling trusted postal services in the digital world is key.”

Based on the key outcomes from the discussion, the group will draft a position paper to inform policy makers and assist posts to be prepared to support the SDG goal 16.9 to enable legal identity for all by 2030.

DTIG is also drafting a postal sector input to the consultation on the Global Digital Compact – a UN initiative with the aim of developing shared principles for an open, free, and secure digital future for all. “We are currently consolidating submissions from more than 60 countries on the benefits the postal sector can bring to a common digital agenda,” explains Lee. “The input is due to be submitted in June this year.”

During last month’s meeting DTIG also began work on collecting up-to-date statistics on postal digital services worldwide to prepare the fourth edition of the UPU flagship report, “The digital economy and digital postal activities – a global panorama”. This publication is aimed at providing a better understanding of the patterns of countries’ digital postal capability to inform policy makers, regulators and postal operators.

In the area of innovation, DTIG is working on creating a set of definitions for “Crypto and NFT stamps,” Lee notes, “to give support to the development of this interesting innovation in philately.” The group will work to validate this before it is officially submitted for adoption as a UPU recommendation by the Postal Operations Council this year.

Also this year, DTIG is preparing the first UPU hosted Postal Data Hackathon, which will take place in Berne on 23-24 June. “The USA offered additional support to this exciting new innovation initiative and joined the list of partners including La Poste France, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Eurora, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL),” Lee adds.

Another key priority for 2023 for DTIG is to further advance technical assistance projects. These include the contributions to digitalization activities being undertaken under the e-trade-for-all initiative in Kenya, the Solomon Islands, Mauritania, Tunisia, Malawi, and Jordan.

“Several UN e-trade capability assessments are also being carried out in Peru, Algeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Timor-Leste, and Zimbabwe in 2023,” Lee adds. “During our recent meeting all members were called on to support this work and assist, through the UPU, the countries to implement recommendations from the assessments and action plans.”

With Africa’s share of the global workforce projected to become the largest in the world by 2100, it is critical for African countries to increase the uptake of digital technologies* to drive employment growth for the more than 22 million Africans joining the workforce each year, emphasizes a new report released today.

The “Digital Africa: Technological Transformation for Jobs” report provides a comprehensive analysis of how digital technologies can enable economic transformation and boost jobs in the region. It also sheds light on how policy and regulatory reforms can widen the availability and increase usage of digital technologies.

Of all the regions in the world, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) displays the largest gap between the availability of digital infrastructure and people’s actual usage. On average across countries in SSA, 84% of a given country’s population had at least some level of 3G mobile internet availability and 63% had some level of 4G mobile internet services, but only 22% were using mobile internet services at the end of 2021, according to numbers collected by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association using a methodology focused on unique subscribers. Usage rates range from a low of 6% in South Sudan to 53% in South Africa, underscoring the heterogeneity of average use and the need for differentiated policy reforms across countries.

The minimal usage of mobile internet is a lost opportunity for inclusive growth in Africa,” said Andrew Dabalen, World Bank Chief Economist for Africa. “Closing the uptake gap would increase the continent’s potential to create jobs for its growing population and boost economic recovery in a highly digitalized world.

Even though technology and innovation are known to drive long-term economic growth and can lead to much-needed modernization in economic activities across agriculture, manufacturing and services, the digital divide continues to grow between large formal and micro-sized informal enterprises, between young men- and older women-owned enterprises, and between richer, urban, and more educated households and poorer, rural, and less educated households. Only 2% of micro-sized firms owned by young women and 8% of micro-firms owned by young men use a computer.

The report highlights evidence that internet availability has a positive impact on creating jobs and reducing poverty in African countries. For example, in Nigeria, labor force participation and wage employment increased by 3 and 1 percentage points, respectively, after three or more years of exposure in areas with internet availability. Job estimates for Tanzania found that working-age individuals living in areas with internet availability witnessed increases of 8 percentage points in labor force participation and 4 percentage points in wage employment, after three years of exposure. Moreover, the proportion of households falling below the national basic need poverty line dropped by 7 percentage points.

 “To transform internet availability into productive usage and job growth, the region needs affordable access, digital skills and digital technologies that meet the needs of Africans,” said Christine Zhenwei Qiang, World Bank Global Director for Digital Development“Continuous sector reforms and targeted public investments that support digital economy foundations and digital uptake can help close the digital divide and unleash tremendous potential for more and better jobs for Africa’s growing population.”

For the 40% of Africans who fall below the global extreme poverty line, the cost of basic mobile data plans is often out of reach. Small and medium-sized businesses in Africa also face more expensive data plans than businesses in other regions. To bring down costs, governments should aim to promote competition in the provision of digital infrastructure and reduce operational costs.

To boost productive usage, governments should implement policies that support the development of more attractive digital solutions geared to the skills and productive needs people have while building broader awareness and education. Policies that foster innovation and support digital start-up entrepreneurs are essential to ensure that more Africans use the internet for jobs and learning, which will lead to higher standards of living. When digital technologies better meet the needs of people, households and firms, demand for their use will also increase, making internet expansion more commercially viable, and supporting a virtuous cycle of technology-led transformation.

*For the purposes of the report, digital technologies are defined broadly to include not only digital and data infrastructure, broadband internet, smartphones, tablets, and computers, but also a wide range of more specialized productivity-enhancing digital solutions ranging from communications, management upgrading, and worker training to procurement, production, marketing, logistics, and financing.

The world’s largest multi-stakeholder platform on sustainable digital development aims to rally governments, companies, United Nations agencies and other partners behind a push to harness emerging technologies for the good of all.

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2023 aligns emerging tech like artificial intelligence (AI), the metaverse, big data and the Internet of Things with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030.

This latest annual edition, taking place 13-17 March, promotes “WSIS Action Lines for building back better and accelerating the achievement of the SDGs.”

The WSIS Forum facilitates dialogue on the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for sustainable development, with an emphasis on accelerating digital transformation to tackle today’s social and economic challenges.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres will address high-level sessions by video, while other sessions delve into cybersecurity, space as a driver of sustainable development for all, ICT Infrastructure, capacity building, and creating an enabling environment, as well as digital health, smart cities, making cyber tech green and resilient, and climate and environment standards for ICTs.

Dr Emilija Stojmenova Duh, Minister of Digital Transformation, Republic of Slovenia is chairing WSIS Forum 2023.

Digital transformation for all

A fully crowdsourced programme engaged target stakeholders – including representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, the technical community, and intergovernmental organizations – in preparing the forum agenda.

This year’s discussions will also span digital transformation and innovation for sustainable development; building inclusive digital economies and societies; digital infrastructure and connectivity for all; promoting digital skills and education for all; ensuring digital trust and cybersecurity; strengthening international and multi-stakeholder cooperation to achieve the SDGs.

WSIS Forum 2023 is expected to attract more than 1,500 participants from over 150 countries.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will host the five-day gathering in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Sessions take place at the International Conference Centre Geneva (CICG) in Geneva, Switzerland, with options available for remote participation. The High-Level Track is scheduled to take place on 14-15 March featuring high-level policy sessions, ministerial roundtables, ambassadors’ briefings, and mayors’ dialogues.

Learn more about WSIS Forum 2023.

New technologies and innovations are reshaping our world and its future, often at a dizzying pace. Yet women and girls continue to be left behind in this burgeoning digital universe. How, then, can we harness these developments to create a better future for all of us? This year’s International Women’s Day theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” seeks to answer exactly that question.

We know that women and girls are less likely than men and boys to use the internet or own a smartphone. In fact, only 54 per cent of women in Asia and the Pacific have digital access, cut off from opportunities to move any digital needles forward. The root causes are many and varied: deep-rooted discriminatory social norms, increased gender-based violence (including online violence), and the unequal distribution of unpaid care and domestic work. Addressing these impediments to women realizing their full potential requires our joint and immediate attention and response.

One child, one teacher, one pen

When and where women and girls are discouraged from studying and working in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields, we let them down. And we have left a whole generation of women and girls behind. We need the talents and voices of women and girls brought to the boardrooms and coding rooms. Today many innovations in AI, medicine, entertainment, transportation, work and other fields treat men as the standard and ignore women’s physical and social differences – to the detriment of half of the world’s population.

Getting more women into careers in technology starts with breaking down the gender stereotypes that prevent girls from studying STEM subjects. Comprehensive changes to the way STEM subjects are taught and targeted programs to support girls’ learning are needed. In Viet Nam, the Ministry of Education and Training has updated the country’s National Early Childhood Education curriculum on “de-stereotyping” women and girls and has included gender-sensitive budgeting into the Education Sector Plan. Through changes such as these, governments can foster girls’ enthusiasm for technology, expanding the future digital workforce.

Harnessing technology to support women entrepreneurs

Women entrepreneurs play a key role in developing economies. Supporting them to start and grow businesses through technology will lead to more sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Women have historically struggled to access capital because they are less aware of funding options. They are less likely to own land or have large savings to offer as collateral and have not been included in traditional financial networks. Technological innovations provide an opportunity to connect women entrepreneurs across the region with new financing models that cater to their particular needs. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship project has unlocked almost USD 65 million in capital to support women entrepreneurs in several countries. Through identifying and backing a number of experimental technology-driven business models, the project has supported women-led micro, small and medium enterprises through a range of technology solutions such as payment platforms, online marketplaces, bookkeeping and inventory management.

Enabling women to become drivers of inclusive innovation

If we pair the untapped potential of women and girls to contribute to our common future together with the potential of the innovations of digitalization, science and technologies, we may well have cracked the code to rectifying many of the inequalities and injustices created by generations past. Women have the know-how to harness technology and innovation. Given equal opportunities, they will flourish and contribute to creative solutions to tackle the world’s multi-faceted challenges.

Women leaders in Asia and the Pacific are already using technology to address inequalities and gender-based violence. Founded by Virginia Tan, Rhea See, and Leanne Robers, She Loves Tech, headquartered in Singapore, runs the world’s largest start-up competition for women and technology and aims to unlock over USD 1 billion in capital by 2030 for women-led businesses. Safecity is a crowd-mapping platform for people to share experiences of sexual harassment in public spaces and allows communities to identify problems and work towards solutions. The platform was launched by three women, including current leader Elsa Marie D’Silva, in response to incidents of gender-based violence in the region.

“We can all do our part to unleash our world’s enormous untapped talent – starting with filling classrooms, laboratories, and boardrooms with women scientists,” said United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently. Indeed, we need women in leadership roles in all science and technology spaces to accelerate inclusive innovation.

Let’s work together towards our dream of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. What better way to do so than to use innovations and new technologies to overcome inequalities in the digital age?

Dozens of inspiring Georgian women managed to turn their dreams into reality with support from the World Bank-financed Georgia National Innovation Ecosystem (GENIE) Project, contributing to technological advances in areas including artificial intelligence, e-commerce, agriculture and biotechnology. Having turned their innovative ideas into successful startups, these female entrepreneurs share their thoughts on how women can break through in tech.


On International Women’s Day, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the International Trade Centre (ITC) jointly hosted a discussion on ‘Bridging the digital gap for women-led businesses in developing economies’.

Held at the United Nations New York headquarters on the margins of the UN Committee on the Status of Women (CSW67), the event highlighted some of the ongoing work of organisations dedicated to narrowing the digital gender gap as a means to drive women’s economic empowerment and trade-led growth.

In his opening remarks, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. Arjoon Suddhoo, noted the importance of the partnership between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the International Trade Centre in using their platforms to advocate for women’s economic empowerment.

“We fully understand that helping women to leverage technology and innovative skills into their businesses can play an important role in economic growth, therefore events such as this, provides the opportunity for advocacy, information sharing and networking,” he said.

Digitalisation is instrumental to increased productivity and increased economic growth. However, while the gains of digitalisation have been impressive, research shows that there is a widening digital access gap between men and women and this gap progressively widens as technologies get more sophisticated.

Also speaking at the event, Deputy Executive Director of ITC, Dorothy Tembo, said:

“The digital economy is an area where we see strong potential for growth for women in trade. We take a multipronged, ecosystem approach to promote women’s participation in the digital economy through three key strategies: training women entrepreneurs in digital skills, supporting the adoption of technologies to distinguish themselves from competitors, and collaborating with governments and businesses to provide access to markets and finance.”

Ninety per cent of global trade is driven by Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and women are a fundamental part of this ecosystem. MSME’s also represent 50% of employment worldwide. In developing economies, the majority of women-led businesses are at the micro level and there is a strong need for support to help these women scale their businesses.

Taking on an interactive format, participants, mostly female entrepreneurs, were given the opportunity to share their stories, discuss what their organisations are doing to bridge the digital gap, identify opportunities for growth and make recommendations for the future, such as creating more networking and mentoring opportunities for female-led business owners.

The event is part of a joint initiative of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Trade Competitiveness Section, which provides technical assistance to member countries for improving their trade competitiveness in global markets; the Gender Section, which works to advance gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment in all social, economic and political spheres; and the International Trade Centre to strengthen ties to help countries achieve sustainable and inclusive economic development.

If you have not done it yet, visit our step-by-step welcome guide to get set up your ID card.

Most likely you will use your digital ID for logging into Estonian governmental and private e-services and digitally signing and encrypting documents.

e-Residency digital ID card is a digital document that can be used to securely identify a person online. Just like showing identification when completing a credit card transaction at a store, you show your digital ID for verification over the internet so institutions and companies are certain you are you.

Using your digital ID card

ID.EE is the national ID card technical support in Estonia. If starting to use your digital ID card online seems difficult or daunting, they are there to assist you throughout the process.

On their website, you can find how-to videos, support articles, step-by-step solution finders and the contacts of the support team.

Below is an example of a video about how to create a digitally signed document on your computer.

Your digital identity

When granted e-Residency, you will also be issued an Estonian personal identification code. A personal identification code is a number with 11 digits containing your gender and birth date as part of the information and it is your unique name in Estonian e-services.

Your personal identification code will remain the same for the rest of your life, even if you will change your name or apply for a different document in Estonia.

Your personal identification code is public by design, meaning the information is only as sensitive as your name and birthday. Your personal code is intended for identification, not authorisation purposes.

The story your personal code tells is:

The first number 1 – male born between 1800-1899
2 – female born between 1800-1899
3 – male born 1900-1999
4 – female born 1900 – 1999
5 – male born 2000 – 2099
6 – female born 2000 – 2099

Second and third number – last two numbers of your year of birth
Fourth and fifth number – the month of birth
Sixth and seventh number – date of birth
eighth, ninth, tenth number – order number
eleventh number – control number

For example, if your personal code is 4891020xxxx you would be a female born in 1989 and your birthday is 20. October (4 89 10 20 xxxx).

Quick PIN code overview

When using your digital ID card, the same PIN codes apply to all e-services, they are universal. No more multiple usernames and passwords!

  • PIN1: The personal identification process, like login, will require entering PIN1. To log in using your digital ID card, you must have physical possession of the card, a card reader and know your PIN1.
  • PIN2: For digital signatures, or to confirm a payment, you will additionally need PIN2. This confirms that you agree to complete the action.

Read more about your PIN codes here, and be sure to review our article on digital ID safety.

Practical tips

Check out ID card technical help instructions on different ways you can digitally sign or encrypt documents!

E-services commonly used by e-residents

Below is a list of the most commonly used Estonian government e-services. Visit our Marketplace for a collection of services that will enable you to make the most of your digital ID.

State Portal Log in to see and manage your personal information
Service Providers Some service providers have integrated e-Residency digital ID log in on their websites
Company Registration Portal Register your company online
e-Business Register Manage your business information
e-Financials Web-based public accounting software
e-Tax/e-Customs Submit relevant documentation to the Estonian Tax and Customs Board
e-Notary  Buy, sell or pledge shares of your Estonian company, authenticate powers of attorney
e-apostille Use e-apostille when you need your company formation documents apostilled

Digital signature issues

If you encounter issues using your digital signature, the most common reason is that your browser’s digital signing plugins need to be updated. Instructions to properly enable digital signing plugins in your browser can be found at ID card help centre.

Policymakers and business representatives from five Central Asian countries meet in Dubai for a regional conference and a two-day study tour on e-commerce.

The International Trade Centre’s EU-funded Ready4Trade Central Asia project organized a conference on “Harnessing the potential of e-commerce in Central Asia” with a two-day study tour in Dubai on 7-9 March.

Central Asia’s e-commerce industry is growing rapidly, driven by increasing internet penetration and mobile phone use, as well as a growing middle class. According to IMARC Group, the e-commerce market size in Central Asia reached $8 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25.4% over the next five years.

Collaboration at the regional level can be essential for the success of the e-commerce industry in Central Asia. To build regional momentum, the project brought together policymakers and business representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for this three-day event.

At the conference participants had the opportunity to share knowledge with their peers, explore potential areas of public-private collaboration, identify key national policies and regulations to be addressed, and discuss ways to further strengthen trade cooperation within Central Asia to embrace e-commerce at the regional level. They also launched NOVICA’s Artisan Empowerment Hub, its 10th around the world. This new hub provides new online sales channels to the artisans in Central Asia enabling them to sell to international customers worldwide.

At the opening, Ashish Shah, Director of the Division of Country Programmes at the International Trade Centre said: “There is no doubt that e-commerce has become our reality and is an important opportunity for businesses of all sizes to expand their online presence. Not to mention that small and medium-sized enterprises account for the majority of businesses worldwide.”

H.E. Andrea Matteo Fontana, European Union Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates added: “In the framework of the EU strategy on Central Asia, the EU is partnering with Central Asian countries for resilience and prosperity. E-commerce is a strong engine for increased trade and economic growth. This will unlock significant potential by fostering the development of a competitive private sector and fostering a sound and open investment environment. This EU funded project is promoting the simplification and harmonisation of customs procedures as well as the development of cross-border e-commerce.”

During a two-day study tour participants will visit local fulfilment centres and explore best e-commerce practices from international players and the United Arab Emirates, which holds the largest B2C e-commerce market and is an e-commerce leader among the Gulf Cooperation Council, with more than 60% of the online buyers based in Dubai. In addition, 90% of all e-commerce items are imported, which makes it a valuable place to explore potential partnerships.

“The United Arab Emirates is now a leading global e-commerce hub, leveraging our world-class logistics infrastructure, unrivalled connectivity and state-of-the-art fulfilment capabilities to connect the region’s products and services with customers on every continent,” said H.E. Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade in the United Arab Emirates. “We welcome the opportunity to help the nations of Central Asia develop their e-commerce sector and unlock an entire world of opportunity for their manufacturers, industrialists and entrepreneurs.”

About the project

Ready4Trade Central Asia is a four-year EU-funded project implemented by the International Trade Centre in close collaboration with national partners, designed to contribute to the overall sustainable and inclusive economic development of Central Asia by boosting intra-regional and international trade in the countries of the region. Beneficiaries of the Ready4Trade Central Asia project include governments, small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular women-led enterprises, and business support organizations.

A single digital market across Africa will lower barriers to trade and communication. It will make the internet faster and more accessible. Content and services, hosted on local data centers, will be cheaper to download because they won’t go through expensive international connections. And better access to online communication, banking, or health care can make continent-wide connections with family and friends, businesses and lenders, doctors and patients easier.

Connections to neighboring countries, to regions, and to the entire continent are key to sparking economic growth, creating jobs, and moving Africa into the digital age. Long term, the goals are ambitious: to create a single and secure digital market across Africa alongside free trade areas on the ground. To build regional links that eliminate roaming charges. To improve cross-border trade across the continent by creating the largest free-trade area in the world. This kind of connectivity, both digital and at national borders, was one of the major themes at the 2023 Dakar Financing Summit held in February given that an objective of the African Union is to build a secured single digital market in Africa by 2030, an effort supported by the World Bank’s Digital Economy for Africa (DE4A) initiative.

These goals require large investments in broadband connectivity, secure data infrastructure, and the governmental and legal reforms that can spark competition. Building digital and physical connections by eliminating barriers like broadband coverage gaps, digital illiteracy, and even red tape and paperwork at ports and land borders will allow people and businesses across Africa to reach bigger markets, build businesses, and create jobs.

For example, Diaobé, Senegal, is a rural market town in the southern part of the country near Guinea. Every week businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to trade dried fish, palm oil, honey and more. Improving connectivity in Diaobé would be a real-world example of how to boost trade in the region. Since Diaobé is a regional economic hub, strong connectivity would promote economic growth. Digital payments for buying and selling, ordering goods online, locating merchandise using GPS—all of these digital tools would make it faster and easier for people to work and that, in turn, would attract still more businesses and customers to Diaobé. Of course, more people and more money coming to town would mean additional business for many other businesses – cafes, hotels, street vendors – creating a positive spillover effect.

But financing and investment in the infrastructure that builds connectivity is vital. Billions in public sector investment is needed to achieve universal access to broadband connectivity in Africa by 2030. And these investments must be accompanied by policy and regulatory reforms that create a safe and alluring environment for private investors. Strong continent-wide cybersecurity will also be important for building trust and ensuring Africa’s digital single market works safely and securely.

Today, though, about two thirds of the continent, 900 million people, are still not connected to the internet. In Western and Central Africa, in 2022, only 34% of the population had access to broadband connectivity. That number is even lower in Eastern and Southern Africa, while in North Africa, a bit less than half of the population is connected. Countries below the regional average, like the Central African Republic, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, require special focus.

Across Africa, there are signs of movement. The Africa ICT Alliance is a private sector-led group of international corporations, companies, organizations, and people in information technology and communication. It has grown from a membership of 6 countries to 40. A new data protection law in Nigeria, which aims to protect privacy and the safe exchange of personal data, has created over 5,000 jobs. Nigeria is also investing in reducing gaps in internet coverage by licensing Starlink satellites to provide access to underserved areas. Training programs, online courses, and digital skills education are in high demand across Africa.

Going forward, regional economic commissions can play a key role in accelerating digitalization and groups in Africa are stepping up efforts that encourage cooperation across member states. At the Dakar Financing Summit, representatives from both Eastern and Western African groups underscored that promoting the emergence of single digital markets is a shared agenda across the continent. There is tremendous potential when it comes to a single digital market and making digital infrastructure as common as electricity and transport networks will be key to success.

At the continental level, this work will require a renewed commitment to cross-border integration – building toward a single digital market for Africa. This regional collaboration will be critical to generate the economies of scale, network effects and cooperation critical to enable African digital firms to compete regionally and globally, to create the investment case for digital infrastructure and to boost access to digital services, e-commerce and opportunities for all African citizens and businesses regardless of location. This effort, together with public and private investments will help build the foundations for a future-ready Africa.

A regional commemoration on International Women’s Day hosted by the UN in Bangkok today called upon countries to reaffirm their shared commitment to “leaving no one offline” and accelerating efforts towards building a more secure, accessible, inclusive and equitable digital world for women and girls.

“Our digital spaces are not yet gender-neutral and gender-inclusive. Access to the benefits of technological innovations has been unequal across the Asia-Pacific region,” underscored Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in her opening remarks.

Only 54 per cent of women in the Asia-Pacific region use the Internet, compared with 59 per cent of men. In the region’s low- and middle-income countries, women are 20 per cent less likely to own a smartphone or to use the Internet on a mobile device than men. In addition, although some women and girls own digital devices, they often live in contexts where they do not have the autonomy to use them and, thus, are unable to leverage digital tools to benefit themselves.

Apart from insufficient digital access and skills, gender stereotypes and social norms continue to hinder the advancement of an equal digital transformation. Gender sensitivity in digital education systems and the development of new technologies are fundamental to reducing the digital access gap between men and women.

“Imagine Asia and the Pacific, where women and girls in all their diversity have equal opportunities to safely and meaningfully access, use, lead, and co-design technology with freedom, joy, and boundless potential. It is a fair wish and a possible dream. Let us all make women’s rights a reality every day,” said Sarah Knibbs, Regional Director a.i., UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Themed DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality, the regional commemoration further highlighted the crucial roles held and contributions made by women and girls working to transform the world into a more connected place. Panelists at the event explored several key areas such as the gendered impact of the digital revolution, meaningful connectivity to narrow the gender digital divide, gender-transformative technology design, and gender-inclusive environments for STEM education and careers.

Prominent discussants included Suriya Chindawongse, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations, Rebecca Razvi, Asia-Pacific Head of Public Policy and Economic Graph, Linkedin, Kirthi Jayakumar, 30 for 2030 Youth Network and Rhea See, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, She Loves Tech, as well as other key stakeholders from across the region.

The event also served to promote resilient digital networks across the region as well as digital inclusion partnerships and regional cooperation between governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations to ensure accessible and reliable connectivity for all in the region.

For more information:

Watch the regional commemoration:

Statement by Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UNCTAD

Today, on International Women’s Day, we want to send an important message.

Too many women are being excluded from the digital world. And this digital gender gap is widening economic and social inequalities across the world.

We must have more women in technology.

We need more women at the digital economy policymaking table to design effective policies to address this gap and these obstacles. And to include women’s perspectives in the design and development of the technologies we use daily.

Today, globally 57% of women use the internet compared with 62% of men.

We must ensure we provide women the skills to use digital technologies and close this gap.

Today, only around one third of world STEM students in higher education globally are women.

We must support girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics – and highlight successful role models to encourage and motivate girls and women.

In UNCTAD, through our eTrade for Women initiative, we bring women’s voices and experiences to help other women digital entrepreneurs and to build more inclusive ecosystems.

And through our programme we bring young female scientists to build the capacity of women science researchers in developing countries.

As technology continues to improve our lives, we cannot afford to exclude the unique contributions women can bring.

We must close the digital gender gap and give every woman and every girl equal access to the opportunities these transformative technologies and digital education can provide.

Ghana’s Central Bank has lauded the African Development Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative for its role in equipping women-owned businesses to drive the country’s economy.

“This partnership between AFAWA, the African Guarantee Fund and the Ghana Association of Banks is timely and urgent,” said Elsie Addo Awadzi, second deputy governor of the Bank of Ghana, in Accra. “We believe it will go a long way in helping our economy recover from the current macro-economic challenges it faces and indeed make it more resilient.” Awadzi was speaking during the recent AFAWA Finance Series workshop held in the country’s capital to reaffirm the business case for bolstering women’s access to finance.

Awadzi called on stakeholders in Ghana to support the AFAWA initiative, saying it would serve the common good.

AFAWA is a pan-African initiative of the African Development Bank to bridge the $42 billion financing gap facing women in Africa.

The Finance Series, jointly organized by the African Guarantee Fund, offers an introduction to AFAWA’s partnership services for African finance ministers, central bank governors and financial institutions. In Accra, the three-day series addressed the country’s gender financing gap, the importance of gender-smart investment approaches, and how to increase business opportunities by building products and services to serve women entrepreneurs.

Participants also received a presentation on AFAWA’s Guarantee for Growth program, which offers practical advice on improving gender-sensitivity in lending practices. Research shows women are better at repaying loans than men, and typically reinvest up to 90% of their income in the education, health and nutrition of their families and communities.

“Our objective is to provide a holistic solution to bridge the gender financing gap in Africa,” said Jules Ngankam, Group CEO of the African Guarantee Fund. “The African Guarantee Fund is committed to working with financial institutions to support women entrepreneurs through the AFAWA Guarantee for Growth program.” The fund is a specialized guarantee provider that advances economic development, sustainable job creation and poverty reduction in Africa.

“Women are key stakeholders in Africa’s integration and economic development, it is imperative that they are supported with progressive initiatives such as AFAWA that enable them to thrive in their various endeavors,” Eyerusalem Fasika, African Development Bank Ghana Country Manager, told participants.

The workshop, the first held in West Africa, follows successful events in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

AFAWA recently notched a key milestone: it has approved $1 billion in financing for African women entrepreneurs. The workshops also coincided with the rollout of AFAWA’s Digital Financial Services Policy, which aims to build understanding of market dynamics from a gender perspective and to increase women’s access to digital financial products.

Supported by G7 countries, the Netherlands and Sweden, AFAWA takes a holistic approach to boost access to finance for women-owned and women-led businesses; strengthen the capacity of women entrepreneurs and financial institutions; and mobilize and support African governments to enact the legal, political and regulatory reforms needed for the development of women’s entrepreneurship.

To watch a video stream of the opening ceremony, click here

In most of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, women account for no more than 40% of the student body in STEM majors, a gap the U.N. Commission is emphasizing as part of International Women’s Day.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) is calling to guarantee women’s access to digital technology, increase the number of women majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and eradicate gender cyber violence as part of its observance of International Women’s Day  . This year’s theme is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.”

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Internet benefits are not distributed equally: an estimated 244 million inhabitants do not have access to these services. Differences in access to digital technology are especially alarming when urban and rural communities are compared: while 68% of urban homes in the region had an Internet connection in 2018, the same held true for only 23% of households in rural areas.

According to a report by ECLAC, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Autonomy in the Digital Era: Contributions of Education and Digital Transformation in Latin America and the Caribbean, women’s access to the Internet is more precarious.

An estimated four out of 10 women in the region are not connected to the Internet. The reasons vary: access may not be available, they cannot afford it, do not have a compatible device, or lack the basic skills to connect.

“The cost of mobile and fixed broadband service for the population in the first income quintile in the region averages 14% and 12% of their income, respectively, which explains why a high percentage of this low-income population does not have access to the Internet. Given that women are overrepresented in lower-income households in the region, this explains why there are more women in households that are not connected,” states the document.

“ECLAC recognizes the talent, strength and creativity of women and girls in the region. However, we note the structural persistence of gender inequality. The data speak volumes and call us to action,” notes ECLAC Executive Secretary José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, in a video message  released in observance of International Women’s Day 2023.

“This 8 March, we are calling for: A narrowing of the gender digital divide and the full participation of women in technological development and knowledge. And also, for a transition to a care society, a development model that puts equality and sustainability of life at the centre and leaves no one behind,” announced the head of ECLAC.

Women in the region have achieved much in terms of education, surpassing men by 6.1 percentage points in high school completion. Despite these achievements, women are not equally represented in academic disciplines, as shown in the ECLAC report. These inequalities widen over the course of primary and secondary education and later at the university level.

In most countries of the region, women account for no more than 40% of graduates in STEM careers. The areas where women are least represented are engineering, industry and construction (where women’s college enrollment stood at 30.8% in 2019) and information and communications technology (ICT), where only 18% of college students were women in 2019.

When women do earn college degrees, these do not necessarily translate into better jobs or salaries once they enter the labor force. Women’s job market participation stands at just 50% and women spend almost triple the amount of time on unpaid housework and caregiving than men (19.6% of their time versus 7.3% for men).

Women who remain in STEM careers do not achieve the same as men in terms of scientific production or academia: on average, less than 30% of patents list at least one woman on the team of inventors in the region. Women’s authorship in physical and chemical science publications stands at 38% and engineering, 30%.

Another finding from the ECLAC report is the different types of violence girls and women suffer on digital media. This gendered violence, which includes cybercrimes such as threats, hate speech, sexual harassment, invasion of privacy and the non-consensual sharing of images, among others, is generally sexual and sexist.

According to the commission’s report, women who are human rights activists, politicians, communicators and journalists, and public leaders are often particular targets of this gender-based cyber violence.

ECLAC is encouraging the countries of the region to uphold the regionals accords designed to close the digital gender gap and guarantee the participation of all girls and women in development and technological knowledge. These are included in the Buenos Aires Commitment, the Digital Agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean (eLAC 2024) (both approved in November 2022) and in the Declaration by the ministers and authorities of the mechanisms for gender equality and empowerment of women in Latin America and the Caribbean, signed in February of this year.

ECLAC is calling on countries to make progress simultaneously in different priority areas. Its proposals include incorporating a gender perspective in the processes and policies related to the transformation of production and the digital transformation of the most dynamic sectors of the economy; fostering gender and social equity in caregiving; and promoting integral caregiving systems that rely on technology solutions to give girls and women more time for learning and greater access to education and digital technologies.

Another need the report notes is that of supporting inclusive digital transformation processes (like the digital market basket) to ensure household Internet access across the region. Career and technical education (CTE) should be promoted to increase the number of girls and women in STEM and eliminate gender stereotypes in education. Women must be fully involved in the creation of digital technologies and innovation processes, and safe spaces free of digital violence need to be created. Finally, governance must be strengthened along with the multisector partnerships needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

Joint statement by partners of the Global Strategy for Equality in Law for Women and Girls by 2030: A Multi-stakeholder Strategy for Accelerated Action

On International Women’s Day, we are reminded of the work still to be done to advance the gender equality agenda in a digital age. Awareness of women’s rights among women and girls and men and boys is keenly dependent on access to innovative technology, including simple tools such as mobile phones. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated quite clearly that closing the gender digital gap is an essential precondition to women’s access to justice and other legal services.

Legal reform is especially urgent: More than 2.5 billion women and girls live in a discriminatory environment or lack essential protections. The Equality in Law for Women and Girls by 2030: A Multi-stakeholder Strategy for Accelerated Action strategy was launched by a multi-stakeholder group led by UN Women in 2019 to fast-track the repeal of such inequalities, which deny women and girls equal rights, betray their trust in society and signal that gender discrimination is acceptable. Approaching the four-year mark is an opportunity to recommit to ensuring women’s fundamental human rights and close these remaining gender gaps once and for all.

Discriminatory laws not only affect women’s and girls’ rights but also hinder development across all sectors, including rapidly advancing innovation and technological change. A holistic approach, addressing comprehensive and specific reforms in the fields of economic empowerment, minimum age of marriage, nationality rights, violence against women, political participation, and family and personal status laws would have ripple effects on the whole of society.

Already member states are acting on this imperative. Since 2019, Rwanda enacted reforms upholding the rights of widows to remarry following the death of their husbands without restrictions. Pakistan lifted limitations on women’s ability to work at night. Brazil established policies to prevent, sanction and end violence against women in politics. Peru approved new legal provisions to protect the rights of domestic workers. Liberia enshrined women’s rights to confer nationality on their children and spouses on an equal basis with men. Morocco set mandatory quotas for women on the boards of publicly traded companies. And Ukraine introduced paid paternity leave to ensure the equal distribution of parental responsibilities. Among others, these reforms have begun to reverse generations of injustice and address the legal needs of millions.

Yet there is more work to be done. Ensuring that every woman and girl can live up to her full potential requires transformative changes to laws, policies and constitutions, and a broader strategy for their effective implementation, which should include technology and innovation. It is a collective effort that must involve the engagement of states, regional and inter-regional bodies, civil society organisations, intergovernmental organisations, and UN agencies. Despite unprecedented challenges facing women all over the world, these dedicated stakeholders must remain steadfast in their commitment to pursuing gender-responsive legal reform, using technology and other means in at least 100 countries. The world cannot wait another 286 years to eradicate these disparities.

Today, let us honour the historic progress that gender champions all over the world have made and once again pledge to make equality a reality. The Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved without the meaningful and equal participation of women. This starts with equality in law for women and girls everywhere.

Joint statement by partners of the Global Strategy for Equality in Law for Women and Girls by 2030: A Multi-stakeholder Strategy for Accelerated Action:

  • UN Women
  • African Union
  • Commonwealth Secretariat
  • Inter-Parliamentary Union
  • Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie
  • Secretaria General Ibero-Americana
  • Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
  • Equality Now
  • Global Citizen
  • Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights
  • Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law
  • International Association of Women Judges
  • International Development Law Organization
  • Muslims for Progressive Values
  • Women’s Learning Partnership
  • The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
  • Girls Not Brides

The inequalities faced by women in the real world are also prevalent online. On International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March, the UN is raising awareness of these disparities, and putting forward a vision of fairer digital future for all.

Despite the increasing digitalization of everyone’s daily lives, the digital gender gap has grown; globally around 63 per cent of women have access to the internet today, compared to 69 per cent of men.

Across all areas of digital technology, women and girls remain under-represented, from coding and creating, to accessing services, and drafting regulations and policy. This disparity comes at a considerable cost: UN Women estimates that, if women’s exclusion from the digital sphere was ended, some $1 trillion could be added to the GDP of low and middle-income countries.

And women and girls are often put off by an actively hostile environment in the sector; on average, women are paid 21 per cent less than men, they face considerably lower rates of promotion, and nearly half report workplace harassment.

These statistics underline the urgent need to change the online environment, and widen access to women and girls. The UN is backing a wide range of projects supporting this aim; here are some examples.


‘With little to no resources, I can make a huge difference’

When she learned that her high school in Eswatini offered classes on information and communication technologies, student Sizolwethu Maphanga was not interested: as far as she could tell, there was no connection with the real-world challenges she saw facing her community and country, something that research has shown is a key driver of many girls’ career choices.

“I was fortunate enough to have enrolled,” she says, “but I was never that much in love with it.”

Everything changed for Sizolwethu when she attended a coding camp run by the African Girls Can Code Initiative. There, she says, her passion for tech grew as the camp “opened my eyes to the game changing innovations that can impact Africa. I learned that, with little to no resources, I can make a huge difference if passion and determination are there.”

Find out more about how the UN-supported camp, which has ignited a spark in the minds of hundreds of girls, here.

© Ed Pagria | Globally, around 63 per cent of women have access to the internet today, compared to 69 per cent of men.

The gender games: WeRise

Ending gender inequality is not something to play around with, but in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), WeRise, a new app is proving that online games can raise awareness and foster discussions on gender roles and stereotypes.

The app offers games and puzzles, and a social platform for users to share posts, interact on forums, and call for action, on topics linked to gender. Since it launched in July 2022, it has been downloaded thousands of times, and is the number on development organized-sponsored app in the region.

Designed as a “youth for youth” project, and supported by UN Women, WeRise was developed by over 100 young people from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia, and is available in Arabic, English and French.

Read the full story here.

© Ed Pagria | Victims of domestic violence may be unable to access support, if their abusers control their communication devices.

SOS in Serbia

The lockdowns imposed by many countries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a significant rise in domestic violence, with women finding it even harder to escape their abusers. Often, their phones are monitored and, if it is discovered that they have tried to call or text a support organization, they can face even greater risks.

A Serbian organization, SOS Network of Vojvodina, decided to create an app that would allow women to report violence and seek help without their abuser noticing, even if their communications were being monitored.

The app, which is disguised to prevent detection, contains an SOS button enabling users to call, or live chat, with support organizations offering psychosocial support, counselling, and referral to places that can supply other services.

“Giving women the choice to decide for themselves how and whom they will contact in cases of violence was both the biggest challenge and the biggest motivation,” says SOS Network of Vojvodina President Biljana Stepanov. “It sends the message to women that there is a way out,” says Biljana. “They are not alone.”

In an increasingly digitalized world, full and equal participation in society depends on modern technologies. From work and education to healthcare and staying connected with loved ones, nearly every aspect of daily life has to some degree gone “online”. The critical role of digital technologies in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 accelerated this trend. Still, the digital transformation is not universal. Around the world, access to and use of digital technologies varies by gender, age, education, region, and income. This digital divide threatens to exacerbate existing inequalities and generate new ones within and across countries.

chart 1

In the UNECE region, Internet use is widespread. Eighty-five per cent of individuals aged 16 to 74 use the Internet weekly. More than 90 per cent of adults in the region own a mobile phone. While these numbers suggest a digitally connected population, they mask persisting and intersecting disparities by age and gender that must be addressed to ensure equal inclusion in economic, social, and civic life.

Older women risk being left behind

Older persons—and particularly older women—risk being left behind in the region’s digital transformation. Only 67 per cent of individuals aged 55 to 74 in the UNECE region use the Internet weekly, compared to more than 90 per cent of those aged 16 to 54. The region is close to achieving gender parity in Internet use among younger people, but a digital gender divide exists for those aged 55 to 74, with fewer women than men in this age group logging on. When it comes to digital skills, older women are further behind. In countries in the European Union, only half as many women aged 55 to 74 have basic or above basic digital skills when compared to men and women in younger age groups. These generation and gender gaps are likely to be even more pronounced for those aged 75 and older, a population for which comprehensive data on this and many other topics are often unavailable.


Globally, women and girls of all ages are less likely to access and use digital technologies.  On International Women’s Day and during this week’s 67th Commission on the Status of Women, the global community reflects on the impact of the digital gender gap on economic and social inequalities and the role of technology in achieving gender equality. In the UNECE region, women are at a higher risk of poverty and social exclusion than men across all age groups, and the gender gap is largest among older persons. Inequality in older age is related to accumulated disadvantages in the labour market throughout the lifespan. One way to prevent and address these gender disparities is to promote technology skills and access for women of all ages. UNECE member States are taking concrete policy actions to bridge the gender digital divide across the life course.

UNECE member States take concrete action

In Ireland, the Women ReBOOT programme combines formal training, self-directed learning, and individual coaching to provide women with technology skills and experience to return to work after a career break. Acknowledging the key role of technology in the empowerment of women, the Women’s Economic Security Program in Ontario, Canada targets low-income women and women who have experienced violence to develop skills, knowledge and experience in information technology and other areas to find a job or start a small business.

For older persons, technology can enable a longer working life, support active ageing, mitigate social exclusion, and reduce isolation and loneliness. The 2022 Rome Ministerial Declaration calls on UNECE member States to work towards age-friendly digitalization, enhance digital skills and literacy among older persons, and ensure rights to access information and services through digital devices. In Greece, the National Action Plan on Gender Equality 2021-2025 makes this a priority with digital skills training programmes for older women designed to improve access to the labour market, digital health services, and e-commerce and banking services.

Digitalization that benefits everyone

These examples show the way forward towards addressing the digital generation and gender gaps in the region. In today’s digital society, gender equality will not be achieved without bridging the digital divide. With much to gain, older women and men should not be forgotten in efforts towards inclusive digitalization. Technology is a tool to promote gender equality, enhance economic opportunities, and improve social and political participation at all ages, but only if digitalization benefits everyone.

  • Digital entrepreneurship can be a powerful avenue for women’s inclusion in the digital economy.
  • There are 3 advantages e-commerce offers to women: lower barriers to entry; better access to customers; more flexibility in work hours.
  • Enabling women entrepreneurs in developing countries to partake in the digital economy calls for a multifaceted approach.

The theme for International Women’s Day, 2023, aptly chosen by the United Nations, is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. Within this domain, digital entrepreneurship can be a powerful avenue for women’s inclusion in the digital economy with new business opportunities, efficiency gains and better access to markets and global value chains.

While the digital economy is a very broad category, according to the International Finance Corporation, women could add over $300 billion to e-commerce markets alone in Africa and South-East Asia between 2025 and 2030.

There are three key advantages that e-commerce offers to women. First, it offers lower barriers to entry than traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. This means that women entrepreneurs can start their businesses with lower start-up costs and without the need for a physical storefront, which can be a significant advantage. Yvette Uwimpaye, a young entrepreneur from Rwanda, noticed the inconvenience that people faced while shopping at multiple markets. To address this issue, she developed Murukali, a simplified online shopping platform that saves time and money. With start-up costs as little as $1,155, she managed to launch the platform that is transforming the shopping experience in Rwanda.

Secondly, it can enable women entrepreneurs to reach customers all over the world. Women entrepreneurs can leverage this global reach to expand their customer base and grow their businesses beyond their local markets. Birame Sock, an entrepreneur from Senegal, has taken advantage of this opportunity as founder of Kwely, an online B2B wholesale sourcing marketplace for products made in Africa. The online platform gives buyers around the world access to quality and unique products made in Africa that meet international standards.

And thirdly, it offers a degree of flexibility in terms of work hours and location. Women entrepreneurs who may have caregiving responsibilities or mobility constraints can greatly benefit from digital technologies.

Despite these opportunities, women entrepreneurs are much less represented in the digital economy than men. This gap translates into missed economic opportunities and may aggravate existing gender inequalities.

To understand how to increase women’s participation in e-commerce and the digital economy and reduce the digital gender divide, we first need to understand the specific needs and constraints that women face as entrepreneurs, as well as the enabling factors that can further support the growth of women-led digital businesses.

Bridging the gaps

Access to a reliable and affordable internet connection is the bedrock of the digital economy. While the gender gap in internet usage has shrunk globally, it remains significant in many developing countries, particularly in the least developed countries (LDCs).

Globally, 57% of women used the internet compared with 62% of men, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Of the estimated 2.7 billion people currently unconnected, the majority are women and girls. And in the LDCs, only 19% of women use the internet as opposed to 31% of men.

Percentage of female and male population using the internet, 2020

Image: ITU


Meaningful connectivity needs to be accompanied by relevant skills. Compared to men, women have limited opportunity to master more advanced technology and digital skills, which underpin the possibility of workers and entrepreneurs to leverage digital tools. According to UNESCO, only 35% of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students in higher education globally are women.

But for many entrepreneurs in developing countries and the LDCs, it is basic digital literacy that is most needed to engage in the digital economy. This encompasses skills that enable the direct use of technologies, such as good comprehension of emerging technologies and their applications, as well as knowledge of digital privacy and security.

In addition to these challenges in the digital world, barriers that women entrepreneurs continue to face in the analogue world still need to be addressed. These include limited access to resources, difficulties in obtaining credit, cultural inhibitions and gender stereotypes.

By raising the profile of successful female business leaders and providing demand-driven capacity-building support, these initiatives are not only fighting deeply rooted stereotypes that hold women back but also helping them to address binding constraints.

Ways forward

Closing the digital divide is a prerequisite to unlocking women’s potential in the digital economy. Governments must take steps to improve digital connectivity and ensure that access to affordable internet is considered a citizen’s right – not a luxury.

In many developing countries, internet access is prohibitively expensive, making it difficult for women entrepreneurs to operate in the digital space. Governments must work with private sector partners to expand broadband coverage in underserved areas and promote policies that encourage greater competition in the telecommunications sector.

Enabling women entrepreneurs in developing countries to partake in the digital economy calls for a multifaceted approach, necessitating collaboration among governments, businesses and civil society. This approach should aim to provide women with access to digital resources, education, skills and financial support.

Enabling more women entrepreneurs to take advantage of the growing digital economy, break down barriers and thrive in the global marketplace is critically important to fully harness digital opportunities for sustainable development. By investing in women’s participation in the digital economy, we can create a more inclusive and equitable global economy that benefits everyone.

Championing women’s causes

Unless we have more women in leadership roles, only men will define how we communicate, work, educate, run businesses, provide healthcare and educate. Bringing the voices of women who are active players in the digital economy to the policy-making table is essential. They can help us design relevant and effective policies to address specific obstacles that women face.

There are several initiatives underway to address these challenges. For example, UNCTAD’s E-Trade for Women initiative is promoting the engagement of women entrepreneurs in developing countries in designing relevant and effective policies to address the obstacles that women face. It is also inspiring more women to venture into digital entrepreneurship. So far, the initiative has reached founders of almost 200 women-owned digital businesses in more than 40 developing countries.

The ITU, EIF and EQUALS Global Partnership has also launched a joint project titled Tech as a driver of Women’s Economic Opportunity to enhance the digital ecosystem and build digital skills for women in the LDCs. In support of Girls in ICT 2020-2022 and of the EQUALS Global Partnership, the Talking Tech series features conversations between girls/young women in tech.

This International Women’s Day, the UN Commission on the Status of Women will spotlight its main objective—which is, Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. On the occasion, this blog examines gender gaps in GovTech and the opportunities that exist to bridge these gaps in the public sector.

Globally, there is an equal need for digital skills in the in the public sector as there is in the private sector.  Digital skills are especially critical to ensure that increasing GovTech investments achieve their potential and are used in day-to-day operations. A near universal challenge for governments modernizing their public sectors is to attract and retain people with the skills to design, deploy, and monitor GovTech solutions. There are several aspects to this challenge, which include remuneration, digital-skills competencies, and potential for professional growth.  For women in GovTech, these are exacerbated, specifically in terms of gaps in skills, wages, and opportunities.

The most common excuse for the difficulty to attract and retain information and communications technology (ICT) specialists in the public sector is that the private sector offers higher compensation and greater career growth potential. This is not gender specific. The World Bank’s Tech Savvy: Advancing GovTech Reforms in Public Administration identifies ways to address the wage differentials in ICT roles. In some countries, governments can apply a market coefficient to supplement wages for staff with ICT skills, which are considered a priority in both private and public sectors. For example, the United States  allows recruitment incentives as high as 25 percent of starting wages.

Women Are Less Likely to Be Employed in Tech, Face More Constraints

ILO data shows that globally, women are less likely to be employed in the tech sector and, when employed, tend to be paid less than their male counterparts. According to a recent study by Accenture and Girls who Code, women also tend to leave careers in technology earlier and at a higher rate than men.   In the United States, for example, 50 percent of women exit their technology careers by age 35 and, further, they abandon these careers at a 45 percent higher rate than men. The same study cites organizational culture as the primary reason women leave tech careers (37 percent of respondents).

Another study found that women face a more constrained and negative culture around innovation within governments. They receive less support when trying out new ideas, are penalized more often when experiments go wrong, and overall feel less encouraged to innovate when compared with men. The GovTech Maturity Index data shows that 41 percent of economies do not have a policy or program to improve public sector innovation.

As a result, many developing countries report high turnover in ICT staffing. Staff may start their careers in the public sector and hone their skills there before moving to the private sector, which may offer better opportunities and a different culture that may prioritize learning, innovation, and entrepreneurship. In Argentina, for example, high employee turnover within its digital and innovation agencies is partially attributable to the private sector’s more agile and innovation-driven mindset and culture.

Upskilling programs to help staff perform their current roles while progressing to more complex roles is one way to build capacity and provide professional advancement opportunities. Skilling plans should evolve and be tailored to meet specific needs for different groups of civil servants. Fostering an environment of learning may provide additional work satisfaction. However, these programs are not apparent in many of the World Bank’s client countries. According to the 2022 GTMI data, only 66 out of 198 surveyed economies (or 33 percent) reported they have both a public sector skills strategy and program.

One country that seems to be doing it correctly is Australia. As part of its Public Service Modernization Fund, the country has piloted digital-career pathways , which links  roles, skills, and classifications across a career in the public service. This includes developing learning standards and establishing a shared understanding of different digital roles based on associated skills, knowledge, and experience. Individual IT specialists can see how their current skills could be applied to digital roles, the digital career paths they could pursue in civil service, and the new skills they would need to acquire to prepare for promotion.

Incentivizing women to join public sector ICT roles

In a  note published on, women business leaders call for a multifaceted approach to attract more women to the tech sector. They emphasize the need to foster a truly inclusive environment and develop talent pipelines that accelerate pay equity and participation rates. In the public sector, creating gender-informed policies and practices, gender-blind evaluations of competencies, revisiting hiring and promotion procedures, developing skills-based career pathways, and focusing on cultural change may result in greater female participation in GovTech.

Civil service leaders need to reaffirm their commitment to inclusive societal development, with the knowledge that economically empowered women create a more equitable and sustainable future. To this end, new thinking and approaches to address gender participation gaps and pay equity in GovTech is necessary to develop and maintain the female leaders of the present and future.

Editor’s note: This is the second of a series of blogs discussing the importance of a gender lens in GovTech policymaking and implementation. These blogs are the result of a collaboration between the World Bank GovTech Global Unit and the Digital Economist, aligning  with the multistakeholder approach  of the GovTech Global Partnership.

For years, we’ve argued that technology can be a force for women’s empowerment around the world. But on this International Women’s Day, while we celebrate digital’s transformative power, we also recognize the need to address the barriers that stand in the way. This is why the World Bank is prioritizing three key accelerators for women’s digital inclusion: online safety, inclusive digital public infrastructure, and digital skills.

Place women’s online safety front and center

As more and more women use the internet, the risk of online violence increases too. The impact and scale of cyberviolence is under-researched, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. However, available data from high-income countries suggest that this form of violence is pervasive: A survey of over 40,000 women from 28 countries across the European Union finds that 11percent of women have experienced online harassment, specifically receiving offensive, unwanted or explicit emails or text messages.

The threat of harassment, stalking, or defamation in their digital spaces often leads women to reduce their online presence. With this withdrawal women experience serious psychological impacts and lower levels of wellbeing. They also lose the opportunity to build vital digital skills and access online work.

Cracking down on the perpetrators of this abuse is not easy. ICT policy frameworks and strategies are often not designed with women’s safety at the forefront. While the specific legal safeguards that are effective for tackling this form of violence require further research, there are some important approaches that we can keep in mind. For instance, when creating or amending cybercrime and data protection policies, governments can collaborate with local communities and women’s groups to design laws and policies that are fit for purpose. World Bank operations are leveraging this inclusive approach in the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.

Leverage digital public infrastructure for women’s economic empowerment

Digital public infrastructure is fast becoming essential for service delivery—these digital platforms can serve as critical enablers of inclusion, resilience, and economic opportunities. Yet, meaningful participation often requires verifying your identity and having a bank or mobile money account. This represents a particular challenge for women who face gaps in both account and ID ownership. Despite good progress, a six percentage point gap in account ownership persists between men and women. And, women living in low- and middle-income contexts are still 8 percentage points less likely to have an official ID than their male counterparts.

Account ownership and identification are important pathways to women’s economic empowerment. To this end, the World Bank’s Digitizing Government -to -Person Payments (G2Px) initiative is helping countries around the world to digitize government-to-person payments with women’s economic empowerment at its core. For example, in Rwanda, qualitative research showed that social assistance payments using mobile money enhanced decision-making and more privacy. Its sister initiative, Identification for Development (ID4D), is actively identifying barriers for women and working with countries and partners to design more inclusive identification systems. In Indonesia, a study aims to understand the barriers that vulnerable populations face in accessing population and civil registration services. Forthcoming work will explore how using digital ID for online transactions could help empower women and persons with disabilities.

Empower women and girls with the digital skills to shape our world

Gender gaps in digital literacy persist around the world. Available data show that women are less likely to have performed tasks like setting a PIN number on a mobile phone. A lack of self-confidence in using mobile phones often acts as a barrier as well. Addressing women’s digital literacy, especially for vulnerable women, is urgent—it also requires that we design training programs with their needs in mind. Flexibility in program design is key, along with addressing constraints to women’s time or mobility. Other promising approaches allow women to interact directly with mobile phones or computers, as well as their peers. Modules that teach women how to stay safe online are also critical.

In Uganda, a World Bank collaboration with the EQUALS Global Partnership’s Access Coalition, GSMA, Trickle Up, and Avsi tested the impact of an innovative skills training program that connected women with their own mobile phones, female trainers, and lessons on online safety. Community consultations on gender and social norms also took place. After the program, 30 percent of participants could use the basic functions of a smartphone compared to 5 percent before the start of the program. New World Bank projects in Uganda and Rwanda are now providing the opportunity to scale such innovations.

The gender gap in information, communication and technology (ICT)  studies is another challenge. Among the students pursuing careers in ICT fields, 28 percent are women and 72 percent  are men. These disparities are often linked to gender stereotypes and biases that contribute to lower levels of interest, aspirations, and confidence. But the good news is that exposure to female role models, addressing gender biases in learning and training materials, and partnerships that create links to internships, apprenticeships, and job placements can help level the playing field.

Join us as we push for digital progress

Technology can be both a force for change and a challenge for inclusion. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we call on our partners to join us as we continue to push for progress in online safety, inclusive digital public infrastructure, and women’s digital skills. Because realizing the true promise of technology depends on unleashing the potential of women and girls

Closing the major gender gap in innovation and technology is the focus of the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which opened at UN Headquarters in New York on Monday.

Over the next two weeks, participants from across the world – including representatives from governments, the UN, civil society and youth groups, as well as activists – will examine how gender equality, empowerment and sustainable development can be achieved in the digital era.

The meeting, known as CSW67, will also highlight online violence and other dangers women and girls face, as well as the need for quality education in the information age.

Perpetuating existing inequalities

In her opening remarks, CSW67 Chair Mathu Joyini said although digital technologies are rapidly transforming societies, they are also giving rise to profound new challenges that may perpetuate and deepen existing gender inequalities.

“Gender-based discrimination is a systemic problem that has been interwoven into the fabric of our political, social and economic lives, and the technology sector is no different,” she said.

“However, this is compounded when you consider the multiple factors that impact and exacerbate this inherent discrimination.”

Vanishing progress

UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that the CSW is meeting as progress on women’s rights is vanishing – including in countries such as Afghanistan, where women and girls have been, in effect, erased from public life – and as gender equality is growing ever more distant.

“Your focus this year on closing gender gaps in technology and innovation could not be more timely. Because as technology races ahead, women and girls are being left behind,” he said.

“The math is simple: without the insights and creativity of half the world, science and technology will fulfil just half their potential,” he added.

Step up education

As gender inequality is ultimately a question of power, the Secretary-General called for urgent action in three areas, starting with increasing education, income and employment for women and girls, particularly in the Global South.

Furthermore, women’s and girls’ full participation and leadership in science and technology must also be promoted.
Norah Magero is a Mechanical Engineer and a Renewable Energy Expert from Kenya with experience in the design and management of off-grid energy technologies.

RAEng/GGImages/Alissa Everett  | Norah Magero is a Mechanical Engineer and a Renewable Energy Expert from Kenya with experience in the design and management of off-grid energy technologies.

Catalyst for transformation

Mr. Guterres said the international community must also create a safe digital environment for women and girls, outlining his third point.  In this regard, the UN is working to advance a code of conduct for information integrity on digital platforms, aimed at reducing harm and increasing accountability.

The Secretary-General stressed that promoting women’s full contributions to science, technology and innovation is not an act of charity or a favour to women, but a “must” that benefits everyone.

“The Commission on the Status of Women is a dynamo and catalyst for the transformation we need.  Together, let’s push back against the push back on misogyny, and forward for women, girls, and our world,” he said.

Still a minority

The world needs women’s expertise to address complex and interlocking crises, such as climate change, conflict, poverty, hunger and water scarcity, said the President of the UN General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi.

However, he noted that women are still a minority in digital information technology, computing, physics, mathematics and engineering, and account for less than 35 per cent of the global information and communications technology workforce.

“They are 20 per cent less likely than men to use the internet – but 27 times more likely to face online harassment or hate speech, when they do. New technologies, if used well, offer a strong and equalizing force to rapidly change this state of affairs,” he said in a video message.

‘Game-changers’ for women

Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, was among other senior officials who addressed the CSW opening ceremony.

She said the digital revolution offers the potential for unprecedented improvement in the lives of women and girls, and at a time when progress towards sustainable development is at risk.

“Harnessed effectively, technology and innovation, can be game-changers to catalyse poverty reduction, decrease hunger, boost health, create new jobs, mitigate climate change, address humanitarian crises, improve energy access and make entire cities and communities safer and more sustainable – benefitting women and girls,” she said.

Given the pace of change, Ms. Bahous underlined the need for “a global normative framework” to mobilize technology towards achieving gender equality.  She expressed confidence that the meeting will underscore that “digital rights are women’s rights”.

Safeguards, opportunities and investment

The CSW has met annually since 1946, but this is the first in-person gathering since 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A special segment will be held where young people will discuss the priority themes, marking another first in the Commission’s history.

Ms. Joyini, the CSW Chair, also outlined some of the objectives of this latest session in her opening remarks.

“We will consider the responsibilities of governments and private sector in ensuring that adequate safeguards, norms and standards exist, and women and girls’ fundamental rights are not violated while using digital technologies,” she said.

There will be calls also to provide more opportunities for women in innovation, as well as funding and investment, and to eliminate algorithms that perpetuate and deepen existing discrimination and biases.

CSW67 will conclude on Friday, 17 March, and dozens of side events are also scheduled in the interim.

They include the UN Secretary-General’s annual dialogue with women’s and feminist civil society groups, a youth forum where particular focus will be given to grassroots and community voices, and a discussion on promoting women’s and girls’ equal social, economic and political rights in Afghanistan.

A United Nations conference under way in Doha, Qatar, has turned its attention to one of the most nettlesome global challenges: closing the staggeringly wide digital divide between the world’s rich and poor nations. Fresh attention to this issue comes as a new UN report finds that two-thirds of the population of the least developed countries (LDCs) is still offline.

On Monday at the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5), a series of roundtable discussions saw global leaders, civic actors and UN officials confront two of the most fundamental hurdles facing LDCs: how to make better use of science, technology and innovation (STI), and how to promote structural transformations that can help overcome the real impediments faced by those on the margins of society.
STI plays a critical role in LDCs’ efforts to drive poverty eradication, transition to sustainable development and become globally competitive. However, these vulnerable countries are often unable to reap the full economic and social benefits of technological development due to structural constraints, as there are significant disparities between LDCs and other countries.

The reality for millions of people living in LDCs – and the impact of built-in inequalities – is stark: The internet is of no benefit if you can’t get online; and it doesn’t matter if you can get online if you don’t know how to use a browser.

The key, according to many speakers today, is finding ways to not just connect those left behind but to sustainably address the divide and foster conditions for more inclusive digital access.
While broadband prices were lower in 2022 in most low-income economies, the cost of fixed or mobile broadband services still remains too high.

Widening digital divide

A new special report from the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) shows that indeed, the digital divide between LDCs and the rest of the world shows no signs of narrowing. While the proportion of the population in LDCs using the internet had increased from four per cent to 36 per cent since 2011, two-thirds of the population was still offline.

According to the research set out in ITU’s Facts and Figures on the Least Developed Countries, an estimated 407 million people in LDCs were using the Internet in 2022. The 720 million people still offline in LDCs represent 27 per cent of the global offline population, even though the LDC population accounts for only 14 per cent of world population.

The ITU study also found that the challenge of bringing communities online has become more complex over the past decade than simply building physical connections. And even among those who could access the internet, many did not because of barriers ranging from awareness to skills to cost.

Making digital transformation sustainable

A point of light amid such challenges is the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA) – the blueprint for renewed commitment and engagement between the LDCs and their development partners, including the private sector, civil society, and governments at all levels. It urges those partners to provide additional and substantial support to LDCs “to ensure affordable and reliable access to broadband and mobile networks and Wi-Fi, including in the last mile”.
“The digital development of LDCs through science, technology and innovation is not just an opportunity, it is an imperative. A moral imperative,” said ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin at one of the key roundtable discussions at LDC5 today.

“I believe it’s our responsibility to make connectivity meaningful and to make digital transformation sustainable,” he added.

Through the remainder of the Conference, which runs through 9 March, ITU will highlight the importance of digital cooperation in accelerating the and achieving DPoA and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly through public-private partnerships such as the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition, which has so far mobilized more than 600 pledges worth nearly $30 billion.

Partnership for inclusive digitalization

“There are so many young people … over 50 per cent of the LDCs are under the age of 19. That is the world’s future workforce,” Justin Spelhaug, Vice-President & Global Head/Tech for Social Impact of Microsoft Philanthropies told UN News.

“And it’s important that companies like Microsoft and other private sector companies really lean into the development of these countries with the UN in partnership with governments to make a difference.”

He highlighted the World Bank’s Digital Development Partnership programme, which aims to increase access to technology, digital public goods, broadband and digital capacity building services in the world’s least developed countries.

“The programme brings a couple of key things together and affordable business model to create greater access to technology. It brings digital public goods together under GitHub to provide governments with the services that they need, open source or other solutions,” he said.

The partnership will also allow the UN to further its goals of creating a more prosperous world. Mr. Spelhaug believes that with the help of this programme, the next LDC conference will see a significant reduction in the number of countries in the category.

Justin Spelhaug, Vice President & Global Head - Tech for Social Impact, Microsoft Philanthropies, at the SDG Media Zone for the Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) in Doha, Qatar.

UN/Shuo Li

A new generation of partnerships for LDCs

A dedicated three-day Private Sector Forum that kicked off on Sunday at LDC5 aims to help improve access to finance, create jobs, transfer technology and promote long-term sustainability in LDCs.

On Monday, the Forum also focused on improving digital connectivity as a driver of progress in the LDCs, as well as improving agricultural and rural development.

“In the spirit of leaving no one behind, the Private Sector Forum represents an important opportunity to mobilize private sector support for the least developed countries to achieve their fullest potential,” said Rabab Fatima, Secretary-General of the LDC5.

“By fostering collaboration and partnerships, we can leverage the resources, expertise, and enterprising spirit of the private sector to help the least developed countries overcome the development challenges they face and build a more prosperous future for their citizens,” said Ms. Fatima, who is also the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS).

During the Forum, panel discussions and interactive sessions have focused on private sector partnerships in sustainable energy, agriculture, digital connectivity, climate change and sustainable tourism. Networking opportunities will allow participants to share best practices, exchange ideas and identify solutions to promote private sector engagement in LDCs.

New partnerships for LDCs will also be announced at the Forum by the international business community, government officials and UN representatives.

LDC5, being held under the theme, ‘From Potential to Posterity’, is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to accelerate sustainable development in the places where international assistance is needed the most – and to tap the full potential of the 46 least developed countries.

The action in Doha continues on Tuesday, 7 March when the Conference will turn its focus to LDC participation in global trade, as well as matters related to youth development and education.

Senegalese businesswoman Adja Sembene Fall said she had no choice but to launch her start-up business online because her new Contanna fair-trade tea company only had $200 to its name.

“Due to [lack of] finance, it was not possible to get a physical shop. We started out in the backyard of my brother’s house. We sold our teas via social media for three years,” said Fall. She says her line of luxury brand tea products is about more than taste. Fall says Contanna teas sell a “Senegalese experience” that promotes a women-owned, 100% locally sourced and processed product based on recipes infusing family and cultural traditions.

“Digitizing our buying process was really important. We [were] also able to present and adjust packaging of our product online, [to emphasize] it was premium and different from what was available in Senegal,” the 29-year-old added.

Contanna says its first year of operations, a focus on Instagram and its website drew $5,000 in online sales. As the online business grew, Fall said, Contanna hit $12,000 in sales and established a community of around 2,000 clients.

Contanna recently opened a pop-up stall at Dakar’s Sea Plaza shopping mall. In January, it was named a winner of the African Development Bank’s AgriPitch Competition, which supports African youth agripreneurs by improving their business bankability and ensuring that they are “pitch ready” for potential investors.

The 2022 AgriPitch competition, which started last October, received nearly 750 complete entries from entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector – or “agripreneurs” – from 38 African countries. The judging panel comprised women- led enterprise support advisory firm, Private Equity Support; the Private Financing Advisory Network, a global network of climate and clean energy financing experts; and EldoHub, an education, innovation, and technology organization targeting youth and women.

The competition, which this year awarded $140,000 in prizes, is a key activity of the Bank’s ENABLE Youth Program.

“African youth have great ideas. It was exciting to see the high level of innovation and passion from these young agripreneurs, particularly the large number of women-owned enterprises like Contanna,” said Edson Mpyisi, the Bank’s Chief Financial Economist and ENABLE Youth Coordinator.

AgriPitch organizers selected 25 semi-finalists, 68% of them women-owned or led businesses, to attend a two-week business development virtual boot camp. The boot camp culminated in a pitch session to judges, who chose 9 agripreneurs to advance to the finals.

“I was pitching in front of my shop – where customers were passing by. They were so encouraging when they discovered that [my business] is a 100% Senegalese company and especially that the founder was a woman,“ said Fall. She received $25,000 as the winner in the AgriPitch competition women-owned business category.

Fall says she’ll use part of the prize money to upgrade a digital payment system and for computers and digital skills training for Contanna employees, all women.

“We don’t eschew hiring men. The women were first to apply and were qualified. They currently log their work production and stock building in paper books. We are training them to build capacity to use Google Sheets [and other digital software],” Fall said.

Contanna and the two-dozen other competition finalists will retain access to the AgriPitch “deal room” to avail of post-competition digital expertise, business development, and investor engagement.

“We look forward to working closely with the entrepreneurs in the coming months through individual business advisory support and investor engagement in the deal room,” said Diana Gichaga, Managing Partner at Private Equity Support.

2022 AgriPitch competition winners and runners up:

Early Start-Ups category

  • Winner: Etoduma SARL, Cote d’Ívoire ($25,000)
  • 1st runner-up: Agrisiti (Maatalous Nasah), Nigeria ($15,000)

Women Owned/ Led-Business category

  • Winner: Contanna, Senegal ($25,000)
  • 1st runner-up: Legendary Foods, Ghana ($15,000)

Mature Start-Ups category

  • Winner: Minagro Group, Togo ($40,000)
  • 1st runner-up: Faso Elevage, Burkina Faso ($20,000)

Click here to learn about the 2022 AgriPitch Competition and the winners.