UNCTAD E-Commerce Week Session Reports – Day 1

Day 1 : April 25th, 2022
UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week is the leading forum to discuss the development opportunities and challenges associated with the digital economy. This week’s edition, held under the theme “Data and Digitalization for Development”, puts a special emphasis on data and cross-border data flows, as well as the crucial role they play in economic and social development. With this bulletin, CUTS is keeping you posted on the proceedings.


Opening Session

The opening plenary session introduced the UNCTAD’s E-commerce week and its theme: ‘Data and Digitalization for Development’. In a world where almost 3 billion people remain offline, 96% of whom live in developing countries, data and cross-border data flows are playing an increasingly crucial role in economic and social development. This week’s dialogues will provide opportunities to reflect on governance approaches that make the digital world more inclusive, equitable and beneficial to all.

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Data to measure the digital performance of seaports

It is estimated that only 20 per cent of the 4900 ports of the world have established, or plan to establish, accurate digital capabilities to assure transport chain connectivity. There is a need to support the upgrade of ports’ digital capabilities in their steps to develop their digital maturity responding to the requirements of the smart and the sustainable port of tomorrow. This session discussed ways of measuring the digital readiness and performance of seaports, with a view to possibly proposing a future digital performance index for ports (DPI-Ports).

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Digitalization to facilitate inclusion of MSMEs in e-commerce trade

The session addressed the role and importance of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) as they are the backbone of the global economy, comprising over 90% of firms in many markets. The session primarily focused on the experience of the Universal Postal Union in coordinating best practices in international postal policy, as well as the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation in facilitating the digitalization of trade processes for e-commerce. The session also concentrated on the ideal policy and operational frameworks that should be in place to grow digital trade with a specific focus on the needs of MSMEs.

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Keys to harnessing e-commerce strategies for inclusive development

The pandemic has made people aware of the importance of e-commerce. It has resulted in a surge in e-commerce development as evidenced by the emergence of multiple national and regional e-commerce strategies, especially in developing countries. This raises the need for a shared vision towards building an enabling e-commerce ecosystem which includes actions to improve the digital and trading infrastructure, develop affordable digital payments options, and design appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks for online transactions and security, among others. The session aimed at demonstrating the good practices that have been designed and led to improved implementation of the e-commerce strategies in developing countries.

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Building online dispute resolution for Southeast Asian consumers

In 2020, an estimated 1.5 billion people shopped online but many of their transactions went awry. Therefore, the trust-enabling benefits of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) are yet to be fully realised, especially for cross-border B2C e-commerce. ASEAN member States foresee the establishment of a network of national ODR systems. This session presented the ongoing initiatives and discussed avenues for future collaboration among interested stakeholders.

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Creating a level playing field for digital trade

The absence of a systematic global approach to governing cross-border data flows may make it harder for low- and middle-income countries to participate in the global digital economy, by leaving them with limited leverage in negotiations with wealthier jurisdictions and companies that dominate global data flows. It also encourages the proliferation of national data protection adequacy regimes that could further fragment the global digital economy.

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Digital self-determination – an alternative approach to data governance issues

The session presented the idea of digital self-determination as a new approach to data governance. The panelists first presented a roadmap of the digital self-determination concept, which was followed by two practical presentations on how digital self-determination can be implemented in two contexts, namely open finance and migration.

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In conversation with Vint CERF, Internet Pioneer

The session addressed the issues related to access to the internet, data flow, the future of digitalisation, and the challenges associated with it. Advancement in internet services has accelerated over the years, and it has also increased the digital divide. The session also discussed about the important actions that need to be taken to achieve universal and ultimately meaningful access to the internet.

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High-Level Dialogue: Towards Digital and Data Governance for All

Data has become an increasingly important economic and strategic resource, and cross-border data flows are surging. This has opened new opportunities for addressing global development challenges but also created new ones. While data can be processed to generate private profits and social value, it can also be abused and misused by private companies as well as governments. The readiness of countries to harness data for sustainable development is highly uneven. Dealing with data is one of the major development challenges. Therefore, innovative ways to strengthen global data governance are urgently needed to respond to rapid digital transformations. This session focused on the perspectives of the Government and business leaders on how to ensure that the surge of digital data brings benefits to the planet and the people.

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Egypt: How the lack of and inconsistent data affect policymakers to continue measuring e-commerce and take policies/steps to improve

This session discussed possible avenues for policy-makers in Egypt to overcome some of the challenges faced in leveraging data to measure the country’s performance in the digital economy, towards informing policies. It also introduced Egypt’s 2018 eCommerce Strategy, developed in collaboration with UNCTAD.

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How will current proposals for international e-commerce rules governing data flows affect digitalization for development?

In this session, experts from the government, international organisations and think tanks discussed some of the proposed rules on e-commerce at the WTO regarding the governance of cross border data transfers. Panelists explored what such rules may mean for developed and developing countries, what should be the appropriate forum for discussing these rules, and what international rules on data governance would best support developing countries’ use of data flows for development.

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Integrating the digital economy – Global, regional, and national initiatives

The session discussed the multiplicity of governance levels and their involvement in the growth and integration of digital markets, especially in developing countries. It aimed at finding a course for better integration between the different levels of governance to enhance the core building blocks of the digital economy: connectivity, e-skills and digital literacy, and supportive regulatory frameworks. It reviewed first-hand experiences of international experts in implementing policy solutions to boost digital trade at each governance level.

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