UNCTAD E-Commerce Week Session Reports – Day 3

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


From eTrade Readiness Assessments to implemented recommendations

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

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Japan: Cooperation on digital fields of Japan and India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Data and digitalization for the logistics of e-commerce

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

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

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

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

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

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TradeTech: How frontier technologies will transform global trade and development

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

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The domino effect: Boosting development through more inclusive digital entrepreneurship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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