UNCTAD E-Commerce Week Session Reports – Day 5

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


Cambodia: E-commerce development and ecosystem in Cambodia

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

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

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

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

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

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Digitalization for Development: …where is small business?

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

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

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

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

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

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Vanuatu: Using data to boost digital transformation in developing countries

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

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

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

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Shedding new light on the evolving regulatory framework for digital trade

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

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

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

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Overcoming barriers to trust in cross-border data flows

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

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Closing Session

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

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