UNCTAD E-Commerce Week Session Reports – Day 2

Day 2 : April 26th, 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.


Promoting inclusive data policy through capacity building

This session organised by DiploFoundation, the International Trade Centre and CUTS International, Geneva reflected on ways to build the capacities of developing country players in policy discussions on data flows. The three organisations have been partnering for several years on delivering a digital commerce online course to geneva delegates and capital-based policymakers.

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Financing the new digital frontier

The session focused on the role and importance of fintech, which has provided a new wave of financial solutions supported by smart technologies. It also highlighted the rise of blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which can facilitate democratised finance, deliver customer-centric offerings, bank the unbanked and give them access to the digital world, thereby enabling more people to take part in the digital economy in the near future. Subsequently, these can also lead to catalysing social change and supporting an innovative entrepreneurship ecosystem.

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Strengthening individuals worldwide in protecting their data

The session aimed to understand the current state of data protection in different parts of the world, and discuss the role of both individuals and institutions in protecting people’s data. Large digital firms are increasingly thirsty for data, and some voices are advocating for greater digital self-determination of individuals and tackling the data supremacy of large firms.

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ECOWAS E-commerce Regional Assessment

This session presented the Regional ECOWAS eTrade Readiness Assessment, in the context of the preparation of the E-Commerce Strategy by the ECOWAS Commission with the support of UNCTAD. This regional assessment served as a diagnosis – the first step of the forthcoming strategy that aims at supporting the region’s efforts to use technology to accelerate structural change and development, and foster regional integration, including through economic diversification, job creation, and more inclusive trade activities.

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Unlocking the value of data for all through the Datasphere Initiative

The Datasphere Initiative is a global network of stakeholders fostering a holistic and innovative approach to data governance to build agile frameworks to responsibly unlock the value of data for all. The session discussed how governing the Datasphere will determine the future of human society in the 21st century and why technical, policy, and institutional innovations are needed to unlock the value of data for all.

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Cross-border e-payments as a facilitator of digital trade in Africa

This session discussed recent initiatives that introduced effective and user-friendly systems of cross-border payments, and explored issues surrounding data in the payment environment in Africa. It highlighted initiatives such as The Smart Africa Alliance’s e-Payment Blueprint and the Afreximbank’s new Pan-African Payment System (PAPSS), which are designed to solve major payment barriers to intra-African trade. Challenges and ways to drive forward cross-border e-payments for the facilitation of digital trade across Africa were also discussed.

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There’s no app for that! — What it takes to leverage the promise of data for MSMEs and cooperatives in the digital economy

This session explored what kind of institutional support MSMEs and cooperatives in the global South require to effectively participate in the platform economy. It also discussed possible features of data governance frameworks which could help small businesses and cooperatives take advantage of data-related opportunities. Discussions built on empirical experiences from India, Kenya and other developing countries of what it takes for MSMEs, social enterprises and cooperatives to embrace the promise of data and digitalisation.

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Powering an inclusive digital economy: The critical role of development cooperation

This high-level session discussed the importance of development cooperation in facilitating an inclusive digital transition in developing countries, along with potential solutions to current challenges facing stakeholders in this transformation. Ensuring that digital transformations contribute to more inclusive outcomes requires that national efforts in developing countries are effectively supported by the international community. Building the capacity of low- and middle-income countries to participate in and shape the digital economy will require smart solutions based on partnerships and transparency, while avoiding duplication of efforts.

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Boosting participation of women in the digital economy of developing and LDCs

This session focused on the importance of digitalisation for women’s economic empowerment in LDCs. Digitalisation offers a variety of opportunities for female empowerment and for a more equal participation of women in markets and entrepreneurship. Yet, women face numerous challenges and inequalities. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many entrepreneurs to move their businesses online, which has been particularly challenging for women entrepreneurs in LDCs and developing countries.

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Understanding the development impact of digital services trade

As one of the fastest-growing areas of trade, digital services trade holds great potential to open new markets and improve productivity, along with other economic benefits. This session presented key findings from a recent German-funded study on digital services trade in developing countries. Panellists evaluated the impact of digital services trade on sustainable development, and identified potential areas for improvement and growth. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in this sector were also discussed.

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Democratizing digital intelligence: Maximizing the value of data for businesses in emerging markets

To compete in today’s data driven economy, it is important for businesses to understand how to harness the power of data to improve their operations and innovate further. However, in emerging markets, there are certain barriers for businesses such as limited skillset to understand and analyze the data, limited resources to acquire tools and limited access to datasets. If this issue is not addressed, it will widen the global gaps of productivity and profitability between companies and local ecosystems. While the adoption of technology and harnessing the value data is essential, it is also important to consciously consider the risks of privacy, cyber threat and surveillance. In this context, this session discussed the ways in which civil societies, business associations and policy makers can support businesses to harness the use of data for their operations and how can the safeguards be developed to mitigate risks.

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