India’s digital services exports hit $83 million says new survey 1

India, with assistance from UNCTAD, conducts a new-style of trade-in-services survey to show the growing value of digitally enabled exports.

As much as $83 billion of India’s services exports were delivered digitally in 2016–17, according to the first all-India survey on exports of services delivered remotely over information and communications technology (ICT) networks, such as internet platforms, telephones, and other computer networks.

The survey, conducted by India’s Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS) with technical cooperation from UNCTAD, shows that “digital delivery” is particularly important for small enterprises.

“India is the first country to publish a fully-fledged analysis of the results they obtained after implementing an UNCTAD pilot survey on ICT-enabled exports of services last year,” Shamika Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s technology and logistics division, said. “This shows the importance given in the country to gauging this growing sector.”

ICT services in India

The survey made use of a definition, measurement concepts and guidelines developed by UNCTAD and approved by the United Nations Statistical Commission.

“Many countries interested in assessing the digital potential of their services exports should be able to benefit from UNCTAD’s technical assistance in this area,” Ms. Sirimanne said.

“We see surging demand for more and better data to support policymakers to harness the potential of the digital economy.”

Delivery modes

India’s survey zoomed in on exports of services that have the potential to be delivered remotely and asked about the actual mode of delivery as well as the partner country where the service was consumed.

The new breakdown echoes concepts developed for trade-in-services negotiations at the World Trade Organization and provides much-needed input for policymakers.

In most developing countries, official trade-in-services statistics are only available for a high-level aggregation of service types, mixing several delivery modes.

Results for the financial year 2016–17 show that from $103 billion of services with the potential to be sold abroad over ICT networks, approximately 81% was in fact delivered via ICT, with 19% being delivered by experts temporarily travelling abroad.

Of those digitally delivered services, computer services accounted for 63%, management and administration services accounted for 14%, and engineering and R&D services accounted for 11%.

Delivery through the temporary movement of technical experts was also most significant for computer services (27%), followed by engineering and R&D services (17%).

A little over half the value of the ICT-enabled services were destined for the United States of America, followed by Europe with a quarter of the total value.

Exports represented a particularly high proportion of total sales of computer services (89%) and management and administration services (85%) – indicating a high level of dependence on exports for these sectors.

A great experience

“This report provides vital inputs to our policymakers seeking to promote ICT-enabled services exports from India,” DGCIS Director General Jyotirmoy Poddar said.

“It has been a great learning experience, and I am sure it will strengthen our trade-in-services data collection in the future.”

The report further highlights that the development of ICT can open a host of new opportunities for jobs, productivity and output growth in India but also that more detail, timeliness, and reliability are needed from official statistics to understand the impact of ICT on economic development.

Ms. Sirimanne said that the annual UNCTAD-hosted meeting of the Intergovernmental Expert Group on E-commerce and Digital Economy was the ideal place to exchange ideas and identify opportunities for assistance in this area.

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