- Coordinates the Pacific E-commerce Initiative, including coordinating the implementation of the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap. It does so by:
- Serving as Secretariat to the Pacific E-commerce Committee and its Sub-committees
- Managing the Monitoring and Evaluation system of the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap
- Managing the Pacific E-commerce Portal, the regional information repository on E-commerce Development in the Pacific
- Supports members to implement the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap through a suite of activities, including:
- Development of national E-commerce Assessments and of national E-commerce Strategies
- Provision of E-commerce training for policy-makers
- Development of E-commerce Business Toolkits and provision of E-commerce training for private sector
- Development of E-commerce statistics
- Management of small grant schemes for e-commerce
- Supports resource mobilization for needs aligned to the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap and National E-commerce Strategies.
The Pacific Islands Forum is the region’s premier political and economic policy organization. Founded in 1971, it comprises 18 members: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) enables Forum Leaders to make political decisions on regional action to harness opportunities and mitigate challenges for the people of the Pacific. It also works to coordinate the implementation of Forum decisions.
PIFS is the Pacific regional agency duly mandated to lead on trade-related matters, including E-commerce. Activities on e-commerce are carried out under the umbrella of the Pacific E-commerce Initiative, initiated in 2017, and directed by the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap.
Two opening speakers, three moderated panels, and closing comments all bursting with ideas, Pacific realities, and global relevance. Held on Friday 4th March 2022, the Pacific Islands Digital Trade Dialogue was a collab event between the Pacific Islands Forum and USAID, through their development alliance with the global Alliance for eTrade Development. The Global E-trade Alliance is a major convening partnership for 12 leading private sector partners (Cargill, DHL, eCommerce Institute, Element, Etsy, Google, Mastercard, Mexican Association of Online Sales, PayPal, Ringier One Africa Media, UPS, and Visa) aimed to enable developing country micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to engage in ecommerce.
The Alliance promotes MSME skills development for ecommerce, access to finance, fluid ecommerce logistics, and policies and regulations conducive to ecommerce. Special attention is paid to women-led and rural firms. They are aware of the progress made in the Pacific region to arrive at a regional strategy and workstreams to support MSME ecommerce and are looking to support the implementation of these workstreams in 2022, which includes recovery from the negative impact of COVID-19.
The digital trade dialogue provides a starting point between selected Alliance members and Pacific Islands private and public sector leaders to together identify impactful solutions to support MSME ecommerce in the region including securing the buy-in from all stakeholders.
The dialogue, a collab with the Pacific Islands Forum through Pacific Trade Invest, ran a series of three panels to help identify and formulate proof of concepts that can promote ecommerce for Pacific MSMEs, explore business model, programmatic, policy, and technology solutions to support Pacific Island economies’ efforts to grow MSMEs’ online sales, especially to foreign markets.
Discussions covered challenges to Pacific Island MSMEs’ engagement in domestic and cross-border ecommerce.
- Business, technology, and policy, programmatic solutions to these challenges, in key areas such as MSME capacity-building, cross-border payments, and cross-border and last-mile logistics; and
- Pilot program ideas to operationalize the discussed solutions to promote MSME ecommerce, including with local stakeholders and international donors.
PIFS initiated a regional initiative on e-commerce in 2017 – known as the Pacific E-commerce Initiative. E-commerce became a priority under the Pacific Aid-for-Trade Strategy 2020-2025.
Between 2017 and 2021, in partnership with UNCTAD and leveraging the E-Trade Readiness Assessment methodology, we promoted and developed harmonized E-commerce Assessments in 11 of our members. These assessments informed the development of a Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap, which was endorsed by Pacific Trade Ministers in August 2021, and which includes 54 priority regional measures to boost E-commerce readiness in our region. PIFS today supports and coordinates implementation of the Strategy as well as directly implements some of its measures.
In our coordinating capacity, we serve as Secretariat to the Pacific E-commerce Committee and its Subcommittees. These bodies, which are currently being established, will provide direction on our collective efforts to boost E-commerce in the Pacific region. Secondly, we are managing the Monitoring & Evaluation System for the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap. This system provides the necessary evidence base to support decision-making and resource mobilization. Thirdly, we manage the Pacific E-commerce Portal, the regional information repository on E-commerce Development in the Pacific.
In our implementing capacity, we provide a suite of tools supporting the implementation of the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap through a suite of activities, including:
- Development of national E-commerce Assessments and of national E-commerce Strategies;
- Provision of E-commerce training for policy-makers;
- Development of E-commerce Business Toolkits and provision of E-commerce training for the private sector;
- Development of E-commerce statistics; and
- Management of small grant schemes for e-commerce.
Our regional work is informed by the UNCTAD e-commerce methodology. Like other developing regions, key challenges for Pacific Island Countries include a lack of e-commerce data and comprehensive e-commerce strategies; poor and costly ICT infrastructure and services especially in the rural areas, with the cost of internet connection generally above the 2% monthly GNI threshold established by the ITU; costly trade logistics and insufficient adoption of relevant trade facilitation measures – implementation of trade facilitation measures in the Pacific was at 40% in 2021, well below the global average of 64.7%; an underdeveloped legal and regulatory environment, with pieces of e-commerce legislation such as privacy laws and e-transactions almost completely missing; difficulties to roll-out electronic payment solutions tailored to the needs of the unbanked; very limited skills supporting the productive use of E-commerce opportunities; and a financial system which makes it difficult to support innovative e-commerce ventures.
As coordinators of the Pacific E-commerce Initiative, we will benefit from the additional exposure provided by the membership to the eTrade for All community. Our expectation is that through this community we will be able to network with new donor partners and technical agencies, advocate their support for our regional e-commerce cause, and engage productively for the benefit of our members. We will also benefit from the first-class knowledge of e-commerce that is shared among the partners of this community. Finally, we believe that the Pacific experience can provide interesting lessons on how to practically apply the concept of regionalism in the area of e-commerce, and we are looking forward to sharing our experience with other interested regional communities.
In August this year we launched a Pacific E-commerce Portal, the regional information repository on E-commerce Development in the Pacific. If you want to give visibility to your e-commerce activities in the Pacific, please be in touch with us and we’ll be happy to explore how to best embed your work in the Portal.