UNCTAD – Switzerland climbs to top of global e-commerce index

Switzerland replaced the Netherlands at the top of UNCTAD’s Business-to-Consumer E-commerce Index 2020, which ranks 152 countries on their readiness to engage in online commerce.

Europe remains by far the most prepared region for e-commerce, according to UNCTAD’s Business-to-Consumer (B2C) E-commerce Index 2020, but wide gaps with countries with the lowest level of readiness need to be addressed by tackling weaknesses in those nations to spread the benefits of digital transformation to more people.

For the first time, Switzerland leads the UNCTAD B2C E-commerce Index, just ahead of the Netherlands. In 2019, 97% of the Swiss population used the internet. The only non-European economies among the top 10 are Singapore, ranked fourth, and Hong Kong (China) in the 10th position.

The index scores 152 nations on their readiness for online shopping, worth an estimated $4.4 trillion globally in 2018, up 7% from the previous year.

Countries are scored on access to secure internet servers, reliability of postal services and infrastructure, and the portion of their population that uses the internet and has an account with a financial institution or a provider of mobile money services.

Developing countries: Asia leads the pack

The 10 developing countries with the highest scores are all from Asia and classified as high-income or upper-middle-income economies.

At the other end of the spectrum, least developed countries occupy 18 of the bottom 20 positions.

The two largest B2C e-commerce markets in the world, China and the United States, rank 55th and 12th respectively in the index. Although both countries lead in several absolute measures, they lag in relative comparisons.

For instance, internet penetration in the United States is lower than in any of the economies in the top 10, while China ranks 87th in the world on this indicator. As for online shopping penetration, the United States ranks 12th while China takes the 33rd slot.

“The e-commerce divide remains huge,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s division that prepares the annual index. “Even among G20 countries, the extent to which people shop online ranges from 3% in India to 87% in the United Kingdom.”

Also, in Canada, the United States and 10 European nations, more than 70% of the adult population makes purchases online. But that proportion is well below 10% in most low- and lower-middle-income countries.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more urgent to ensure the countries trailing behind are able to catch up and strengthen their e-trade readiness,” Ms. Sirimanne said. The index, she said, underscores the need for governments to do more to ensure more people can avail of e-commerce opportunities.

“Otherwise, their businesses and people will miss out on the opportunities offered by the digital economy, and they will be less prepared to deal with various challenges,” she added.

Changes in the 2020 rankings

The 2020 edition of the index includes a few notable changes from the previous year. In the composition of the top 10 positions, Hong Kong (China) replaced Australia. Among the top 10 developing economies, Oman replaced Turkey.

The four largest increases in index scores were recorded in developing countries – Algeria, Brazil, Ghana and Lao People’s Democratic Republic, whose scores surged by at least five points, largely due to significant improvements in postal reliability.

Costa Rica became the best performer in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region, replacing Chile. Mauritius retained the highest score in sub-Saharan Africa, while Belarus again got the highest score among transition economies.

Special focus on Latin America and the Caribbean

The 2020 index takes a closer look at the LAC region, which accounts for 9% of the world’s population aged 15 and older and as much as 11% of the world’s internet users. However, the region’s share of global online shoppers was only 6% of the global total in 2019.

The UNCTAD report notes that five countries account for 92% of online shoppers in LAC, much higher than their share (72%) of the region’s population. Postal unreliability is the region’s biggest e-commerce infrastructural weakness, particularly in the Caribbean.

As seen globally, COVID-19 has boosted online shopping in the region. For example, 7.3 million Brazilians shopped online for the first time during the pandemic. And in Argentina, the number of first-time online buyers during the pandemic was equivalent to 30% of the 2019 online shopping base.


Top 10 economies in the UNCTAD B2C E-commerce Index 2020

2020 Rank Economy Share of individuals using the Internet (2019 or latest) Share of individuals with an account (15+, 2017) Secure Internet servers (normalized, 2019) UPU postal reliability score (2019 or latest) 2020 Index value) Index value change (2018-19 data) Rank 2019
1 Switzerland 97 98 92 97 95.9 0.6 2
2 Netherlands 96 100 94 93 95.8 0.1 1
3 Denmark 97 100 100 81 94.5 0.1 6
4 Singapore 89 98 94 97 94.4 -0.3 3
5 United Kingdom 96 96 84 98 93.6 0.1 4
6 Germany 93 99 90 91 93.4 -0.1 9
7 Finland 95 100 88 91 93.4 -0.1 5
8 Ireland 88 95 92 98 93.4 0.7 7
9 Norway 98 100 84 88 92.6 -0.1 8
10 China, Hong Kong SAR 92 95 88 92 91.8 0.3 14

Source: UNCTAD


Top 10 developing economies in the UNCTAD B2C E-commerce index 2020

2020 Rank Economy Share of individuals using the Internet (2019 or latest) Share of individuals with an account (15+, 2017) Secure Internet servers (normalized, 2019) UPU postal reliability score (2019 or latest) 2020 Index value) Index value change (2019-20 data) Rank 2019
4 Singapore 89 98 94 97 94.4 -0.3 3
10 China, Hong Kong SAR 92 95 88 92 91.8 0.3 14
18 Korea, Republic of 96 95 68 100 89.8 0.0 19
30 Malaysia 84 85 71 85 81.3 1.5 31
37 United Arab Emirates 99 88 61 64 78.2 0.0 28
42 Thailand 67 82 59 97 76.0 0.5 48
44 Iran (Islamic Republic of) 70 94 57 79 75.0 -1.5 45
49 Saudi Arabia 96 72 43 78 72.3 0.0 49
50 Qatar 100 66 50 73 72.1 0.0 47
54 Oman 92 74 43 73 70.6 0.0 60

Source: UNCTAD


Top 10 developing and transition economies in the UNCTAD B2C E-commerce Index 2020, by region

East, South & Southeast Asia West Asia Africa Latin America and the Caribbean Transition economies
Singapore United Arab Emirates Mauritius Costa Rica Belarus
China, Hong Kong SAR Saudi Arabia South Africa Chile Russian Federation
Korea, Republic of Qatar Tunisia Brazil Serbia
Malaysia Oman Algeria Dominican Republic Georgia
Thailand Turkey Ghana Colombia Ukraine
Iran (Islamic Republic of) Kuwait Libya Uruguay North Macedonia
China Lebanon Kenya Jamaica Republic of Moldova
Mongolia Bahrain Nigeria Trinidad and Tobago Kazakhstan
Viet Nam Jordan Morocco Peru Azerbaijan
India Iraq Senegal Argentina Bosnia and Herzegovina

Source: UNCTAD

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