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Participants of the Vi study visit for affiliate member, the Graduate InstituteA group of 29 students from 19 countries(*) participating in a summer programme at Swiss affiliate member, the Graduate Institute, took part in a Vi study visit to UNCTAD June 24.

On the programme was a presentation of the Information Economy Report (IER) 2015 by co-author, Torbjörn Fredriksson, of UNCTAD's Division on Technology and Logistics.

After a brief introduction to the work of UNCTAD, Fredriksson outlined the major findings of this edition of the report, which examines potential opportunities and challenges of e-commerce and how developing countries can optimize the benefits of today’s information society.

E-commerce refers to four types of transactions of goods and services by electronic means: business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), consumer-to-consumer (C2C) and government-to-business (G2B). The report shows that B2B revenues are by far the largest, while B2C e-commerce is growing fast, especially in developing countries.

The IER also shows that e-commerce domestic transactions dominate in developed countries, while the picture is different in some developing countries.

"In India and Singapore, more than half of the transactions are cross-border, and in countries like Colombia, Paraguay and Venezuela, cross-border trade accounts for the bulk of e-commerce," Fredriksson said.

“But there is a higher share of Internet users involved in social networking than in buying online,” he added, stressing the importance of building trust among Internet users to involve them in e-commerce.

He also highlighted other important barriers to e-commerce, such as weak legal and regulatory frameworks, limited use of credit cards and under-developed financial systems in developing countries.

"E-commerce facilitates access to global value chains, new markets and suppliers, for instance, but it can also involve high costs of adaptation and increase the risk of fraud and job losses, hence contributing to the widening of the digital divide in the world," he said. “Our message in the latest report is that governments need to develop tailored strategies and engage relevant stakeholders in order to benefit from e-commerce.”

In the discussion that followed, the students’ questions touched on UNCTAD's activities in their countries, the share of world trade that corresponds to e-commerce and data collection.


*Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, India, Italy, Iran, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom.