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ADB and UNESCAP report: Improved ICT infrastructure and regulatory policies unlock e-commerce potential

ADB and UNESCAP report: Improved ICT infrastructure and regulatory policies unlock e-commerce potential

An announcement
made by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) highlighted the report it released
together with the United
Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

(UNESCAP), which discussed the E-commerce situation in Asia and the Pacific
region. It also emphasised why challenges with information technology
infrastructure should be addressed and what the importance of strengthening
regulatory frameworks is in unlocking the full potential that E-commerce has.

E-commerce is enabling small and
medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of Asia and the Pacific to reach global markets
and compete on an international scale. This resulted to the creation of many
jobs according to a report launched jointly by the ADB and the UNESCAP at an
international conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

But in order to maximise its benefits, the
region has to first tackle difficult issues of information technology
infrastructure and strengthening the regulatory frameworks.

ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management
and Sustainable Development Mr Bambang Susantono said, “Emerging digital
technologies are transforming the e-commerce landscape and offer a new set of
modern solutions and opportunities to build more inclusive growth and spur
innovation,”

He added, “It offers a chance to narrow
development gaps; whether demographic, economic, geographic, or cultural. It
also helps narrow the rural-urban divide. However, realising the full potential
of e-commerce calls for coordinated regional and global efforts.”

The Embracing
the E-commerce Revolution in Asia and the Pacific
report examines
how Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as blockchains, the Internet
of Things (IoT), machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G wireless networks will transform the e-commerce industry and
help unlock its dynamic potential.

The report described Asia and the Pacific as
the world’s largest business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce marketplace and
continues to grow rapidly. The size of e-commerce relative to gross domestic
product by the end of 2015 was 4.5% in the region as compared to North
America’s 3.1% and Europe’s 2.6%.

The Internet retailing market share of Asia
and the Pacific is expected to reach around a half of the global total by 2020.

The report also stated that a wide
diversity in ICT infrastructure development and socioeconomic readiness to join
the e-commerce marketplace exists in the region. The governments need to increase
their efforts in order to address this and catch up.

In terms of world average regarding speed
and affordability of broadband services, and availability of secure Internet
servers, the region lags behind even though there is a evident progress in
basic Internet access and availability.

Compared to other developing regions, Asia
and the Pacific have more fixed and mobile broadband subscriptions. There is a
wide variation in affordability of broadband access, with the irony being that
the poorer the economy, the higher the cost of broadband.

The report also described the availability
of alternative payments across countries in the region. The top four economies
in the region spend around 200 times the amount that the bottom four economies
spend in credit card payments per capita. Many economies in the region still
rely on cash-on-delivery to make online purchases because of limited online
payment options.

Although most economies in the region have
some type of electronic transaction and cybercrime legislation, the laws
related to privacy, data protection, and consumer protection remain slow.

Additional challenges also include lack of
awareness of potential opportunities that digital businesses offer. Add to that
the low computer literacy and English proficiency in the context of the
English-centric nature of websites, software, and computer interfaces.

Policy recommendations to help lower
barriers to e-commerce development are also included in the report. Developing
a viable e-commerce ecosystem requires a holistic approach and concerted
efforts by all stakeholders in e-commerce development.

National governments and international
development institutions; trade associations and industry bodies; businesses
such as e-commerce vendors, payment service providers, and logistics service
providers; and consumers must all work together.

Policy priorities should be on establishing
a legal and regulatory framework for e-commerce, harmonising international laws
and standards, promoting ICT infrastructure development, broadening Internet
access and affordability, and supporting financial and e-payment
infrastructure.

Recognising the significant role of trade for
economic growth and poverty reduction in Asia, ADB will continue to provide
support for the region’s trade facilitation initiatives.

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