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Development Account Projects

Promotion of electronic commerce

Background

Electronic commerce is attracting attention in multilateral discussions due to its potential impact on international trade and development. It offers excellent opportunities to trade at lower cost through the elimination of intermediation and through participation in global markets. These opportunities have not been fully identified and taken advantage of by developing countries and countries in transition due to information gaps, high cost and lack of external support in the start-up stages.

The United Nations system plays a catalytic role by providing information, equipment and the networking capabilities through a strengthening of the Global Trade Point Network operated by UNCTAD. The implementation of the project will contribute to:

  • the elimination of some of the obstacles faced by developing countries participating in electronic commerce and increased access to physical network, resources and technology, and
  • enhanced awareness of decision makers and negotiators from developing countries and countries in transition about the nature and issues related to electronic commerce.

Objective:

- To strengthen the capacity of developing countries, including LDCs and countries with economies in transition, for trading at lower costs through electronic commerce;

- To strengthen the Global Trade Point Network operated by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Elimination of some of the obstacles to participation by developing countries in electronic commerce and increased access to physical networks, resources and technology;

  • Enhanced awareness of decision makers and negotiators from developing countries and countries with economies in transition about the nature and issues related to electronic commerce;

  • Elimination of some of the obstacles to participation by developing countries in electronic commerce and increased access to physical networks, resources and technology.

Effects and Impact:

An external evaluation concluded that since 1999, the project substantively contributed to enhancing the knowledge of the beneficiary Governments on the nature and issues related to electronic commerce and ICT generally, in various areas, including infrastructure, standards, legal and regulatory issues, and human resources development. Demand for information and advice on e-commerce and ICT, and their impact on trade and development continued to increase throughout the implementation period of the project. As a result, activities have been programmed and regularly adjusted to reflect both the changing nature, scope and complexity of e-commerce issues to be addressed in connection with trade and development, and the evolution of the situations of many developing countries as some have already gained experience in e-commerce and e-business.

The regional events on ICT and e-commerce organized under the project ensured a lively exchange of experience among developing countries and contributed to their capacity-building efforts. In addition, wide-ranging studies and analyses on various aspects of e-commerce were produced and disseminated, in particular, through a major publication, the E-Commerce and Development Report that has been published annually by UNCTAD since 2001. Such studies helped to raise awareness on the developmental impact of e-commerce from the economic, social and legal perspectives, to inform developing countries about the experiences of enterprises and policies of other countries and to disseminate international best practice.

The specific and concrete policy recommendations that were formulated by beneficiary Governments at the regional conferences on ICT and e-commerce strategies for development organized by UNCTAD during the second phase (2002-2003) of the project, represented another valuable outcome, particularly in the context of the preparations for the World Summit of the Information Society held in Geneva (10-12 December 2003). They will also constitute useful elements for future action in this area in regard to the preparations for the second phase of the WSIS, and in accordance with of UNCTAD XI (June 2004). Given the growing importance that the international community pays to questions of ICT-for-development, the results of the activities undertaken under the project become of particular relevance to the development strategies of the beneficiary countries.