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E-commerce Readiness

How can a country be ready for e-commerce? 

E-commerce readiness refers to a variety of policies, frameworks, and institutional actions that enable countries to engage effectively in e-commerce. It considers country-level dimensions on trade, technology, education, finance, and law that determine challenges and opportunities for public and private sector actors to enable an e-commerce ecosystem. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has an initiative known as eTrade for All, which advises countries to engage in e-commerce by addressing seven policy areas: (a) e-commerce readiness assessments; (b) information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and services; (c) payment solutions; (d) trade logistics; (e) legal and regulatory frameworks; (f) skills development; and (g) access to financing.  

What could e-commerce readiness assessments aim for? 

Developing national e-commerce readiness starts with conducting a nationwide assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges in the enabling environment for an e-commerce ecosystem. An e-commerce readiness assessment can inform decision-makers across public and private sector institutions about the priority areas and key stakeholders that can play a role in enabling a national e-commerce ecosystem. 

Which policy areas are relevant for e-commerce readiness? 

UNCTAD’s eTrade for all initiative suggests seven policy areas and provides an array of programs to support e-commerce readiness across the world. Some examples per policy area that can be considered are as follows:

  • E-commerce readiness assessments: The World Customs Organization (WCO) has an E-Commerce Web-Corner that provides instruments, topics, and tools for developing e-commerce policies and strategies.
  • ICT infrastructure and services: UNCTAD offers an ICT Policy Review Programme, which examines national policies on information and communication technologies to identify enablers and obstacles for e-commerce readiness.
  • Payment solutions: The Universal Postal Union (UPU) in partnership with other private sector institutions, runs the Financial Inclusion Technical Assistance Facility. This facility is designed to assist countries in adopting the latest technologies for enhancing efficiency and outreach in postal financial services. 
  • Trade logistics: The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) provides advice for countries to facilitate trade through measures that range from creating national single windows to promoting paperless trade transactions. 
  • Legal and regulatory frameworks: UNCTAD provides assistance to countries in developing legal and regulatory frameworks to build confidence in e-commerce, while promoting secure online business and economic wellbeing. 
  • Skills development: UNCTAD has a program known as TradeForTrade, which builds trade knowledge and skills for governments, business, and citizens to seize opportunities in international trade and e-commerce. 
  • Access to financing: The SME Finance Forum is a global network where actors engaged in funneling financing for e-commerce projects can connect and cooperate.

Where can I access further resources on policy frameworks and guidelines?

  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Measuring electronic commerce: The OECD provides a framework for identifying issues associated with measuring e-commerce. Visit the OECD website.
  • The International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Bringing SMEs onto the E-commerce Highway: This resource addresses e-commerce policies that affect the engagement of small businesses in cross-border e-commerce. Visit the ITC website.
  • The Commonwealth’s Policy Guide for Least Developed Countries, Small States and Sub-Saharan Africa: This publication offers recommendations that can help some developing countries to build capacity for developing e-commerce policies and engaging in global digital trade matters. Visit the Commonwealth website.

Where can I see best practices and national examples?

  • Regulations, Policies and Initiatives on E-Commerce and Digital Economy for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) MSMEs’ Participation in the Region: This resource presents applied research and analysis on policies and actors that play a role in enabling small business engagement in e-commerce. Visit the APEC website.
  • UNCTAD Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessments of Least Developed Countries: This resource consists of a tool to inform policy measures that can support the capacity of least developed countries to assess e-commerce readiness. Visit the UNCTAD website.