INFORMATION ECONOMY REPORT 2015 – Unlocking the Potential of E-Commerce for Developing Countries

Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is rapidly transforming the way in which enterprises are interacting among each other as well as with consumers and governments. Despite important potential benefits, businesses and consumers in developing countries were for a long time slow to exploit e-commerce. As a result of changes in the evolving landscape for information and communications technologies (ICTs), this pattern is now changing, with e-commerce growing rapidly in several emerging markets and developing economies. Meanwhile, there is growing evidence that the use of ecommerce has a significant impact on firm performance, and especially on micro and small enterprises and in the services sector. Against this background, the Information Economy Report (IER) revisits the potential opportunities and risks of e-commerce and examines how countries can benefit the most from the phenomenon in today’s Information Society.

There is growing interest among both developed and developing countries in this area, with discussions ongoing in the WTO and other fora. This is one area in which UNCTAD has been providing research and technical assistance for 15 years. It is also an area in need of more official statistics and more information and assessments of recent developments. The IER2015 seeks to provide policymakers with an assessment of opportunities and challenges, while considering different policy responses. The report will also serve as a background document for the Intergovernmental Expert Meeting on Cyberlaws that UNCTAD will organize on 25-27 March 2014 next year in Geneva.

Using official statistics and private sector data, the report will provide an up-to-date review of global and regional trends related to e-commerce in view of changes in the ICT landscape, focusing on developing countries while drawing lessons from developed countries. It will review available research on productivity effects of e-commerce and highlight key developments in terms of innovative e-commerce solutions that are of relevance especially for micro and small enterprises in developing countries. It introduces tools for comparing the e-commerce readiness of countries, analyses the access in various parts of the world to global e-commerce platforms and services, conducts the first ever global mapping of cyberlaws in key areas of relevance to e-commerce, and makes broad recommendations for policy makers.