Statement by Ms. Arancha González, ITC Executive Director at the WSIS Forum 2015
Innovating Together: Enabling ICTS for Sustainable Development
25-29 May 2015, Geneva, Switzerland
Mr Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, ITU
Heads of Agencies
Distinguished Ladies and Gentleman,
May I first congratulate Secretary-General Zhao on this, his first occasion presiding over the World Summit on the Information Society Forum (WSIS). I wish you continued success in leading the ITU in its 150th year and beyond.
The International Trade Centre, which I lead, is the joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Our mandate is to help small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries increase their international competitiveness and use trade as a tool for growth, job creation and poverty reduction. ITC works with policymakers to improve the business environment; with institutions like trade and investment promotion agencies to improve the quality of support they offer to entrepreneurs; and with companies themselves to boost their productivity and competitiveness.
One of the key elements that we promote at ITC, both with our clients and in-house, is innovation. Innovation in the way we work, innovation in the solutions that we develop and innovation in the tools that we use.
E-Business is one such innovation and is a critical component of how companies can organise or improve the efficiency of their business processes, from getting their products to markets to communicating with clients, suppliers and governments or even how consumers will interact with producers.
Linking the outcomes of the WSIS process with the expected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a necessity. With trade being more explicitly recognised as an important ingredient for economic growth, and with sustainable economic growth an important requirement for equality and social cohesion, there is merit in drilling down into how e-business can contribute to delivering on the SDGs.
In fact SDGs encompass a wide number of themes where E-business and e-solutions have a cross-cutting role. The recognition of ensuring access to ”appropriate new technology”; to “Enhance the use of enabling technologies, in particular ICT, to promote women’s empowerment”; the “support of …creativity and innovation… of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises...”, and of course the more overarching recognition to ‘increase significantly the exports of developing countries, in particular with a view to doubling the LDC share of global exports by 2020”.
We must now ensure we intelligently combine an improved business environment, with more focused development assistance and the work of the private sector to ensure e-business and e-solutions do contribute to delivering on the SDGs.
ICT tools and digital trade underpin the capacity of SMEs across the world, but especially in developing and least developed countries, to access new market places, compete effectively for a space in value chains and to deliver the economic growth expected for sustainable development.
This forum has already made clear that the “digital economy” is now one of the main factors driving world trade. Digital channels are dominant in how businesses trade with one another. Complex value chains are linked together by information flows that coordinate trade in intermediate goods and services: estimated to be as much as 80% of world trade. Business to consumer (B2C) e-commerce is a smaller but increasingly powerful distribution channel now in excess of $1.5 trillion per annum. This is changing the nature of retailing in developed countries, and creating new consumer markets in developing countries.
Globally, B2C transactions alone are expected to soar to $2.4 trillion by 2017. The leading market will be Asia-Pacific, where e-commerce transactions will grow at a 50 percent annual average between 2012 and 2017, to make up nearly half of global e-commerce transactions. China is the leading market: according to the Boston Consulting Group, in 2015, China will have 700 million ‘netizens’, almost twice as many Internet users as the United States and Japan combined.
A sizable share of e-commerce is cross-border. For example, in the six main e-commerce markets – United States, UK, Germany, Brazil, China and Australia – cross-border e-commerce makes up an average of 16 percent of all e-commerce transactions. This share is growing rapidly. Cross-border ecommerce is expected to make up 20-40 percent of all e-commerce in Asia-Pacific, the European Union (EU), and the United States by 2017.
And although Africa and the Middle East represent only about 2% of global e-commerce but the potential for growth is high.
Developing countries are rapidly improving their access to the tools of digital trade. Almost 3 billion people – 40% of the world’s population – are using the Internet, and close to one in three people in developing countries are online. Mobile communication technologies are helping to close the infrastructure gap with developed countries: 55% of the world’s mobile broadband subscriptions are in developing countries - in Africa they are growing at over 40% a year and around 1 in 5 Africans now has access to mobile broadband.
Our collective task is to unlock this potential. This is why the International Trade Center has embarked on a number of programmes to support enterprises from developing and least developed countries access international e-commerce marketplaces.
Together with the World Bank, ITC is engaged in the programme “Developing SMEs’ Exports through Virtual Marketplaces”. Focussed initially on Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, the aim is to significantly increase the volume of e-exports by SMEs and create a business environment conducive to e-commerce. Recently launched initiatives in Kenya and Uganda to promote access to digitally delivered services follow our work in Bangladesh and Côte d’Ivoire, which are all aimed at increasing the ability of local firms to take part in online trade.
The spectrum is wide. From electronic provision of trade and market intelligence, to e-commerce solutions for the agricultural sector that address food security and productivity and from the digitisation of the supply chain and the creation of regional digital market places to the expansion of mobile solutions that have been pioneered in developing countries - in particular mobile money -, there is much that we can do together to scale up the support to entrepreneurs and SMEs in developing countries.
The future is internationalisation. Thinking global and seeing beyond the borders is the pathway.
Thank you for your attention.