Risks and benefits of data-driven economics in focus of major United Nations gathering

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Risks and benefits of data-driven economics in focus of major United Nations gathering
‘Most countries are ill prepared for the digital economy’ says UNCTAD Secretary-General

Geneva, Switzerland, 28 March 2018

Mariya Gabriel, Dinesh Agarwal and Amanda Long among speakers at UNCTAD’s E-Commerce Week, 16–20 April

The rapid digitalization of the world economy is raising profound and urgent questions that global decision-makers in governments, business and communities will gather to answer at UNCTAD’s E-Commerce Week, taking place at the Palais des Nations on 16–20 April 2018.

The E-Commerce Week takes the development dimensions of digital platforms – a key feature of the evolving digital world – as its theme this year. More than 1,000 participants are expected to take part in some 60 sessions, all of which are open to the media.

Confirmed speakers include:
• Anusha Rahman, Minister of State of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Pakistan
• Wilson Tarpeh, Minister for Commerce and Industry, Liberia
• Pan Sorasak, Minister of Commerce, Cambodia
• Amelia Kyambadde, Minister of Trade, Industry and Co-operatives, Uganda
• Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy, ICT and Tourism, African Union Commission
• Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner, Digital Economy and Society, European Commission
• Dinesh Agarwal, Founder and CEO,
• Omobola Johnson, Senior Partner, TLcom Capital
• Amanda Long, Director-General, Consumers International

The E-Commerce Week comes at an opportune time. The digital economy is evolving fast. For example, between 2012 and 2017, the number of monthly Facebook users surged from 1 billion to 2.2 billion – with the fastest growth happening in developing countries.

“The current debate about Facebook and data privacy vividly illustrates that most countries are ill prepared for the digital economy,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

“Some 90% of all new users of the Internet over the past half-decade or so live in developing countries – but half of these countries currently lack legislation to protect their privacy.”

New estimates from UNCTAD suggest that global e-commerce reached almost $26 trillion in 2016 (chart 1). The United States remained by far the largest market, with combined e-commerce sales of some $7.6 trillion, with Japan ranked second some distance behind.

However, China is the leader in the business to consumer (B2C) segment. China and the United States accounted for just over half of all B2C sales in 2016. India in 2016 entered the top 10 e-commerce markets for the first time. B2C sales increased 14.5% in 2016 to $ 2.8 trillion. There were an estimated 1.4 billion online shoppers around the globe in 2016 (up by 11% over 2015), equivalent to 55% of all Internet users.

“We know that the digital economy can bring great benefits to developing countries, but we need to address some critical questions to ensure that digitalization leads to the future we want,” Dr. Kituyi said.

Key issues that will be debated during sessions include the development implications of the use of digital platforms in terms of: data privacy, competition, job creation and the sharing of benefits.

Questions include: What can policies do to make developments more inclusive and sustainable? What is needed to help countries that are currently lagging in eTrade readiness to catch up? How can digitalization support women’s economic empowerment?

New figures from the Global Survey of Internet Use Perceptions and on trade in digitally delivered services will be released by UNCTAD, the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the Internet Society and Ipsos at the start of E-Commerce Week on Monday 16 April.

In addition, new statistics on trade in digitally delivered services will be presented for Costa Rica and India on Monday 16 April.

E-Commerce Week sessions will look at consumer protection online, trade logistics in the digital era, digital identities, blockchain technologies, digital platforms and competition policies, trade policies and e-commerce, e-commerce developments in Africa and in South Asia, digital trade and industrialization, the role of regional banks in fostering gains from e-commerce, and much more.

The week will also feature the second session of theIntergovernmental Group of Experts on E-commerce and the Digital Economy as well as many sessions organized by and with eTrade for All partners covering a wide spectrum of topics.

UNCTAD’s E-Commerce Week, 16–20 April 2018
Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

Highlights of E-Commerce Week include:

See the full programme here or visit

Chart 1. Global E-commerce sales, 2016, billion dollars
Note: UNCTAD estimates derived from US Census Bureau; Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; China Bureau of Statistics; KOSTAT (Republic of Korea); EUROSTAT & BEVH (Germany); UK Office of National Statistics; INSEE & FEVAD (France); Statistics Canada & Canada Post; CII (India) and EUROSTAT & (Italy).