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UNCTAD/PRESS/PR/2021/005
Switzerland Climbs to Top of Global E-Commerce Index
  • Switzerland replaced the Netherlands at the top of UNCTAD's Business-to-Consumer (B2C) E-commerce Index 2020, which ranks 152 countries on their readiness to engage in online commerce.

Geneva, Switzerland, 17 February 2021

Europe remains by far the most prepared region for e-commerce, according to UNCTAD's Business-to-Consumer (B2C) E-commerce Index 2020, but wide gaps with countries with the lowest level of readiness need to be addressed by tackling weaknesses in those nations to spread the benefits of digital transformation to more people.

For the first time, Switzerland leads the UNCTAD B2C E-commerce Index, just ahead of the Netherlands. In 2019, 97% of the Swiss population used the internet. The only non-European economies among the top 10 are Singapore, ranked fourth, and Hong Kong (China) in the 10th position.

The index scores 152 nations on their readiness for online shopping, worth an estimated $4.4 trillion globally in 2018, up 7% from the previous year.

Countries are scored on access to secure internet servers, reliability of postal services and infrastructure, and the portion of their population that uses the internet and has an account with a financial institution or a provider of mobile money services.

Developing countries: Asia leads the pack

The 10 developing countries with the highest scores are all from Asia and classified as high-income or upper-middle-income economies.

At the other end of the spectrum, least developed countries occupy 18 of the bottom 20 positions.

The two largest B2C e-commerce markets in the world, China and the United States, rank 55th and 12th respectively in the index. Although both countries lead in several absolute measures, they lag in relative comparisons.

For instance, internet penetration in the United States is lower than in any of the economies in the top 10, while China ranks 87th in the world on this indicator. As for online shopping penetration, the United States ranks 12th while China takes the 33rd slot.

“The e-commerce divide remains huge,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s division that prepares the annual index. “Even among G20 countries, the extent to which people shop online ranges from 3% in India to 87% in the United Kingdom.”

Also, in Canada, the United States and 10 European nations, more than 70% of the adult population makes purchases online. But that proportion is well below 10% in most low- and lower-middle-income countries.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more urgent to ensure the countries trailing behind are able to catch up and strengthen their e-trade readiness,” Ms. Sirimanne said. The index, she said, underscores the need for governments to do more to ensure more people can avail of e-commerce opportunities.

“Otherwise, their businesses and people will miss out on the opportunities offered by the digital economy, and they will be less prepared to deal with various challenges,” she added.

Changes in the 2020 rankings

The 2020 edition of the index includes a few notable changes from the previous year. In the composition of the top 10 positions, Hong Kong (China) replaced Australia. Among the top 10 developing economies, Oman replaced Turkey.

The four largest increases in index scores were recorded in developing countries – Algeria, Brazil, Ghana and Lao People's Democratic Republic, whose scores surged by at least five points, largely due to significant improvements in postal reliability.

Costa Rica became the best performer in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region, replacing Chile. Mauritius retained the highest score in sub-Saharan Africa, while Belarus again got the highest score among transition economies.

Special focus on Latin America and the Caribbean

The 2020 index takes a closer look at the LAC region, which accounts for 9% of the world’s population aged 15 and older and as much as 11% of the world's internet users. However, the region’s share of global online shoppers was only 6% of the global total in 2019.

The UNCTAD report notes that five countries account for 92% of online shoppers in LAC, much higher than their share (72%) of the region's population. Postal unreliability is the region's biggest e-commerce infrastructural weakness, particularly in the Caribbean.

As seen globally, COVID-19 has boosted online shopping in the region. For example, 7.3 million Brazilians shopped online for the first time during the pandemic. And in Argentina, the number of first-time online buyers during the pandemic was equivalent to 30% of the 2019 online shopping base.

 

Top 10 economies in the UNCTAD B2C E-commerce Index 2020

2020 Rank

Economy

Share of individuals using the Internet (2019 or latest)

Share of individuals with an account (15+, 2017)

Secure Internet servers (normalized, 2019)

UPU postal reliability score (2019 or latest)

2020 Index value)

Index value change (2018-19 data)

Rank 2019

1

Switzerland

97

98

92

97

95.9

0.6

2

2

Netherlands

96

100

94

93

95.8

0.1

1

3

Denmark

97

100

100

81

94.5

0.1

6

4

Singapore

89

98

94

97

94.4

-0.3

3

5

United Kingdom

96

96

84

98

93.6

0.1

4

6

Germany

93

99

90

91

93.4

-0.1

9

7

Finland

95

100

88

91

93.4

-0.1

5

8

Ireland

88

95

92

98

93.4

0.7

7

9

Norway

98

100

84

88

92.6

-0.1

8

10

China, Hong Kong SAR

92

95

88

92

91.8

0.3

14

Source: UNCTAD

 

Top 10 developing economies in the UNCTAD B2C E-commerce index 2020

2020 Rank

Economy

Share of individuals using the Internet (2019 or latest)

Share of individuals with an account (15+, 2017)

Secure Internet servers (normalized, 2019)

UPU postal reliability score (2019 or latest)

2020 Index value)

Index value change (2019-20 data)

Rank 2019

4

Singapore

89

98

94

97

94.4

-0.3

3

10

China, Hong Kong SAR

92

95

88

92

91.8

0.3

14

18

Korea, Republic of

96

95

68

100

89.8

0.0

19

30

Malaysia

84

85

71

85

81.3

1.5

31

37

United Arab Emirates

99

88

61

64

78.2

0.0

28

42

Thailand

67

82

59

97

76.0

0.5

48

44

Iran (Islamic Republic of)

70

94

57

79

75.0

-1.5

45

49

Saudi Arabia

96

72

43

78

72.3

0.0

49

50

Qatar

100

66

50

73

72.1

0.0

47

54

Oman

92

74

43

73

70.6

0.0

60

Source: UNCTAD

 

Top 10 developing and transition economies in the UNCTAD B2C E-commerce Index 2020, by region

East, South & Southeast Asia

West Asia

Africa

Latin America and the Caribbean

Transition economies

Singapore

United Arab Emirates

Mauritius

Costa Rica

Belarus

China, Hong Kong SAR

Saudi Arabia

South Africa

Chile

Russian Federation

Korea, Republic of

Qatar

Tunisia

Brazil

Serbia

Malaysia

Oman

Algeria

Dominican Republic

Georgia

Thailand

Turkey

Ghana

Colombia

Ukraine

Iran (Islamic Republic of)

Kuwait

Libya

Uruguay

North Macedonia

China

Lebanon

Kenya

Jamaica

Republic of Moldova

Mongolia

Bahrain

Nigeria

Trinidad and Tobago

Kazakhstan

Viet Nam

Jordan

Morocco

Peru

Azerbaijan

India

Iraq

Senegal

Argentina

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Source: UNCTAD