Enhancing the role of e-business for development
Increasing the security of online payments, supporting local innovation and entrepreneurship, and ensuring consistent regulations are some of the improvements needed to encourage the development of e-business, according to a survey presented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) at the WSIS+10 review meeting in Paris on 25-27 February.
The meeting examined progress made since the first World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva in 2003. WSIS attracts leaders from government, the private sector, intergovernmental organizations, civil society and the media to address the challenges posed by the global digital divide.

The online survey on e-business looked at the most important achievements in the area since 2005, areas where little progress has been made and what needs to be done in the future to expand e-business globally. Trade bodies, international organizations, businesses, governments and civil society all took part in the consultation.
Mobile business
Results showed that developing countries and emerging economies are no longer just users of e-business but are also starting to act as providers of IT services, information and communication technology (ICT) applications and e-business models, such as mobile banking. However, the largest development within e-business has been in the OECD countries, such as in the European Union where the percentage of people who made an online purchase of goods or services for private use doubled from 20% to 40% between 2004 and 2010.

Anders Aeroe, Director of ITC Division of Market Development, said: "E-business is increasingly also mobile business or, in short, m-business, and social networks cannot be overlooked as a facilitator for the development of e-business. Whatever the challenges, they have to be addressed, as e-business has so much potential for SMEs in developing countries, because of the low-entry barriers to engage in e-business as opposed to more traditional business and related prospects for entrepreneurship and job creation, especially for women and youth.”

The survey showed that, since 2005, telecom regulations have improved in most countries and that increased competition and investments have led to lower prices and dramatically improved availability and quality of up-to-date telecommunication services. Online payment systems, e-banking, e-procurement portals and government support dedicated to e-business have all developed. Infrastructure has been put in place also in LDCs, where a growing percentage of the population can now access the web. Public acceptance of e-business and development of e-commerce services and goods have improved as has access to e-business from different platforms such as computers, mobile phones and handheld devices.
However, the survey also found that despite the increase in connectivity, affordable broadband is not available widely enough. Many SMEs and micro-enterprises in developing countries are still not effectively using ICT tools partly because of broadband cost and connectivity issues.

Martin Labbé, an ITC Adviser on online marketing and digital networks, said: “The survey shows that much progress has been made in recent years but there are still areas which need to be addressed to make the future implementation of e-business more effective. These include ensuring secure online and mobile payments, internet security, strengthening and streamlining consumer protection rules, and ensuring consistent e-commerce regulations, especially across borders.”
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