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UN report: Bangladesh to get e-commerce boost from strong digital foundation

  • Published at 05:54 pm April 2nd, 2019
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Assessment by the UN found Bangladesh has laid an essential foundation for a technology-driven and skill-based digital economy

Bangladesh stands to capitalize on improvements made by the country to bolster e-commerce-friendly infrastructure, according to a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) report.

The report informs about Bangladesh’s readiness to conduct electronic trade, presented to government representatives during an event on the opening day of Unctad’s eCommerce Week 2019, held in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday.

The Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessment by UN found that Bangladesh has laid an essential foundation for a technology-driven and skill-based digital economy, but still needs to introduce a comprehensive national e-commerce strategy and improve delivery logistics.

While receiving the assessment, Minister of Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology, Mustafa Jabbar, said: “All commercial activities are going to be digital, and all current business laws, regulations, and policies are to be made compatible with the digital commerce revolution,”

Completed by Unctad at the request of the Bangladeshi government, the assessment pinpoints crucial improvements that will help the nation deliver on its e-commerce hopes, which include: advances in telecommunications infrastructure; trade logistics; payment solutions; laws and regulations; skills development; and financing that can accelerate e-commerce and spread its benefits throughout the economy.

Shamika N Sirimanne, director of Unctad’s Division on Technology and Logistics, said this e-Trade Readiness Assessment recognizes growth and employment gains yet to be "made by a comprehensive pivot to e-commerce."

Digital gains and shortcomings

The report found the Bangladeshi government had supported public-private dialogue and collaboration in digitalization matters “in an exemplary manner”, as a part of its "Digital Bangladesh" initiative—supported by Access to Information (a2i) to actualize the country’s Vision 2021 national development plan.

Currently led by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division, a2i has shepherded growth in the ICT sector and the overall digital economic ecosystem of the country.

The Digital Bangladesh initiative not only looks to transform the country into a modern, knowledge-based society by 2021, but also establish the South Asian nation as the world’s next ICT destination.

"Since its inception in 2010, the ICT sector in Bangladesh has grown at an average pace of 40% a year—a remarkable achievement," finds the report.

The report explains that the tech sector is also "a fit for the 110 million young Bangladeshis who, in a nation of 160 million", need jobs and skills for the future

With 65% of Bangladesh’s people living in rural areas, connectivity also remains a priority.

The report says support for e-commerce in a comprehensive national strategy would help increase the public’s confidence in e-commerce, and address the digital divide between urban and rural areas. To do so, it would need to recognize all barriers to business from “an ecosystem perspective”.

"Improvements in trade logistics, such as better postal services and secure payment modes, are also required," it says.

Ready for e-commerce

Since the launch of the Rapid eTrade Readiness program in 2016, UNCTAD has undertaken 17 assessments of developing countries—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa, Senegal, Solomon Islands, Togo, Uganda, Vanuatu, and Zambia.

Both Bangladesh and Afghanistan were formally presented with their Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessments at the fifth edition of eCommerce Week—a high-profile global gathering of e-commerce players, taking place from Monday to Friday.

The event’s theme aligns the real issues discussed in the assessments and tackling the challenges and opportunities countries experience as they embrace digitalization and prioritize development gains.  

With the support of key donors—Germany, the Enhanced Integrated Frameworks, and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation—eight additional developing countries will conduct eTrade readiness assessments in 2019.

The eTrade for all initiative is a multi-stakeholder partnership that helps developing countries find information and resources on e-commerce and the digital economy.

The program also supports the preparation of the assessments.