This brief blog post announces Digital Divide Institute’s newest initiative: “Ecommerce for All.” This is an economic modeling exercise which brings together stakeholders from around the world to consider the socioeconomic impact of ecommerce as it spreads into developing nations. Rather than stress the dangers or benefits of ecommerce we are simply going to predict outcomes of ecommerce under various regulatory and market conditions in a number of key emerging-market nations. This is intended to advise governments seeking to regulate ecommerce. We aim to show that ecommerce could dramatically benefit or harm nations depending the nature of business-government interactions and the pattern and timing of investments.
The initiative comes at a tender moment. As ecommerce growth tapers in advanced nations, its fastest growth is now in developing nations, particularly those in Asia. One must note the enormous benefits that can be brought to their “digital economies.”
Asian ecommerce markets are quickly being saturated in urban middle class enclaves. From India to Brazil, most citizens are shut out of ecommerce and are not able to receive its many benefits unless governments step in. The problem is not a new one. It is called the “Digital Divide” which separates those able to benefit from digital technology from those who cannot. After 25 years of efforts, governments have failed to establish the complex menu of policies and campaigns to close the Digital Divide.
Among these nations, the ecommerce boom has outpaced the ability of governments to consider what policies should be in place to make ecommerce work optimally for their citizens and small businesses. Chief among their concerns is the matter of “digital divide.” Though educated middle class consumers who share Western lifestyles are able to benefit, they are zooming ahead of three 2.5 billion less fortunate Asians, mostly located outside major cities who lack access to the logistics, finance and distribution systems.
Facing political fallout as gaps between rich and poor accelerate, many developing nations are rapidly struggling to revamp their policies, procedures and their business sectors so that the benefits of ecommerce can be equitably distributed for all citizens.
One of these forward thinking governments is that of Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation. This year, in crafting an “Ecommerce Road Map,” Indonesia aspires to remake itself so that even the most remote rural village can benefit by selling and buying via ecommerce. But, as you can imagine, the challenge is not just to issue a realistic plan but to implement it.
Keep tuned to Digital Divide Institute as we produce the economic modeling that aims to implement Indonesia’s ecommerce plan. We will be working with UNCTAD in Geneva to support best practice analysis of this issue and will be conducting a seminar at University of Washington to kick off our considerations of the future of ecommerce among low income nations.