Bangladesh has laid an essential foundation for a technology-driven and skill-based digital economy, a new report by UNCTAD says, but still needs to put in place a comprehensive national e-commerce strategy and improve delivery logistics.
In a statement, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said that a Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessment, completed by it at the request of the Bangladesh government, pinpoints improvements in telecommunications infrastructure, trade logistics, payment solutions, laws and regulations, skills development, and financing, that can accelerate e-commerce and spread the benefits throughout the economy.
“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,” the statement quoted Mustafa Jabbar, Bangladesh’s Minister for Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology, as saying after receiving the assessment.
“It is fantastic to see the great strides that Bangladesh has taken to prepare for a digital future. This e-Trade Readiness Assessment also recognises that there are growth and employment gains yet to be made by a comprehensive pivot to e-commerce,” Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s division on technology and logistics, said.
The report found that the government had supported public-private dialogue and collaboration in digitalisation matters “in an exemplary manner”. Its Digital Bangladesh initiative is part of its Vision 2021 national development plan and is supported by the A2I initiative currently led by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division of the Jabbar’s ministry.
A2I is an umbrella initiative that has shepherded growth in the ICT sector and the overall digital economy ecosystem of the country. Since its inception in 2010, the information and communications technology sector in Bangladesh has grown at an astonishing average pace of 40 per cent a year.
The tech sector is a natural fit in the country’s development trajectory to create jobs for the 110 million under 35-year-olds in the nation of 160 million. With 65 per cent of Bangladesh’s people living in rural areas, connectivity remains a priority.
The report says support for e-commerce in a comprehensive national strategy – recognising all barriers to business from “an ecosystem perspective” – would help to increase the confidence of the general public in e-commerce, and to address the digital divide between urban and rural areas with higher priority. Improvements in trade logistics – such as better postal services and secure payment modes – are also required, it says.
The affordability of internet services is also a major concern for companies engaged in e-commerce, the report notes.
The Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessment of Bangladesh, funded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), was presented to government representatives during an event on the opening day of UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week 2019. The fifth edition of the high-profile global gathering is taking place at the Palais des Nations, the UN’s office in Geneva, Switzerland from April 1 to 5. The theme of this year’s week, which comprised dozens of sessions, was “From Digitalisation to Development”.
Since the launch of the Rapid eTrade Readiness programme in 2016, UNCTAD has undertaken 17 assessments for Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Liberia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa, Senegal, Solomon Islands, Togo, Uganda, Vanuatu, and Zambia. With the support of key donors - Germany, the Enhanced Integrated Frameworks and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation - eight more countries will benefit from the programme in 2019.
The eTrade for all initiative, a multi-stakeholder partnership that helps developing countries find information and resources on e-commerce and the digital economy , supports the preparation of the Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessments.