IGF 2017 WS #151 E-commerce: Good or bad for development?

Proposer's Name: Ms. Burcu Kilic
Proposer's Organization: Public Citizen
Co-Proposer's Name: Ms. Aileen Kwa
Co-Proposer's Organization: South Centre
Ms., Sanya Smith Reid, CSO, Third World Network

Session Format: Round Table - 90 Min

Country: United States
Stakeholder Group: Civil Society

Country: Switzerland
Stakeholder Group: Intergovernmental Organizations

Speaker: Aileen Kwa
Speaker: Snead David
Speaker: Michael Wamai
Speaker: Sanya Reid Smith

Content of the Session:
E-commerce agenda in the World Trade Organization (WTO) has long been promoted as the revolution that developing countries have been waiting for that would promote innovation, provide many opportunities to Micro and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and contribute to development.
Somehow, there seems to be several missing links in this thinking. ‘What kind of rules’ is not being asked?
Developing countries have been clear that their concerns in this arena include increased access to energy, internet, and other information and communication technologies; closing the digital divide; increased infrastructure for logistics including transportation and postal systems; legal and regulatory frameworks; access to finance; and capacity building in technologies to help them prepare to benefit from e-commerce. But these issues are generally not reflected in the proposals that have been submitted , which are far more likely to result in binding rules.

This round table will focus on the development aspects of e-commerce and discuss those questions that haven’t been asked:

• What are the proposed E-commerce rules that is sought to be negotiated in various fora- FTAs and WTO?
• What are the implications of proposed E-Commerce rules for most Developing Countries?
• How ready are developing countries in engaging in trade online? Are small and medium-sized enterprises able to easily surpass all the hurdles of offline business and gain export markets easily via e-commerce?
• Is there a level playing field? Are SMEs going to be big winners or is the market highly concentrated?
• All countries should have a digital industrialization strategy. What is this?
• What are the implications of these E-Commerce rules on internet governance issues?
• Will there be rules to mandate technology transfer to developing countries in order to bridge the digital divide? Or rules that prohibit such transfer?
• What are the challenges developing countries face regarding e-commerce and more pertinently since the WTO is about cross-border trade, cross-border e-commerce?
• Are new WTO rules somehow going to melt away the E-commerce challenges faced in developing countries?

Relevance of the Session:
Trade agreements are shaping the rules that would shape our digital future. Recent reports by UNCTAD demonstrated that a majority of developing countries do not have an adequate legal structure regarding digital trade, Internet governance, or cyber-security. There are many unknowns regarding the technological advances ahead, and therefore the digital economy. Recognizing the uncertainty in the policy-making process, this panel aims to contribute to debates on trade, internet and development, by placing development priorities at center of e-commerce discussions and policymaker’s considerations.

Tag 1: Digital Trade
Tag 2: Internet & ICTs for the Sustainable Development Goals
Tag 3: Development

This first-of-its kind round-table discussion features speakers representing trade expertise from both government, CSO and industry. The event is intended to provide attendees with multiple perspectives from trade delegates, as well as CSO and industry, focusing on the development aspects of the current digital trade agenda. All the trade delegates invited are the first-time IGF attendees and speakers. They had no/limited interaction with the IGF community. Even from a trade perspective, the e-commerce issues are still very much new to them.

Thus, this round-table will build a bridge between trade and internet governance worlds. The format will provide an excellent opportunity for active, in-depth discussion and interaction.

This round-table explore specific concerns of the global South in the context of the our digital future. It will bring together a range of trade delegates, scholars and CSO experts with a genuine expertise and sensitivity for the concerns of the global South, together.

Provisional Speakers List:

- Vahini Nahidu, South African Permanent Mission (Female, Africa, Government, First-time IGF speaker) TBC
- Michael Wamai, Uganda Permanent Mission ( Male, Africa, Government, First-time IGF speaker)
- Dr. Mostafa Abid Khan, Bangladesh Permanent Mission (Male, Asia, Government, First-time IGF speaker) TBC
- Fernando Rosales, Bolivia Permanent Mission (Male, Latin America, Government, First-time IGF speaker) TBC
- Aileen Kwa, South Centre (Female, Singapore, Inter-governmental organization)
- Burcu Kilic, Public Citizen ( Female, Turkey, CSO)
- Parminder Sigh, Just Net Coalition ( Male, India, CSO)
- David Snead, i2coalition ( Male, US, Business) TBC

Onsite Moderator: Sanya Smith Reid
Online Moderator: Pablo Viollier
Rapporteur: Steve Kneivel

Online Participation:
We plan to engage with remote attendees using a combination of video and social media technologies. We will promote the workshop among the government officials working on digital trade who are unable to make it to Geneva. This will facilitate the remote discussion with those who wish to participate no matter they are in the room or not. To keep the workshop lively and accessible to all, remote attendees will be able to chat throughout the workshop with other remote attendees. During the Q&A periods of the workshop, remote attendees will be given an equal opportunity to directly engage with workshop participants.Online moderate will coordinate with onsite moderator for the questions, comments etc.

If bandwidth conditions are suitable, we also intend to bring speakers from the capitals (South-Asia and Africa) though remote participation including government officials, SMEs and CSOd, to express how e-commerce affect their life, rights and expectations.

Discussion facilitation:
The first part of the panel (around 45 minutes) will be dedicated to an interactive roundtable during which the panelists will be asked to provide concise answers (i.e. less than 5-minutes-long) to the questions asked by the moderator. Furthermore, panelists will have the possibility to reply to their peers' statements. Subsequently, the panelists will engage in an open and dynamic debate, during which the audience will play a key role asking questions, providing inputs and steering the discussion. The attendees and the remote participants will be allowed to ask questions during the workshop, but their participation and inputs will be particularly encouraged during the second part of the session.

Conducted a Workshop in IGF before?: Yes
Link to Report: http://www.intgovforum.org/multilingual/index.php?q=filedepot_download/4098/355

Background Paper

Contact Information

United Nations
Secretariat of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

Villa Le Bocage
Palais des Nations,
CH-1211 Geneva 10

igf [at] un [dot] org
+41 (0) 229 173 678