• home

    Bridging the Digital Divide


    Five stepping stones to make countries e-competitive
    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001 

    Legal framework
    • Create trust in the mechanics of e-trade (electronic signatures, copyrights, consumer protection, consumer privacy, dispute resolution).
    • Reinforce international competitiveness (tax laws).
    • Don't overregulate: overregulation creates technological bias and unforeseen barriers.
    • Work internationally: e-commerce is by nature without borders and harmonizing national laws is critical.

    Give citizens online information and transaction services. Emphasize online government services for exports. E-government has several benefits:
    • greater public-sector efficiency and transparency;
    • faster, more accessible services for business; and
    • induces firms to become e-competent, to benefit from online procurement, export information and administrative requirements.

    Financial access
    • For the public sector, to develop telecommunications infrastructure.
    • For digital economy start-ups that require initial working capital.
    • For "bricks and mortar" firms that wish to invest in computers and build e-trade capabilities.

    Education and training
    Governments do not have the resources to invest single-handedly in necessary changes.
    • Explore public-private initiatives; IT corporations, for example, may have training institutes that can be adapted to broader uses.
    • Consider high-end training for IT specialists, more basic training for employees, e-literacy for the general public and e-management events for senior managers.
    • Reconsider the role of Internet service providers (ISPs), Internet cafés and community centres.
    • Bring technology into the classroom at an early stage, and keep it there.

    Internet access
    Basic telecommunications services and Internet access are essential.
    • Leapfrog if you can, but don't postpone decisions based on evolving technology.
    • Focus on technology that does the job, not necessarily the latest technology.
    • Consider low or no tax on hardware and software imports in order to promote access.
    • If you must choose, concentrate first on serving areas where export businesses are clustered.
    • Leverage your resources: find ways to maximize the number of users per connection. Combine Internet access and training, for example, by setting up community telecentres.