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    Reaping the Digital Dividend


    From the Editor
    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001

    Once again, ITC presents trade development perspectives shaped by the impact of information and communication technology. This issue reports conclusions from "Executive Forum 2000: Export Development in the Digital Economy", the resulting ITC e-trade strategy and how ITC is putting it into practice.

    E-trade brings exciting opportunities. It is creating a whole new game in international trade, with new rules. The distinguishing feature of the game is e-competency. E-trade allows traditional exporters to conduct business in new ways, and it offers new business opportunities.

    But are the firms that could benefit the most becoming e-competent? The answer often is no. Three ITC surveys conducted in the last year indicate that few small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries are connected. When they are connected, they most frequently use the Internet as a basic communications tool, not as a tool to boost exports.

    National surveys (such as that conducted by Ghana's Export Promotion Council, reported in this issue) confirm the same pattern.

    Many speak of the constraints that lead to the "digital divide". This issue summarizes them: telecommunications access and affordability; financial access; a suitable legal framework; education; and e-government services, especially those that facilitate exports. By addressing key points in these five areas, countries can make themselves e-competitive.

    Rather than focus on the much-debated "digital divide", however, ITC is focusing on what countries can do to help firms reap the "digital dividend". A collective effort is behind the e-views, e-challenges, e-opportunities, e-solutions, e-briefs and e-trade strategy reported in this issue. This "knowledge sharing" reflects the extensive research and consultation conducted by many ITC staff in the past year with a wide range of national and international partners.

    We look forward, as always, to your feedback. To make it easier than ever, a new version of Forum magazine is online. Vote in our new poll on e-trade; send us your comments on articles; link your trade publications to ours.

    Natalie Domeisen