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    Views on E-trade in Developing Countries


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001 

    What are business executives in developing countries and trade development officials saying about e-trade? Below is a "sampler" - a taste of the individual views expressed during the Executive Forum process. For more views, see the Executive Forum web site, which contains e-discussions, e-briefs, interviews and an online version of the book emanating from the Executive Forum 2000.

    E-competency = Mindset change 

    "E-competency is... a problem of a change in mentality, a change in policies. I would say even a cultural change. It is not something that you can import, that you can buy and get installed. It involves many different elements in the way not only the private sector but also the public sector does business."

    Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General, UNCTAD, Geneva 

    A business strategist's view: It's not about technology 

    "We are moving from a networked society, which we have in many places, to a global electronic marketplace. This transition will be driven by technology, and our societies will need to adapt our institutions to this speed.

    "The problem is one of knowledge, of understanding, and only then of lack of finance and public-private partnership, whatever that partnership should be. The first thing we have to do is convince governments - persuade them, train them, scare them perhaps - that it is in their interest to do something to catch up with this world.

    "You need to sit down and examine what you are good at - what your core competencies are, where you can leverage your skills. In business or in government, you start with leadership and vision, then move into your core competencies. Then you take up governance issues: who is in charge of the process? You next look at technology. Afterwards you get back to basics and concentrate on your e-commerce strategy, web site and online strategies. But only once you have answered the other questions.

    "I truly believe that anyone can participate in the new digital economy - so long as they understand that the most important skill and the most important environment is one that promotes creativity, entepreneurship, imagination and awareness of where the world is going. It is not about technology tools."

    Vadim Levitin, Chief Operating Officer, e-Commerce Institute, San Diego, California (interview summary) 

    E-trade law 

    "E-trade strikingly reflects one of the great paradoxes of our times. It is essentially 'borderless', but there is no borderless commercial law; it is essentially international, but international trade law, strictly speaking, does not exist. Therefore, law-makers in each country are bound to contribute to framing a mosaic consisting of some 167 different national laws for one global phenomenon."

    Jean-François Bourque, ITC, Geneva 

    "Because of the speed of technological change and the essentially international scope of the subject, e-trade in various ways defies governance by any single national entity. Therefore, a body of laws promulgated by countries insisting on working in isolation will very likely be incoherent."

    Toby C. Monsod, Assistant Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Manila, Philippines 

    Civil society 

    "For me, the most important thing is for the government to bring in civil society to achieve consensus on how to introduce e-competency into society. If not, any education, any infrastructure - anything we do - is not going to work. Priority must be given to establishing a national market for e-health, e-education, e-commerce. Only once we have a national market, can we talk about e-trade."

    José Soriano, CEO, Red Científica Peruana, San Isidro, Peru 

    Access in Nepal 

    "In comparison to snail-pace development in most sectors, Nepal has developed remarkably within a very short span of time in the field of information technology. Nine ISPs are already operational. This has resulted in cut-throat competition and a drastic fall in the price of the Internet. The Internet has now become accessible to the general populace which has opened the market for e-commerce."

    Vikrant Bhusal, Assistant Manager, Worldlink Communications, Kathmandu, Nepal 

    "E" is a "means to an end" business 

    "E-commerce is first about 'commerce'. This is the end. The 'e' is simply the means. Success will be determined by how well the firm applies the potential efficiencies of 'e' to its commercial operations."

    Carlos Vera Quintana, Executive President, Corporación Ecuatoriana de Comercio Electrónico, Quito, Ecuador 

    E-commerce (or lack thereof) in Zambia 

    "We face an uphill battle in getting the message across to the key decision-makers who have not yet grasped that information technology and e-commerce are economic enablers that will provide the business advantage and capability for local companies to compete - or even just survive - in the global marketplace."

    Daniel Mpolokoso (daniel@zamnet.zm), Managing Director, ZAMNET Communication System, Ltd, Zambia 

    Brain drain as an export service 

    "We are very worried in Nigeria about what we call the brain drain. So far as I am concerned, the brain drain is nothing more than a service export. We should be looking for what I think ITC can do for us - help reorient our thoughts, to learn to accept that Nigeria has a high services export potential that she is wrongly calling a brain drain, so that we can help redirect the thinking of policy-makers."

    Femi Boyede, CEO, Koinonia Ventures Ltd, Lagos, Nigeria 

    "We consider the brain drain that took place from India as actually a "brain gain" - the software engineers who went out to the United States or Europe were the contact points for getting business, they are the people who came back and set up the companies and created the US$ 6 billion software export business."

    Alwyn Didar Singh, e-commerce specialist, Chandigarh, India 

    Meet customers "where they are", even if it is not at the cutting edge 

    "While studying Brazilian e-commerce last year, I found a serious mismatch between web site design and end-user capabilities. While many promotional and direct sales sites were beautifully and elaborately designed, most end-users in Brazil (even in the ultra-connected United States, for that matter) were unlikely to possess the connections needed to download the pages in a reasonable amount of time.

    "The gap between the skills/technology available to web site designers and those available to end-users highlights a frequently neglected area of e-commerce: meeting potential customers where they are, even if that is not on the cutting edge."

    John Dunn Smith, Inter-American Development Bank