E-commerce continues to grow in the global economy. According to UNCTAD's 2017 Information Economy Report, the value of global e-commerce increased to an estimated $25 trillion in 2015, up from $16 trillion in 2013. The report stresses that the world is on the cusp of a 'new' digital economy, which will have transformational impacts on the world economy, creating both opportunities and development challenges.
UNCTAD's fourth E-Commerce Week will place particular emphasis on the role of digital platforms, a key feature of the evolving digital economy. Digital platforms - often accessed through mobile apps - bring together and aggregate demand and supply in ways that were not possible before (being faster, cheaper and more easily coordinated), including in geographical areas/service sectors traditionally neglected.
Digital platforms present new opportunities for international trade and efficient economic activities, including for small businesses. However, the extent to which people and enterprises engage and benefit from such platforms varies considerably. There are indeed concerns that they will disrupt economies, with potential negative consequences for employment and working conditions.
The fourth E-Commerce Week, with the theme "Development dimensions of digital platforms", will offer a venue for different stakeholders to discuss key challenges and opportunities arising from such platforms, and put forth concrete actions to harness maximum benefits for developing countries.
The 2017 E-Commerce Week was attended by 1,000 representatives, from governments, international organizations, the private sector and civil society from 99 countries, with 170 speakers and moderators. More than 30 sessions addressing policy-relevant topics were organized in collaboration between UNCTAD and another 30 partners.
In 2018, the UNCTAD E-Commerce Week will follow the same format, and will feature, among other events, the second session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on E-commerce and the Digital Economy on 18-20 April.