Asian, Pacific nations to promote e-commerce

Monday, 25 November 2002, 08:00 Hrs
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Asian and Pacific countries have resolved to make e-commerce accessible and affordable to all citizens, particularly under-privileged groups.

NEW DELHI: The resolution was an outcome of the three-day discussions at the joint UNCTAD-UNESCAP Asia-Pacific Conference on e-commerce strategies for development in Bangkok, according to a statement issued here Saturday. Over 150 participants attended the conference.

Under the Declaration on Electronic Commerce for Development signed Friday, the countries in the Asian and Pacific region have agreed to take necessary steps to promote the use of e-commerce throughout the region. Such a step is bound to benefit the maximum number of inhabitants.

Delivering his vision statement for e-commerce strategies, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra noted that "only through broad and sustained efforts of intensified cooperation in regional and international forum, based on mutual interests, can globalisation be made fully inclusive and equitable"."

"Global business-to-consumer e-commerce is projected to grow from $50 billion in 2000 to $233 billion dollars by 2004," said Kim Hak-Su, executive secretary of United Nations Economic and Social Council for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

"Forecasts for total business-to-business transactions range from $1.2 billion to $10 trillion by 2003. Yet the current reality is that less than seven percent of the world's population is presently online," he said.

Although some countries in the Asian and Pacific region are full participants in this growing sector, many others are being left behind.

An ESCAP survey has reported huge disparities in Internet access across the region. In a least-developed country, only 0.1 per 1,000 of the population had Internet access and 0.2 per 100 inhabitants had a fixed telephone line.

"Inequality within countries is increasingly a function of unequal access to information," said UNCTAD Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero.

"Still, this year alone, about 155 million people - one third of them living and working in developing countries - will join the so-called 'Internet Population'."

China's Internet population is already the world's third largest.

The declaration is a step forward in correcting the imbalance between the digital have and have-nots.

While recognizing the fact that urgent action is needed to narrow the gap in e-commerce, the declaration also acknowledges that national information and communication technologies (ICT) and e-commerce strategies must be based on the economic and social context of each UNESCAP member and associate-member.

In this context the participants have resolved to strengthen cooperation and commit themselves to "developing ICT and e-commerce architecture that is accessible and affordable to all citizens, particularly under-privileged groups."

The United Nations, through the efforts of UNESCAP, Unite Nations Conference on Trade and Development(UNCTAD) and others is committed to realising the Millennium Development Goals. One of the prominent being the commitment of member states to "ensure that the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communication technologies, are available to all."
Source: IANS

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