Much progress in e-commerce reforms in SL, says ITC advisor | Sunday Observer

Much progress in e-commerce reforms in SL, says ITC advisor


Sri Lanka has the potential and is on the proper path, having made considerable progress since the last Private-Public Dialogue (PPD) held last March in Colombo, to develop an e-commerce platform for trade, Trade Policy Advisor for the International Trade Centre (ITC), Giles Chapel told the second PPD on ‘a roadmap for e-commerce reform’ in Sri Lanka last week.

The second PPD for e-commerce reform was a sequel to the first PPD held on March 15-16 in Colombo organised by the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) in partnership with the ITC under the EU-Sri Lanka trade related assistance project.

“We have seen substantial progress made by Sri Lanka since the last meeting in March with the CAA carrying the message across all stakeholders and initiating discussions with policy makers for e-commerce reforms through an effective legal and regulatory framework,” Chapel said.

Michael Geist, an e-commerce expert at ITC also confirmed the progress made by Sri Lanka during the past five months since the first PPD to build an e-commerce platform for efficiency and enhancement in trade.

“ITC will assist Sri Lanka to strengthen institutional capacity building and promote domestic reforms through workshops and PPDs,” Geist said.

Experts underscored the importance of improving e-commerce which is rapidly growing across the globe and also which enables countries to access.

Head of Cooperation of the Delegation of the EU to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Frank Hess said internet penetration in Sri Lanka is growing at a higher rate along with mobile usage and connectivity which is higher than the population of the country.

As Sri Lanka is about to enter into free trade agreements, set up more economic zones, diversify the export basket with the national export strategy to promote exports it is vital for the country to look at its regulatory framework for e-commerce.

Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said plans are afoot to launch a modernised consumer protection framework to engage Sri Lanka’s digital economy emphasising education on the digital economy, removing digital barriers and fostering trust among consumers and SMEs.

“It is vital to have a national policy for consumer protection targeting education, access, data security and online consumer safety. Consumers need to be protected at pre and post purchase which could be done through consumer rights education, with relevant laws in place supported by a proper regulatory framework,” the Minister said.

The second PPD builds upon the first PPD held on the theme ‘Making the Digital Marketplace Fairer’ and the subsequent report that was drafted identifying five areas such as access, education, awareness, payments, modernising consumer protection laws and privacy which require reforms.

The aim of the second PPD was to analyse the five key areas identified in the roadmap for future reforms, provide an overview of international best practices on each of the five areas, deliberate on the way forward in crafting legislative proposals that will update national laws and enable private sector participation in the reform process.

ITC e-commerce experts said given the current legal situation in Sri Lanka, including the growing interest in e-commerce and the emphasis for it in the region and the completion of the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, the second PPD is an important opportunity to advance progress to upgrade the legal framework for e-commerce in Sri Lanka.

However, Sri Lanka’s ranking in e-government development index has slipped from 79 in 2016 to 94 this year even though experts said it is not bad comparing the ranking sub-regionally. Besides, Sri Lanka’s e-participation index ranking has slumped from 35 to 85 and its online services index is at .667 behind the sub regional leader India.

Reports reveal that global growth of e-commerce is rapidly transforming commercial activity across the world. E-commerce data show that 40 percent of global internet users have purchased goods online via desktops, mobile phones, tablets or other online devices. Experts believe that with Generation Z (People born after 1995) emerging, there will be a major shift in advertising methods targeting the younger generation. Therefore e-commerce marketers will need to expand their advertising reach to ensure they are being noticed in the right places.

Messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, Viber and We Chat offer more integrated functionalities. Voice is beginning to replace typr in online queries. Around 20 percent of queries in the world were made via voice in 2016. In the use of social media platforms 26 percent of people who click ads on Facebook make purchases. Google has enabled five billion tracked store visits.

In USA, online retail sales have grown over 15 percent bringing about US$ 375 billion and in China e-commerce growth was 24 percent in 2016.