FOREIGN Secretary, Carl Greenidge, on Thursday, stressed the need for the digital divide in Electronic Commerce (e-commerce) to be bridged in countries like Guyana which would allow more entities to participate in fair world trade.
He made the remarks at a National Workshop on Electronic Commerce hosted by the Department of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs online, where it was revealed that Guyana is receiving support in the execution of a National Study on Electronic Commerce.
Greenidge delivered the keynote address at the event, during which, stakeholders also examined the State of Play of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) on e-commerce and engaged in discussions on the role of e-commerce in Guyana’s national development.
The Foreign Secretary told the attendees that e-commerce is revolutionising the manner in which the world trades, which has fueled the emergence and growth of billion-dollar companies such as Alibaba and Amazon.
Greenidge said that e-commerce can be a catalyst for boosting economic transformation by helping developing countries to shift to more high-value Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services.
What is becoming evident, he said, is that those who do not embrace e-commerce are at great risk of being marginalised in global trade. To prevent this, he said that there must be efforts to address the digital divide that exists in many countries such as Guyana.
“This National Study on Electronic Commerce will be very helpful to Guyana. At the national level, the situational analysis will allow us to take stock of the work done to date, to find the strengths and weaknesses of the current legal and regulatory landscape and to identify the gaps. Thereafter, we can set priorities and, from this study, receive some guidance on the necessary reforms to develop our e-commerce architecture,” he said.
He noted that, recently, there has been exponential growth in the number of local companies offering logistics services in Guyana and Guyanese are actively engaged in e-commerce. However, he pointed out that the majority of these e-commerce transactions have been concerned with the importation of goods while the greatest potential for significant expansion is being missed.
He said: “We have seen that elsewhere, it is small and medium enterprises that have taken the greatest advantage of e-commerce and where the greatest potential for extending their reach and growing their businesses lies. We need to alter this trend, particularly since micro, small and medium sized enterprises pervade our business landscape.”
Greenidge was pleased to note that Guyana’s Green State Development Strategy (GSDS) embraces the concept of digital economy as a way to support economic diversification, e- commerce to support micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) and e-government to improve access to, and efficiency of, government services.
Additionally, he said that some initial work has begun on updating the country’s intellectual property legislation and cybercrime legislation to protect the public online.
With the WTO’s intent on taking up e-commerce, MSMEs and investment facilitation in its negotiation on multilateral agreements, Greenidge said that this will help to provide technical assistance and cooperation to help small and vulnerable economies to build capacity to benefit from trade.
“From this study, of which this seminar is part, we will be able to develop Guyana’s negotiating position at the WTO. We will be better aware of our needs and negotiate from an informed position. On that note, I would like to thank the Trade and Advocacy Fund of the British Government for selecting Guyana as one of six countries to receive support for this national study,” he said.
At the event, stakeholders also provided feedback on a national level study presently being conducted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), through funding under the Trade and Investment Advocacy Fund (TAF2+) mechanism, to articulate Guyana’s interests in the E-Commerce JSI process.