Magazine article International Trade Forum

ITC at the World Summit on the Information Society: Report of J. Denis Belisle, ITC's Executive Director, at the Multistakeholder Plenary Session of the World Summit on the Information Society, Held in Geneva in December 2003

Magazine article International Trade Forum

ITC at the World Summit on the Information Society: Report of J. Denis Belisle, ITC's Executive Director, at the Multistakeholder Plenary Session of the World Summit on the Information Society, Held in Geneva in December 2003

Article excerpt

The International Trade Centre is proud to report on "The Changing Marketplace: Putting 'E' to Work" and looks forward to contributing further to the Summit process as we move together into the second phase (Tunis, November 2005).

I am here to voice the message of small business, the backbone of most developing countries' economies, as they expressed it in the interactive workshops we organized in partnership with the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, as part of the ICT4D (ICT-for-development) platform.

The workshops brought together business Leaders and export strategy makers from 30 developed and developing countries, to debate how small firms can put "e" to work, to grow their business through exports.

Companies said that they know that information and communications technologies (ICTs) can help them become more competitive. What they wanted to know was how to put "e" to work. These firms do not have the choice to invest in "e" or not. For them to survive in tomorrow's business landscape, they must use ICTs.

To keep the digital gap from widening, developing countries need to use their creativity and imagination to harness their natural assets and to exploit new opportunities:

Companies told us they need:

* a supportive, business-friendly environment;

* "e"-focused national and sectoral export strategies; and

* practical programmes to access new technologies--to put "e" to work.

Whether we speak of exporting commodities, manufactured goods or services, applying technology makes a difference. It helps firms do better market research, streamline business processes, speed up payments and improve customer relations. Using ICTs also offers firms opportunities in new export sectors, such as back office operations, ICT components manufacturing and assembly, multimedia development and others.

From policy to practice

When asked what they need to raise the export potential of business, to turn policy into practice, they said:

Create e-readiness conditions

First, we must all work together to create the conditions for small firms to be competitive in the international economy. Governments need to create trust in the mechanics of e-trade. Exporters must have connectivity, computers and access to them at reasonable cost. They also need a computer-literate labour force.

Include SMEs in trade development strategies

Second, we must ensure that the voice of small business exporters is heard by policy-makers responsible for national trade development plans. …

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