Magazine article International Trade Forum

ITC's Annual Meeting Features Solutions to Bridge the Digital Divide

Magazine article International Trade Forum

ITC's Annual Meeting Features Solutions to Bridge the Digital Divide

Article excerpt

ITC officially launched its "E-trade Bridge" programme at its annual intergovernmental meeting, the Joint Advisory Group (Geneva, 30 April to 4 May 2001). The meeting also launched its "new" web site, which was redesigned to better serve ITC's clients.

New E-trade Bridge programme

The new E-trade Bridge programme was presented during the annual meeting in order to encourage feedback and partnerships. Designed to help developing country firms bridge the digital divide, the programme is based on year-long dialogue with firms, trade development bodies and e-trade experts. It especially drew from ITC's annual Executive Forum, which focused last year on "Export Development in the Digital Economy".

Mr J. Denis Belisle, ITC's Executive Director, explained the "why" behind the programme. "In the area of international trade, there has been a fundamental change. We have been living in a business world where big fish used to eat small fish. We are now entering a world where fast fish eat slow ones. Fast fish are born everywhere, North and South. They are the result of imagination, creativity and technology. Creativity is very high in the developing world and applied technology can be purchased at lower prices all the time. This, in my view, presents a unique opportunity for the business community of the developing world. They need to understand and make effective use of technologies to improve their business prospects."

"Encouraging the creation of 'innovation capital' is a key to increasing developing country trade," added Paul Kukubo, head of 3 Mice Interactive Media, Africa Online's e-commerce arm, and a participant in ITC's most recent Executive Forum. "A shortage of resources and an abundance of intelligence is a reality in Africa. The challenge is to convert the intelligence into innovation. Innovation is about attitude - using intelligence to get around the scarcity of resources. Netpreneurs - young, intelligent, digitally savvy and entrepreneurial can go a long way in sparking new business. Encouraging 'netpreneurs' should be a national priority," he said.

ITC was encouraged to create an e-trade "road show" for donor countries as well as developing nations, based on the e-trade presentation provided during the annual meeting. Representatives found that it highlighted challenges, opportunities and e-solutions from a developing country perspective. A road show would help foster further partnerships with both the public and private sectors.

The programme offers countries a flexible portfolio of training, advisory and information services that can be adapted to meet the needs of developing countries, depending on each country's stage of e-readiness. It helps countries take advantage of new trade opportunities in sectors such as services, music and film, as well as new ways of using technology to transform traditional export businesses.

Annual review confirms ITC's practical orientation

The annual meeting - led by the Chair, Ms A. Filip of Romania; Ms H. Saha, India and Mr N. Irumba, Uganda, Vice-Chairs; and Mr S. Traavik, Norway, Rapporteur, and attended by 198 representatives from 84 countries and 17 international bodies - reviewed ITC's work programme in 2000 and debated the challenges ahead. In addition to e-trade, representatives displayed strong interest in trade-related programmes for least developed countries (LDCs); and future directions for the Joint Integrated Technical Assistance Programme (JITAP) of ITC, UNCTAD and WTO. …

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