E-commerce and the digital economy in LDCs: At breaking point in COVID-19 times

Two years have passed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the economic fall-out is still being felt all around the globe, its impacts are not fully captured. In particular, the accele­rated digital transformation, with digital solutions developed and used to facilitate economic and social activities from a distance, has been accom­panied by a surge in e-commerce, with potentially long-lasting effects. It has also revealed wide gaps in digital readiness, especially in the most vulne­rable economies. UNCTAD’s research has shown that the pandemic has further exposed gaps in policy areas central to improving digital readiness in least developed countries (LDCs). Many LDCs are being challenged by the fast transition needed but have realized the vital impor­tance to develop digital infrastructures and policies to support e-commerce and the digital economy, as well as the education and health sectors. Both the public and private sectors have important roles to play in creating an enabling environment for the creation of jobs through ongoing digital innovation that is changing our economies - producing new products and services for national, regional and international markets. It is now more urgent than ever to ensure that those trailing in digital readiness can catch-up. The alternative is even greater inequalities.