How to help digital entrepreneurs boost development

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Digital entrepreneurs have the potential to connect to global markets like never before. Whether selling physical goods on internet platforms, or providing digital goods and services that can be downloaded and streamed, an entirely new ecosystem of innovative micro and small businesses has emerged in the developing world. Guidance and learning resources are provided here.

The World Bank Group hosted some of the pioneers in this space for a full-day conference on Harnessing Digital Trade for Competitiveness and Development on May 19. They heard entrepreneurial success stories and dove into the constraints and challenges of running a digital business in an emerging economy.

The scope of these challenges made these success stories, and the broader potential they represent, even more inspiring. From internet connectivity to logistics, from financial payments to trade regulations, from bankruptcy laws to entrepreneurial and consumer digital literacy– clearly, more needs to be done to fully harness the potential of digital trade for competitiveness and development and to foster an enabling environment to digital trade.

While some of the barriers to digital trade are related to core development prerogatives—such as improving the Doing Business environment, furthering trade facilitation, or improving access to finance—there are also constraints that are specific to digital trade.

These “digital deltas” are constraints that are particularly important to online trade in developing countries, relative to exporting or entrepreneurship in general. Interventions in these areas could make a big difference for such trade – hence, the “digital delta.” For example, the performance of logistics is broadly relevant,—but in the digital delta, this branches into more narrowly defined areas, such as the logistics of delivering large numbers of small parcels to specific residential addresses. There’s the broad issue of financial reform and banking regulations—but in the digital delta, the focus might be on a small business’ ability to access or build upon electronic payment systems.

To explore this idea a little further, below are outlined a few of the conclusions of the conference.

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