State of the Digital Economy in the Commonwealth
Advances in digital technologies are changing what and how we trade, lowering barriers to internationalisation and fuelling the rise of e-commerce and borderless digital trade, diversifying the content of traded goods and services, and enabling new players to engage in international trade.
Digitalisation affords opportunities for our Commonwealth to build new industries, devise new ways to deliver better services, and enhance market access through digital trade. Advanced digital production technologies create new ways to accelerate innovation, boost productivity and raise the value-added content of goods produced in Commonwealth countries. More generally, the rise of the digital economy is creating new economic pathways, livelihoods and job opportunities that support inclusive and sustainable development across the Commonwealth. It also creates new avenues to expand the role of women in trade.
Harnessing these gains within the Commonwealth requires appropriate policies and regulatory approaches that allow individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses to capitalise fully on the opportunities provided by new digital technologies.
This study fills an important gap by providing new knowledge on the state of the digital economy in the Commonwealth, the challenges posed by digitalisation, and the opportunities available for Commonwealth members to harness the benefits of digitalisation for development and to boost intra-Commonwealth trade.
"Exponential growth in new technologies and data flows are spearheading a digital transformation of the global economy, bringing major benefits as well as challenges for Commonwealth countries."
Number of jobs that need to be created every day to keep up with new entrants to the Commonwealth labour market
Digital Policies & Regulations
The CCA has developed an online Repository of Digital Policies and Regulations that covers all Commonwealth countries and contains information on individual policies and regulations in specific countries.
The repository is intended to provide a frame of reference for Commonwealth members wanting to devise and implement appropriate policies to support digital transformation, create an enabling environment for digital trade, and harness the benefits of digital transformation. Each entry includes:
- the name of the policy/regulation,
- the year it was adopted,
- whether or not it is available online,
- the way data is defined,
- the main focus of the document,
- target beneficiaries/sectors,
- key elements of the policy/regulation,
- whether the policy/regulations mirrors any other and, if so, which countries have similar policies/regulations.
To maximise its value, this platform is accessible to policy-makers and regulators in Commonwealth member countries, as well as other stakeholders and the wider public in the Commonwealth and beyond.
Internet use, proportion of population
"Digitisation of smallholder agriculture is crucial to tackling food security. In 32 of the 56 Commonwealth member countries, more than half the population reside in rural areas and engage in smallholder agriculture."
The State of Digital Agriculture in the Commonwealth report shows how digitalisation of the agriculture sector is underway across the Commonwealth.
It argues that whether digitalisation fulfils its promise, or it becomes just another technological hype for development, depends on our approach to its deployment, especially for the most vulnerable communities and regions that could benefit more from its potential.
The policy guide is produced at a time when the agricultural sector is a priority in the policy agendas of many governments globally and is vital to the economies of most Commonwealth member states.
It recognises that to maximise the impact of the agriculture sector transformation agenda, new and frontier innovations must be at the forefront. Digitalisation is one of the key frontier innovations. But it’s not about the innovation, it is about the process, to see the impact on the people.
The report takes a policy approach to digitalisation against the conventional focus on profiling digital technologies and services for agriculture. A critical contribution of the report is the framing of digital agriculture beyond digital technologies and services. The results in each region were based on an assessment using the “digital agriculture framework” developed by the Secretariat in collaboration with other partners, which consists of three pillars and a base - pillar 1 (digital innovations), pillar 2 (data infrastructure), pillar 3 (business development), and the base (enabling environment).
"Globally, manufacturing is the largest traded sector and contributes to 13% of all jobs. Additionally, as the COVID-19 pandemic has made apparent, manufacturing plays a key role in socioeconomic resilience, as it provides goods that are critical to life and national security."
Manufacturing value-added per capita, LDCs
Manufacturing value-added per capita, North America
Digital Industrial Policymaking
A Policymaker's Guide to Manufacturing 4.0 is a digital-first Guide developed by CCA to assist Commonwealth policymakers, especially those in least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS), to understand the transformative impact of new digital technologies on their industrial development.
It explores how to develop policy settings to take advantage of new and emerging opportunities while addressing potential barriers along the way.
New and emerging technologies and processes are changing economic norms, reshaping the ways in which firms manufacture products, the business models they adopt and how they continue to innovate going forward.
Digital technologies are increasingly applied to, and integrated with, industrial manufacturing.
This all changes the nature industry and challenges our traditional interpretation of what constitutes industrial development.
Collectively, we call these changes “Manufacturing 4.0” and, for countries across the Commonwealth, the adoption of Manufacturing 4.0 opens new opportunities to address developmental challenges in several areas. This includes skills development and employment, innovation, competitiveness, and inclusivity.
New technologies mean many new products, processes and solutions are becoming cheaper and more accessible for businesses across the Commonwealth, including LDCs and SIDS.
Average Commonwealth reduction in trade costs with digitisation (by 2026)
Trade costs as a share of trade revenue
Border compliance costs
Total transport costs
"There are clear economic and political imperatives to accelerating digital trade facilitation and legal reform for digitalisation, with potential total benefits of nearly US$1.2 trillion to Commonwealth trade by 2026.
There are clear economic and political imperatives to accelerating digital trade facilitation and legal reform for digitalisation, with potential total benefits of nearly US$1.2 trillion to Commonwealth trade by 2026.
This report attempts to quantify the potential impact of legal reform to enable the use of the so-called “transferable records” on Commonwealth trade. “Transferable records” are paper-based documents or instruments used in domestic or international trade and trade finance such as bills of lading, bills of exchange, promissory notes, warehouse receipts, guarantees and standby letters of credit. Since the beginnings of trade between individuals, companies and nations, these records have been manual; there are an estimated 4 billion paper-based documents that are being processed at any one point in time around the world according to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).
The research covers 54 diverse Commonwealth economies and presents a picture of the potential for cost reductions and trade increases as a result of the introduction of legal reform to enable the use of electronic transferable records across the Commonwealth.
It determines that costs will, on average, fall by around 75 per cent and for some costs as much as 81 per cent. This itself could enable as much as US$90 billion in additional trade across the Commonwealth. If combined with measures to use electronic transferable records in trade finance, the resulting multiplier effect could enable a total of nearly US$1.2 trillion in additional trade across the Commonwealth. In some countries where the costs of trade are disproportionately high relative to the revenues received, moving toward paperless trade will have the effect of creating trade where previously very little existed.