GENEVA, 1 April 2019 – “Cutting-edge technologies and institutions can empower manufacturers to customize their products and services to their customers’ needs; as ‘smart’ ecosystems are being established, e-commerce connects smart factories with smart societies,” said Frank van Rompaey, Representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Geneva, at a thematic session on “Industry 4.0 and E-commerce” held during UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week 2019.
Organized by UNIDO, the thematic session explored how Industry 4.0 can enhance e-commerce services and benefits. The panelists touched upon the potential economic and social transformations arising from the Fourth Industrial Revolution; identified applications of Industry 4.0 technologies in e-commerce; and shared best practices, experiences and solutions to enhance consumer experience when engaging with e-commerce.
“E-commerce will be a key driver for both the Fourth Industrial Revolution and seizing the opportunities of the African Free Trade Area,” said Alastair Tempest, CEO at Ecommerce Forum Africa. “The union of e-commerce with Industry 4.0 technologies can address the logistical flow of goods in Africa, promote financial technology solutions, enhance customer service and facilitate the growth of digital businesses.”
Taking the example of Brazil, the CEO of ENEXT Gabriel Lima, said: “Only 2 per cent of Brazil’s industrial sector is prepared for Industry 4.0, but this sector is gaining traction,” pointing to the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the iFood platform to provide customers with customized restaurant recommendations and increase the efficiency of order approvals. “E-commerce is asset light and cheap, and therefore a very good starting point to drive Industry 4.0 development in Brazil as well as globally,” added Lima.
Speaking from a consumer’s perspective, Julien Grollier from CUTS International discussed the risks brought by the Internet of Things for consumers related to personal data protection, digital rights management, competition effects, and liability and responsibility chains. “Consumers must play an active role in policy dialogue formulation, increase awareness of their rights; improve their digital literacy,” said Grollier.
Experiences and lessons learned from the private sector relevant to standardization, digital manufacturing, transparent logistics and information interconnection were also discussed during the session.
The Vice President of Sinopec Europa GmbH, Suoyu Zhang, presented the example of China: “Early adoption of e-commerce has now resulted in inclusive development in most sectors within the country. E-commerce has supported the digitization of enterprises and consumers and led to the implementation of efficient and effective digital supply chains.”
Under the theme “From Digitalization to Development”, UNCTAD’s eCommerce Week emphasized the necessity to break down silos among institutions, government representatives and policy makers for an effective contribution of e-commerce towards sustainable development.
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Industrial Development Officer
UNIDO Department of Trade, Investment and Innovation