Less than 10pc internet users make online purchases in Bangladesh


Share of internet users making online purchases in Bangladesh is one of the lowest in the world. The ratio was below 10 per cent in the last year reflecting the need for more substantive progress in e-commerce.

The Digital Economy Report 2024, just released by the UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Wednesday in Geneva, unveiled the picture which also showed that in most of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) that share remains below 10 per cent.

The report mentioned that the proliferation of the internet has rapidly and fundamentally transformed business and trade practices.

“In 1991, the Internet had less than 3 million users around the world and e-commerce was non-existent,” it said. “By 1999, an estimated 250 million users were accessing the Internet and about one-quarter of them made purchases online from e-commerce sites, worth an estimated $110 billion.”

According to the report, just over two decades later, the number of people shopping online has surged as an estimated 2.3 billion people shopped online in 2021.

“Since 2010, e-commerce has greatly increased in many countries, further boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” it added.

UNCTAD report, however, pointed out that to what extent people engage in e-commerce still varies considerably.

“In countries reporting the highest uptake, more than 80 per cent of the population shop online; in most LDCs, that share remains below 10 per cent,” it added.

The report showed that share of internet users making online purchases in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (UK) was above 80 per cent in the last year. The ratio was 80 per cent in Sweden, Denmark, and China. 

UNCTAD estimate also showed that the value of e-commerce sales by businesses in 43 developed and developing economies, representing three-quarters of global gross domestic product (GDP), was close to $27 trillion in 2022, up from around $17 trillion in 2016.

“In China, sales almost tripled from $1.6 trillion in 2016 to $4.5 trillion in 2022 and in the United States, e-commerce sales by businesses increased from $7 trillion in 2016 to an estimated $11 trillion in 2022,” it added.

UNCTAD report also mentioned that e-commerce sales by businesses in developed economies far exceed those in developing economies. While the developing nations account for around 40 per cent of global GDP, their share of business e-commerce sales is at most 25 per cent, suggesting significant growth potential, according to the UN organisation.

“Consumers can engage in e-commerce through a range of online channels,” the report continued. “Sellers may use their own dedicated e-commerce websites and third-party online marketplaces (such as Alibaba, Amazon,eBay and Jumia), as well as various social media platforms.”

Meanwhile, the Digital Economy Report 2024 sheds light on the significant environmental impact of the global digital sector and the disproportionate burden developing countries bear, according to the UNCTAD press statement.

The report mentioned that although digitalisation drives global economic growth and offers unique opportunities for developing countries, its environmental repercussions are becoming increasingly severe.

It also observed that the developing countries remain unevenly affected both economically and ecologically due to ‘existing digital and development divides’ but they have ‘the potential to leverage this digital shift to foster development.’

In her statement in this connection, UNCTAD’s Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan underlined the need for a balanced approach saying, “We must harness the power of digitalisation to advance inclusive and sustainable development, while mitigating its negative environmental impacts.”

“This requires a shift towards a circular digital economy, characterised by responsible consumption and production, renewable energy use and comprehensive e-waste management,” she continued. “The digital economy’s growing environmental impact can be reversed”.

The report also mentioned that Bangladesh, Cameroon, Chile, China, Egypt, Ghana, India, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Uruguay, Viet Nam and the State of Palestine are some of the developing countries where a large number of locations of informal e-waste dismantling and recycling sites exist.

The report emphasises the pressing need to address the environmental costs of rapid digital transformation.

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