There is a growing gap in access to online commercial trade between developed and developing countries, potentially exacerbating existing inequalities as the world economy increasingly moves online, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said Friday.
As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg faces pressure from the U.S. Congress, increasing stringency on digital privacy regulations is looking likely. However, about 60 percent of what the United Nations calls 'developing countries' do not have data protection legislation in place.
UNCTAD Technology and Logistic Director Shamika Sirimanne said implementing such legislation is urgent to "ensure that enterprises… are able to trade effectively with partners, such as the European Union, which are imposing stringent requirements in this area."
The U.N. official said this is only one of many ways that a shift toward a digital economy is widening international inequality gaps.
"To be able to engage in and benefit from electronic commerce… urgent action is similarly needed in areas such as digital infrastructure, payment solutions, trade logistics, skills development, consumer protection and financing of digital entrepreneurship," Sirimanne said.
A March report by UNCTAD said: "A lack of data on how companies operate in the digital economy prevents many developing countries from preparing for the new economic era." It also called for urgent preventive steps to be taken.
"According to UNCTAD statistics, the availability of data drops with the country's level of development, meaning those least prepared for the digital economy have the least amount of information on which to base their policy decisions," the report concluded.
A new General Data Protection Regulation going into effect in the European Union on May 25 will likely affect requirements needed to engage in trade with the regional bloc.