The potential of e-commerce to create jobs and increase business opportunities for SMEs was discussed among policymakers and the private sector at a two-day workshop in Honiara. The gathering was organized by the Solomon Islands Government to finalize its very first national e-commerce strategy. The five-year national strategy provides a vision and roadmap for the development of e-commerce and the digital economy in Solomon Islands.
“The National E-commerce Strategy includes a practical set of activities to improve the business, policy and regulatory environment for the development of e-commerce and the broader digital economy in Solomon Islands,” noted Mr. Riley Mesepitu, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration. “We believe in the power of online commerce to improve the lives of all Solomon Islanders. Online commerce and the digital economy can create jobs, raise incomes and drive innovation”.
Despite high mobile phone usage and growing access to the Internet, online commerce remains very limited in Solomon Islands. In other countries and regions, however, e-commerce has accelerated economic development and opened access to new domestic, regional and international markets for businesses of all sizes. In Fiji for example, e-commerce is providing meaningful jobs for women in rural villages who sell their handmade products to online customers in Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and beyond.
“This is the power of e-commerce. It allows SMEs to access new markets. It brings rural and urban markets closer together. It reduces business transaction costs and makes it easier to start and operate a new business,” explained Mr. Moses Virivolomo, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communication and Aviation.
“We must embrace e-commerce and the digital economy to support all Solomon Islanders, including our youth, women, and those living in rural areas.”
The Solomon Islands National E-commerce Strategy 2022-2027 was developed with the support of the Pacific Digital Economy Programme (PDEP), a joint initiative of the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The PDEP is funded by the Government of Australia.
Australian High Commissioner for Solomon Islands, Dr Lachlan Strahan said “As more Solomon Islanders develop online businesses, this is absolutely the right time for Solomon Islands’ first National E-commerce Strategy. Australia is proud to support its development. People who have smart ideas can get good things done if they have three things: the right tools; a level playing field; and a conducive, enabling environment. This strategy is a part of that mix.”
More than 80 participants from across the Government, the private sector and civil society are providing feedback on the national strategy to ensure that it will benefit all Solomon Islanders. After the Government formally endorses and adopts the national strategy, implementation will begin.
“This is an exciting time for digital development in Solomon Islands. As the Solomon Islands Government moves towards strategy implementation, we and other development partners stand ready to assist. It is only through collaboration and partnerships that e-commerce will truly emerge and flourish,” noted Mr. Dominic Leong, UNCTAD Regional Specialist on e-commerce and the digital economy.