martes, 25 de febrero de 2014

eCommerce in the European Union: State of the Art

The European Commission has been trying to promote eCommerce since the end of the XX century. The first major step in this journey was the approval of the eCommerce Directive (Directive 2000/31/EC). The European Union at that moment was composed only of 15 countries and Internet was in its infancy. Although since 2004 (the first year with Eurostat data) eCommerce services usage by citizens has jumped in EU15 from 27% to 53%, the evolution of eCommerce usage in Europe has been lower than expected by the EC, that in 2003 expected 54% usage by 2006

The sluggish development of eCommerce usage in EU according withe EC expectations drove to the inclusion of new actions for its boosting in the Digital Agenda for Europe. The EC commitment was to "Evaluate by end 2010 the impact of the e-Commerce Directive on online  markets and make concrete proposals" ( COM(2010) 245, page 11).  

As the aim of all the EU policies is the creation of an actual single market, this evaluation was done from the perspective of trying to identify the barriers for  online cross-border transactions. For this purpose, a consultation was held in 2011 and a roadmap to overcome this barriers was set in the communication "A coherent framework for building trust in the Digital Single Market for e-commerce and online services" ( COM(2011) 942 ). The actions included in this roadmap aims to "facilitate cross-border access to online products and content, ultimately solve the problems of payment, delivery and consumer protection and information, and assist dispute resolution and the removal of illegal content".

A good summary of the current roadmap for eCommerce development could be found in the FAQ of the communication. The roadmap does not include a revision of the Directive but only its better enforcement in cross-border scenarios through the Internal Market Information System. By the combination of other EC ICT plans as the cloud computing strategy or the Connecting Europe Facility and specific strategies as the recently approved roadmap for the completion of the parcel delivery single market, it is expected that the full potential of eCommerce in the EU will be unleashed.

Are the above actions enough to reach the objetive of a vibrant digital single market in the eCommerce arena? Taking on account the indicators of the Digital Agenda Socreboard it looks we are on the right path, the objective for the EU27 was set at 50% of online buyers and according with the last Eurostat data we have reached the 47%. The question is if this is enough or if the objective was to low.

jueves, 20 de febrero de 2014

Stop mourn for a world that has gone, we live in the #digital era

The digital revolution is invading more and more aspects of our life. Perhaps, the biggest evidence of this revolution is our need to be always connected, and that is the reason why everywhere the internet mobile traffic is growing day by day (e.g. in the USA the internet mobile traffic double last year). What is more, there is a complete generation that does not understand their life without being in contact 24 hours per day. But at the same time, there are signs of growing digital and generational divide between we the baby-boomers and the millenials. And there are no space where the divide can be appreciated better than the cultural-life.

Sometimes, people are blaming the cultural industry for not being able to adapt to the digital era. Unfortunately, I think that the problem is bigger. Not only the industry do not understand the digital business, also the artists try to maintain their older habits of creation and be paid in the same way (and amount) for it. The musicians (in the same way as the music industry) is where this situation is more evident. It is quite sad seeing how one of the biggest creator of the 70´s and 80´s , David Byrne (disclosure: Talking Heads is one on my favourite groups), accusing internet of "sucking all creative content out of the world".  No, David, what the Internet is doing is creating a cultural space where the artists need to be in closer contact with the consumer if they want to live from their creation

Many times, I wonder why the musicians, writers and other artists do not try to understand that the digital revolution is changing all the businesses, specially the content business that they are involved. To sum up, there are five lessons that are specially applicable to the art creation business:
  • People are everything, everyone and everywhere at all times.
  • Experience is everything.
  • Information is elemental. 
  • Turn infrastructures into a platform
  • Learning is the new license to operate

And the tools to apply these lessons are already there, and the artists should demand them to the content platform providers. For instance, Spotify announced months ago thir metrics and merchandise service for artists and providing track services in the e-book platforms world is also a child game. data analysis could provide the artists an orientation and more information about which of their creations are better accepted. Other platforms, as thematic social networks like Good Read for books, could be the relationship tool needed for a closer contact between the artist and the consumer.  Of course, this implies changes in the art creation process, but no bigger changes that have been experienced in mining, manufacturing, governments, ... and the rest of the aspects of our life.

Artists should stop mourn for a world that has gone. They have to take advantage of the available tools to offered what people are expecting from them. They have to do the hard work of finding and pleasing an audience. That is living in the digital era.

lunes, 17 de febrero de 2014

Liquidación final - Petros Markaris

Liquidación finalLiquidación final by Petros Markaris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Una buena novela negra es un radiografía social, y pocos retratos de la actual Grecia son superiores al contenido en este relato de Markaris. La desesperanza rezuma desde sus primeras páginas, el espejo roto del sueño Europeo se asoma entre suicidios nacidos del agotamiento que no conocen de edad. La tercera edad que añora su pasado, la juventud que no tiene futuro unida por los lazos de la muerte suicida.

Europa se hunde en el desencanto con Grecia como punta de iceberg. Nada retrata mejor la decepción con el sistema que el asesino convertido en héroe, el villano cuya eficacia y eficiencia se juzga mayor que la del poder legítimo. Grecia no es más que el espejo que nos devuelve la imagen rota de nuestro futuro imperfecto.

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martes, 11 de febrero de 2014

The need of a measurement framework for #eGov Economy

Although there are few facts to support the idea, it is assumed that eGovernment is a key driver for the Internet Economy. Furthermore, I know of few trials to analyse the eGovernment Economy, or what is the same, the added value of eGovernment to the economic development of a region or country. There are interesting studies that makes partial analysis of the economic impact of eGovernment, generally with the focus on a limited set of services and the economic gains for the public service, but there is neither a holistic approach nor a well established methodology for measuring eGovernment economy in the society as a whole. Nevertheless, as we will see below,the pieces of the jigsaw are on the table.

Reading the OECD last report on measuring Internet economy, I found an interesting departure point for the development of a measurement framework for eGovernment economy. The OECD gives three different methods to calculate the size of Internet economy: Direct impact, Dynamic impact and Indirect impact. In the end, the conclusion is that there is an overlapping between the approaches and the idea that it is quite hard to estimate the real economic impact of Internet in our economy.

The size of Internet Economy, as the OECD document shows, is quite difficult to estimate.

Nevertheless, this should not be a cause for not trying to search for a Framework for the measurement of eGovernment economy. If eGovernment is considered a driver for Internet Economy, one way or the other, it is sure it will be possible to give an estimation of its economic value. As we will see, some pieces of the jigsaw are over the table, and even there are enough hints to think of a bigger value based in other outputs of eGovernment policies. 

Following the model pose in the OECD document for Internet Economy, I initially define eGovernment Economy as the value added to the GNP by eGovernment activities. This definition coincides with the concept of Direct Impact. Afterwards, I will try also to explore how to calculate some economic Indirect and Dynamic Impacts of eGovernment such as the spillover over the economy or the society surplus.

Although I will give enough details to calculate some figures, I will not provide any figure at all, neither for my country nor for any other. That is a matter beyond the scope of this blog and it deserves professional and paid research. I also suspect that some some data will be extremely hard to find.

eGovernment Direct Impact on the Economy

There are two main direct impacts of eGovernment in the economy of a country. On one hand, the value added by the industry activities base of eGovernment development. On the other hand, the value added by eGovernment services. 

The industry activities dedicated to eGoverment comprises the ICT products and services that are used in the development of Government projects. It is quite easy to find for any country the value added per sector, in particular the ICT sector. In the same way, there are enough data provided by the Government or ICT Industry Associations related to the estimated revenue per sector for the ICT industry. Following the same rationale used by the OECD, the same share of revenue obtained from the government by the ICT sector, could be taken as the percentage of value added by the ICT sector activities related with eGovernment. And this way we can obtain the value added to PIB of the development of eGovernment services.

As for the value added by eGovernment services, we can find official figures of the value added by Government activities to the GNP. Unfortunately, what is more difficult to find in all countries is the share of revenues (taxes or charge for services) that governments obtain through electronic means. If we obtain this data, we can apply the same logic, and take as a proxy the percentage of government revenues obtain through electronic means  for the estimation of  the percentage of the value added by governments that comes from eGovernment services.

eGovernment Dynamic Impact

But eGovernment has also an extended impact on the society. As in the case of the Internet, it spreads its impact to the whole sectors of the economy in the form of more efficient relationships. The idea of trying to calculate the economic value of this efficiency improvement was behind the inception of the Standard Cost Model (SCM). This model was accepted by the OECD and adopted by the different countries, each of them including their own peculiarities. Using the SCM and its derivations, it is possible to give an estimation  of the cost of face-to-face transaction for a government service, as well as the cost of its eGovernment version. Taking the two values it is a child game the estimation of the gains obtained using the eGovernment service. 

Although it is complex to apply the method above on a massive scale for all the government services, some efforts and rough estimations have been done in some governments. 

eGovernment spillover on the economy

Indirect impact is hardest to estimate, but it could be done using the Leontiev Input-Output Matrix, that helps us to make an estimation of the spillover of eGovernment activities along the national GDP. To cut a long story short, the idea is that the ouput of an economic activity is the input for other activities, which also contribute to the GDP. If we inject the result of the Direct Impact on the GDP in the Input-Output matrix we will obtain the Indirect impact. Of course, some work should be done to choose which sectors has as an input part of the outputs of eGovernment.


This post is a simple approach to the issue, but it gives an idea why it is so difficult to estimate which is the economic impact of eGovernment in a region or country. Nevertheless, a framework for its measurement is something we badly need. If you have ideas on the issue I would be grateful to receive them.

domingo, 2 de febrero de 2014

The Circle - David Eggers

The CircleThe Circle by Dave Eggers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A description of a world quite similar to our world. A world where an Internet company has grown so powerful, up to the point it controls more a and more parcels of our life as time goes by. We can see virtual tools that are extremely familiar to us: One identity for all services, virtual coins, apps for tracking our vital signs, ubiquitous social media channels, ... but all in the hands of the same company. But that is not the worst nightmare of the scenarios pictured in the book. When all this is mixed with your labour life is getting worst. Imagine the human resources depatment of your organisation capable to access all and every action of your daily work routines and judging them in a continuous manner.

This book put us in front of our own reality. Have we gone so far in our mania of sharing our privacy with Internet companies? I still believe that social media and Internet give us more freedom than slavery, but this book has made me doubting about it. Specially, it has raised me some doubts about the goodness of mixing the social media tools with the government IT tools.

Are we on time of having a different future of the landscape portraited in the book? We always have options and it will be in our hands. But the choices are hard, as the book shows, and maybe some times what we judge the rigth path can be the path to evil.

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