E-Commerce once fully rolled out in the country will allow small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to access new markets regionally and internationally with much ease.
This was highlighted at the opening of a two days’ validation workshop last week on the Solomon Islands National E-commerce Strategy 2022-2027 attended by government policy makers and representatives of the private sector.
The draft strategy culminates from over eight months of intensive strategy design and development process led by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration (MCILI) and the Ministry of Communication and Aviation (MCA).
This process included consultations with over 150 stakeholders from various government ministries, offices and departments; the private sector; academic institutions; and community groups and associations.
The National E-commerce Strategy is a practical roadmap for improving the business, policy and regulatory environment for the development of e-commerce and the broader digital economy in Solomon Islands.
Based on these consultations, the Government identified and proposed over 90 activities, projects or initiatives that could be implemented over the next five years.
“I recognize that this is an ambitious plan, but I 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,” said Permanent Secretary of the MCILI, Riley Mesepitu. “By leveraging the power of digital payments and online commerce, small businesses will be able to sell their products to consumers in Honiara, the Pacific region, and eventually the whole world”.
“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. It encourages digital financial inclusion and strengthens the export competitiveness of our businesses. The tourism and agriculture sectors, for example, could benefit from a thriving e-commerce ecosystem in Solomon Islands,” Mesepitu added.
There is also great potential for e-commerce to provide economic opportunities to under-served groups such as youth, women and those living in rural areas.
So far in Solomon Islands, a number of business establishments have already harnessed e-commerce as part of their business operations;
In 2019, for example, the youSave LoMobile savings scheme launched by the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund strengthened financial inclusion for informal workers. For the first time, informal workers in Solomon Islands had the opportunity to save for their retirement through a government savings scheme.
In 2020, the arrival of the Coral Sea Cable System and Solomon Islands Domestic Network, co-funded by the Government of Australia, greatly improved digital connectivity across the country.
Several government services have also moved online, with e-government services such as the filing of taxes with the Inland Revenue Division. This is an important part of our overall digital transformation efforts.
The Telecommunications Bill has also been amended to require all SIM card holders to be registered. This will help to further digitalize the economy and increase online security.
The Central Bank adopted its third National Financial Inclusion Strategy last year and a Memorandum of Understanding between the Central Bank and the Telecommunications Commission was signed just a few months ago, aimed at improving collaboration between digital services providers and mobile network providers.
The Central Bank has also recently launched a regulatory sandbox to test new ideas in the fin-tech space.
In the private sector, there were positive developments over the past few years. The introduction of mobile money solutions such as Ezi Pei have provided people with an easy way to make payments online. A few companies in Honiara now offer online ordering and payment services. And banks continue to innovate with online digital financial services.
All these developments point towards a promising digital future for Solomon Islands. This means accessibility and connectivity are critical in order for this platform to achieve its overarching goal or objective which requires relevant infrastructures such as additional towers to support and leverage e-commerce.