After years of violent behavior, Iraq lays the groundwork for e-commerce as it reconstructs its infrastructure, government officials said in Baghdad on 28 July during the high-level dialog on e-commerce and the digital economy. The event began a weeks' time of consulting, the first such in a non-least developed world, which is a part of UNCTAD's evaluation of the country's readiness to participate in e-commerce.
Almost 100 people from Iraq's government and private sectors shared their opinions on how to address the problems of the war-affected country's e-commerce. Naeem Al-Rubaie, Minister of Communication, said 'We need to establish customer confidence and develop an encouraging legal climate. He stressed the need for the implementation of laws and framework mechanisms to govern e-commerce and protect online retailers and purchasers' rights.
They are pleased to help Iraq assess obstacles and prospects in the field of e-commerce when it is embarking on national reforms to exploit ICT for restoration. The Iraqi government assessment would include a roadmap for the country's e-commerce development and supplement the government's ICT technology program, building digital confidence through better cyber protection and e-governance service.
The evaluation is based on a new study of a sample of respondents from both public and private sectors. The survey revealed the need of developing a favorable ecosystem for Iraqi e-commerce in areas such as E-payments, ICT networks, regulatory structures, and the logistics system. The infrastructure for e-commercial development in Iraq has been destroyed for decades by the war. The system of telecommunications is struck hardest.
Moreover, Iraq lacks a consistent national policy, rules, and expenditure required to compete in the digital economy. Iraq is a low technical literacy country. However, Iraq has a huge untapped opportunity to use e-commerce for growth, with 60 percent of its population under 25. In Iraq, higher rates of use for smartphones increased internet connectivity and increased competition among ICT providers will boost e-commerce, said survey respondents.
And also, simple and quick e-payment solutions in Iraq are really necessary. Cash-on-sale and bank transfers with minimal use of credit cards are the most popular payment options. 89% of public sector participants have said that e-payment mechanisms are required to build a favorable atmosphere for e-commerce. regulation is also a problem for Iraqis. More than 70% of respondents have strongly approved anonymity, customer security, and cybercrime legislation to increase trust in the e-commerce sector.
More than 60 percent of these providers articulate the need to facilitate customs clearance, electronic shipping monitoring, and a strong local shipping network, which makes the e-commerce logistics services necessary insufficient.
Iraq is the latest country to benefit from UNCTAD's eCommerce Preparedness Evaluation Program which helps countries recognize e-commerce challenges and opportunities, and implement the right strategies and interventions.
The evaluation that will be finalized in December shall be financed under its policy for Trade Aid for the Arab States by the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation and shall be conducted under the auspices of the Iraqi Communications and Commerce Ministries along with the Universal Postal Union. UNCTAD has completed 18 e-trade readiness tests over the last three years and another seven ongoing.
Iraq has a population of nearly 40 million and is believed to be 48.3 percent internet penetration in 2017. The smartphone penetration is projected at 19.9 percent according to Newzoo's 2017 Global Mobile Market Study. Google is Iraq's most common online search engine, but it does not have accurate detailed information.
While eCommerce may generate various advantages to Iraqi customers such as comparison of goods and prices, reception of non-existent international products and commodities, etc. the market is still not well established. The poor penetration rate of the Internet and lack of technological resources were one of the main obstacles to e-commerce. Internet connections are generally unreliable and costly, and the service providers suffer severe constraints. The low level of IT literacy among the population of Iraq is another big problem leading to the slow growth of e-commerce.
Possibly Iraq's customers continue to use cash for fiscal and technological purposes is the biggest challenge that hinders e-commerce (distrust in Iraqi banks, scarcity of credit card products, etc.). Mredy.com, Opensooq.com, Kurdsale.com, Kurdshopping.com, and Dasy2.com are among the largest e-commerce websites in Iraq. Iraqi people choose to use YouTube in social media, with an internet penetration rate of 66.1% led by Instagram (15.7%) and Facebook (15%), and Twitter (2.4 percent ). As the Iraqi National Security Council voted to prohibit the use of social media for two weeks in July 2018, because of the demonstrations in Central and South Iraq over the lack of public service.
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