10.12.1 Electronic Commerce is a newly-emerging and fast growing way of conducting business. It is the way of advertising, buying, selling, and, in some cases, delivering goods and services. At its broadest, e-commerce is any type of business transaction or interaction in which the participants operate or transact business or conduct their trade electronically. Potentially this could include activities that include use of the telephone or the fax as well as the Internet.
10.12.2 The World Trade Organisation (WTO) defines e-commerce as:
The production, distribution, marketing, sale or delivery of goods and services by electronic means.
10.12.3 The National Statistical Commission constituted a Committee to identify information needs arising out of e-commerce activities and to suggest institutional arrangements for data maintenance under the Chairmanship of Shri V.K. Duggal, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The Committee has preferred the comprehensive WTO definition for all practical purposes covering transactions through the telephone (particularly enhanced telecommunication technologies), facsimile and e-mail as well as online computer systems, electronic fund transfer (EFT), etc.
10.12.4 Broadly, EC transactions can be categorised in terms of target user groups such as business-to-business (e.g. procurement over computer networks), business-to-consumer (e.g. online retailing), business-to-administration (e.g. Government and business transactions), consumer-to-administration (e.g. filing of tax returns). The Committee felt that initially the focus should remain on business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions for the first 3-4 years.
10.12.5 The measurement of electronic commerce as accurately as conventional commerce is nearly impossible given the difficulty of defining it and adequately capturing the value associated with it. Nevertheless, for policy purposes such statistics are very much needed to focus the policy debate so that action is directed towards activities that truly reflect the electronic commerce phenomenon, and avoid a simple transplantation of the traditional commerce business model to what is a much different environment on the Internet.
Data collection methodology
10.12.6 Conducting surveys on e-commerce service providers is a possible method of obtaining the required data. The surveys can be used to collect information with regard to infrastructure, electronic commerce transaction and electronic commerce supporting services with detailed breakdowns. The expertise for such a survey needs to be developed in the statistical system.
10.12.7 The legislation requiring modifications for the purpose of obligation on the part of data providers may cover Companies Act, Taxation Laws, etc. The Controller of Certifying Agency (CCA) will need to collect additional information on type of business of the unit at the time of registration.
10.12.8 National Industrial Classification (NIC), 1998 needs to be adopted to cover e-commerce activities in detail. Harmonised system for international trade could be also adopted.
10.12.9 At present, an official database on e-commerce is not available.
10.12.10 The Commission recommends that:
The database on electronic commerce has to be established. Since e-commerce is still at initial stages and has significant cross-border linkages, it is necessary for the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) to closely align the statistical system with initiatives on World Trade Organisation.
It is necessary to conduct surveys covering e-commerce providers for data on income, expenditure, value added, etc.