Digital economy

Workshop on Defining and Measuring Electronic Commerce


There is no single definition of e-commerce. Some definitions include all financial and commercial transactions that take place electronically, including electronic data interchange (EDI), electronic fund transfers (EFT) and all credit/debit card activity. Others limit electronic commerce to retail sales to consumers for which the transaction and payment take place on open networks like the Internet. The first type refers to forms of electronic commerce that have existed for decades and result in trillions of dollar worth of activity every day. The second type has existed for only a few years and, although it is growing, it is still barely measurable.

Research on e-commerce would clearly benefit from the adoption of a definition that would provide some consistency across studies and a reference point for the collection of data. "Defining and measuring e-commerce"is one of the seven points of the OECD e-commerce work programme endorsed by Ministers last October in Ottawa.

The OECD Workshop was a first effort to bring together the business sector, researchers, policy makers and statistical agencies to provide a better understanding of existing electronic commerce data and definitions, identify needs for indicators and initiate work towards a common methodology for measuring e-commerce.