8 years ago

ICT Act 2006: Making e-commerce effective

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The Internet has opened up a new possibility for trade and commerce, called electronic commerce. e-commerce involves the use of the Internet in advertising, identification, payment and supply of goods and services. Electronic commerce is rapidly growing as an impressive phenomenon of globalisation. Rapid expansion of e-commerce is a major opportunity for local and international trade development of the least developed countries (LDCs) including Bangladesh.
 e-Commerce started in Bangladesh in the late 90s. The earlier e-commerce sites were actually gift sites targeted at the non-residential Bangladeshis (NRB) living abroad. All the sites were based abroad and had branches in Bangladesh.  During the year 2000-2008, the sector observed a slow growth. There were few e-commerce websites but there was no system for online transaction, the first condition for e-commerce. In addition, high cost of the Internet and low penetration meant that few people knew about these sites. According to  Bangladesh Bank (BB), payments and transactions by credit cards were nearly Tk11 billion in June 2008 -- one of the lowest in the world. The country had only about 400,000 credit card holders at the end of June 2009. From 2008, things started to look bright as the BB took various initiatives including implementation of e-Payment Gateway.
The real change came in 2009 when the central bank allowed online payment in the country, thus, officially opening up the e-commerce sector. Another major incident of 2009 was the introduction of WiMax Internet in Bangladesh. It became quite popular in the country. The year 2013 had been an important year in the history of e-commerce in Bangladesh. First, the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) and the Bangladesh Bank, supported by the ICT Business Promotion Council, observed "E-Commerce Week" for the first time in the country. From January 5 to January 11, there were four roundtable discussions, two seminars, one technical session, a special awareness programme at Dhaka University and a special promotional campaign at Bashundhara Shopping Mall. In February 2013, for the first time in the country, the Computer Jagat, a leading ICT magazine of Bangladesh, organised the first fair on e-commerce. The three-day fair took place from February 7 to February 9 at the premises of Begum Sufia Kamal National Public Library. The slogan of the fair was, "Festival for buying and selling at your premises." A total of 31 public and private e-commerce organisations showcased their products and services at the fair. Though first of its kind, the fair was a huge success attracting about 80,000 visitors. The Computer Jagat also conducted live webcast of the fair which was seen by more than fifty thousand people in Bangladesh and abroad.
Following the first ever e-commerce fair at Dhaka, the Computer Jagat arranged e-commerce fairs at Sylhet, Chittagong, London and Barisal with their partners and participants. Additionally, the BB gave permission to buy products and services online using international credit cards. Buying products and services from abroad using credit card is an important aspect of e-commerce. The multi-dimensional activity of e-commerce from which Bangladesh can benefit includes expansion of business, reduction of communication difficulties, access to international market, competition against export from other countries, updating business knowledge and so on.
Defying the country's underdeveloped status, selected segments of the Bangladeshi business community have embraced technology with reasonable success. Personal computers and the Internet are also emerging as day-to-day business tools. These positive indicators are favouring the prospects of e-commerce in Bangladesh. Some sectors looking positive include:
- Readymade garments (RMG).
- Banking sectors (online banking).
- Online shopping.
- Web hosting, domain.
- Online cards, gifts.
- Oil and gas sector etc.
- Online transportation system, hotel management and tourism etc.
Compared with other countries, Bangladesh is a late entrant in e-commerce. Yet, this sector observed tremendous growth within a short time. E-Commerce can be the next major driver of economic development but there are some issues that need to be addressed. These are:
1. Developing delivery channel to customers
2. Affordable and uninterrupted Internet all over the country
3. Improving online transaction system
4. Prevention of online fraudulence
5. Prevention of piracy
6. Lack of education
7. Govt. / Pvt. corporation's non-involvement   
8. Cultural tradition
9. Poor concept of online marketing  
10. Poor ICT education and training
11. High Internet usage cost  
12. No proper agreement for shipping policy
13. Lack of privacy policy  
However in order to facilitate e-commerce and encourage the growth of information technology, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006 was enacted, making provisions for a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment or fine up to taka 10 million or both for breach of the law. The ICT Act, 2006 as amended in 2013 is obviously a fine achievement of Bangladesh in the field of cyber law. Critics point out that still there remain certain specific limitations of the said Act, as under:
(1) The Act remains silent about various intellectual property rights like copyright, trade mark and patent right of e-information and data.
(2) The enactment has a major effect on e-commerce and m-commerce in Bangladesh. But it keeps silent over the electronic payment of any transaction.
(3) The legislation was initially supposed to be applied to crimes committed all over the world; but nobody knows how this can be achieved in practice.
(4) Spamming has become a peril in the West as such they have made anti-spamming provisions in cyber law. However, there is no anti-spamming provision in our Act.
(5) The Act does not address any crime committed through using mobile phones.
(6) This law made e-mails as evidence, conflicting with the country's Evidence Act that does not recognise e-mails as evidence.
Nevertheless apart from the lacking in the ICT Act, 2006, there are huge challenges that should be overcome before starting e-commerce. Some of the them have been mentioned above.
The assessment of the e-commerce environmental forces of Bangladesh leaves some room for recommending quite a few steps and measures that should be undertaken by the policymakers and business stake-holders for full-fledged implementation and development of e-commerce in Bangladesh. The recommendations are:
1. Amendment to the National ICT policy, and ICT Act, 2006 is required to enhance the implementation of e-commerce.
2. There should be a specific law and policy on e-commerce and m-commerce.
3. There should be an EFT (Electronic Fund Transfer) Gateway, which will connect all finance and banking institutions, ATMs, POS and related websites. Such a gateway will speed up the transactions among banks, commercial institutions. This sort of infrastructure needs to be implemented on a priority basis.
4. To improve banking mechanism, the government should compel the banking sectors to automate their operation and go online within a specific period. Control of foreign exchange should be liberalised gradually, and easier issuance of International Credit Cards should be allowed and banks should take effective steps here.
5. Business associations and organisations should be made aware of the benefits of e-commerce. Business organisations like FBCCI, DCCI, MCCI, and BGMEA can play a significant role in promoting e-commerce in Bangladesh.
6. Political commitment to improve governance and institutional strength is essential for successful application of e-commerce.
Undoubtedly the ICT Act is a historical step in the cyber world. Further, it cannot be denied that there is a need to bring changes in the Information Technology Act to make it more effective in order to combat cyber crime and c-commerce disputes.   The Penal Code, 1860 was found insufficient to cater to the needs of new crimes emerging from Internet expansion. Even some of the traditional crimes such as conspiracy, fraud, espionage etc. are now being committed through the Internet, which necessitates a new law to curb them. The ICT Act, 2006 was enacted in Bangladesh for prevention of cyber crimes and regulation of E-commerce. Prior to the enactment of this Act, the law applicable to cyber offences was the penal code, 1860 which was enacted back in 1860 when no one even thought of computer technology or cyber criminality. With the coming into force of ICT Act, 2006, it became necessary to introduce certain consequential changes in certain provisions of the Penal Code, 1860 as also in the Evidence Act, 1872, in order to meet the new requirements of the cyber crimes as well as c-commerce disputes. This is high time to establish a strong and effective atmosphere for e-commerce, which will reaffirm the motto of "Digital Bangladesh".  
The writer is Assistant Professor  & Head, Department of Law, Cox's Bazar International University.
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