Publicado: 20 julio 2022 a las 2:00 pm
Posted by Michael Geist
E-commerce has emerged in recent years as critical part of commercial activity. With mounting online sale of goods and delivery of services, the implications of e-commerce for the education community arise at both the commercial and policy levels. Indeed, e-commerce and online education delivery played an increasingly prominent and important role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including for the increasing commercialisation in and of education.
As further discussed in an Education International policy brief ” E-commerce, Education and Copyright“, the merger of e-commerce and education opens the door to new, for-profit online educational service providers that may have a disruptive impact on a sector that has traditionally operated primarily on a non-commercial, public interest basis. Indeed, e-commerce has facilitated a growing for-profit education sector at both the K-12 and postsecondary level. This includes online learning, publishing, research, instruction and service delivery.
“Some of the issues could have a direct impact on educational policies by reshaping foundational law and policies in the interest of commercial rather than public interests.”
Unfortunately, the implications for education of these e-commerce and copyright rules are frequently an afterthought as trade negotiations are primarily driven by intellectual property (IP) interests, including the cultural and publishing sectors. There is a need for greater understanding of the implications of e-commerce and IP rules within trade agreements, the retention of policy flexibility and privacy safeguards, the scope for exceptions for education and research, and the opportunity for educational stakeholders, including teachers, students, and institutions, to participate in trade policy development at the national and international levels.
This is particularly true at the World Trade Organisation, where the ongoing e-commerce work programme touches on the cross-cutting area of e-commerce, education and copyright. These include rules on copyright, intermediary liability, open data, data transfers, data localisation, non-discriminatory treatment of digital products, and e-transaction certainty.
The rules are designed to support the free flow of services and may limit domestic abilities to establish restrictions or other localised policies in relation to commercial activities in education and research. Some of the issues could have a direct impact on educational policies by reshaping foundational law and policies in the interest of commercial rather than public interests.
E-commerce at the WTO is not a new issue. The WTO first officially recognised the growth of global e-commerce and its creation of new opportunities for trade in May 1998 and since steadily expanded its work in the area. In fact, dozens of countries have submitted policy positions on the current WTO e-commerce work programme, touching on a wide range of issues that have significant implications for education and research. As of January 2021, there are 86 WTO members participating in these discussions, accounting for over 90 per cent of global trade.
The e-commerce work at the WTO remains a work-in-progress with shifting positions among many countries. However, key issues for the education community include:
The prevalence of e-commerce means that the education community can ill-afford to ignore the policy issues associated with this increasingly important part of modern-day commercial activities. Indeed, as policy makers and trade negotiators rush to facilitate cross-border ecommerce activities, the educational community must be at the table to ensure that the interests of educational institutions, teachers, education support personnel, researchers and students are fully reflected in the resulting agreements and policy documents.