Firms based in the Global South (GS) face more barriers and obstacles to e-commerce utilization than their counterparts in industrialized countries. Big data (BD) and the cloud have been touted as a key mechanism for levelling the playing field for GS -based firms, especially SMEs. This article examines the deployment of big data- and cloud-based e-commerce applications in the GS economies and reviews the demand and the supply sides. Investigated in the article are the roles and limitations of BD and the cloud in overcoming economic, sociopolitical and cognitive barriers to e-commerce in GS economies.
The roles of BD and the cloud in overcoming economic barriers
The main attractiveness of the cloud is that it leads to a reduction in up-front investments and addresses constraints related to organizations’ human, business, and technological resources. For instance, India’s Apeejay Stya and Svran Group, which is a US$1 billion plus conglomerate, moved the entire IT functions including the mission-critical ones to AWS. The company reported that by doing so, it reduced IT staff from 23 to 3 and cut costs by over 80%.
As noted above, market and infrastructural factors controlling the availability of ICTs and a lack of purchasing power act as key barriers in the GS. To address the low purchasing power, local and foreign CSPs are offering e-commerce solutions at low prices.
Regarding the barriers associated with a low penetration of mainstream online payment methods such as credit cards, it was reported that foreign CSPs require cloud users to pay with credit cards.
The roles of BD and the cloud in overcoming sociopolitical barriers
The cloud’s transformative potential has resulted in significant national political decisions to utilize this technology for key economic activities. To some extent, such decisions addressed issues such as the lack of appropriate government regulations related to privacy and security, and the lack of institutional trust.
The roles of BD and the cloud in overcoming cognitive barriers
Unlike client-based computing, cloud-based software is easier to install, maintain and update. For instance, in the above examples, Demandware makes new features available to Clarins on a rolling basis. Thus in order to expand e-commerce activities, Clarins is not required to undergo any major upgrade project or add staff for maintenance.
Measures taken by global CSPs have also helped overcome cognitive barriers associated with e-commerce adoption. Global CSPs such as Amazon and Google hold seminars for start-ups in India, Indonesia and many other developing economies