WORLD – The value of trade in international imports of information and communications technology (ICT) goods in 2017 reached US$2.1 trillion driven by demand for electronic components used in Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.

According to new figures released by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), the Republic of Korea becomes the second largest world exporter of information and communications technology goods, behind China.

Though China remains the largest exporter of ICT goods, UNCTAD says Korea has experienced the highest growth rate among the top 10 exporters in 2017.

Among the top 10 exporters also included Singapore, Germany, US, Malaysia, Mexico, Japan, Netherlands who all commanded a market share of 86% in 2017.

Exports also grew significantly for all the other top ten exporters, except the United States.

The report indicated that trade in ICT goods grew slightly faster than merchandise trade and represented 13.4% of the total in 2017, machinery and transport equipment accounted for 37%, while food was only 8% of merchandised imports.

“This is the first time that global ICT goods imports have rebounded since 2014, showing a good 6% annual growth and bringing a reprieve to the past two years of decline,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director of the Technology and Logistics Division at UNCTAD.

Trade in electronic components continued to expand with an annual growth rate of 8% – just below that of computers and consumer electronics (9%).

Digital expansion across the globe was identified to be one of the key factors driving expansion of electronic components, which are the basic building blocks of electronic circuits and semiconductors.

This trend is expected to accelerate into the future as more and more products and activities are going digital.

This growth is also supported by the advent of Internet-of-Things (IoT), which involves extending internet connectivity beyond conventional computing platforms such as personal computers and mobile devices.

IoT has witnessed unprecedented growth since 2015 with the emergence of multiple technologies, real-time analytics, machine learning, commodity sensors, and embedded systems.

Least developed countries still lagging

According to the report, Africa, Southern and Western Asia all saw significant declines in ICT goods import.

There was a huge decline in the 47 least developed countries, which dropped by a hefty 30% in 2017.

UNCTAD however revealed that at 54% market share, developing economies import more than developed economies because they have a more significant role in assembling ICT goods and so import significantly more electronic components.

Developing countries also show a stronger preference for communication equipment over computers and peripherals, in line with the implementation of mobile-first strategies.

The United States was the top importer of electronic goods followed by China and Hong Kong (China) while in Mexico ICT goods imports did not grow in 2017.

ICT goods imports to developed economies showed 10% annual growth while ICT goods imports to economies in transition in South East Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States grew by 29%.