The World Customs Organization (WCO) has announced it will dedicate 2017 to the promotion of data collection and analysis as a key Customs tool in recognition of the growing role data gathering plays in modernizing border clearing processes.
The campaign, with the theme “Data Analysis for Effective Border Management,” will be launched on International Customs Day on January 26, 2017.
“Customs has a substantial amount of data at its disposal, such as data submitted for the Customs clearance process. Customs can also tap data from other government agencies, commercially available databases, and open source information platforms such as digitized global public records and multilingual news sources,” explained WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya.
Moreover, physical objects are nowadays embedded within electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data, a phenomenon known as the “Internet of things.”
But Mikuriya said that simply collecting data for its own sake is insufficient and may lead to information overload. Instead, he said, Customs administrations must learn to leverage data to make informed decisions, especially in the face of sophisticated and evolving challenges in Customs administration.
WCO said data analysis can prove beneficial by ensuring compliance with Customs regulations, hastening Customs processes, and improving risk management. Specifically, it can help to detect irregularities, illicit consignments, and suspicious movements of people and financial flows, while facilitating legitimate trade.
It can also enable border administrators to learn from historical activity to predict trader or passenger behavior, exchange experiences and expertise with other government agencies, and conduct quantitative research for knowledge building.
At the same time, data analysis can aid in measuring the performance of Customs officers to improve their practices and integrity. “Data analysis thus can greatly support the core Customs’ objectives of revenue collection, border security, collection of trade statistics, and trade facilitation,” said WCO.
“To achieve these benefits, Customs administrations should make data analysis a strategic priority and acquire cutting-edge technology, establish appropriate automation policies, and recruit experts to collect and analyse data, and act upon the data-driven insights,” said Mikuriya.
There are, however, potential obstacles to utilizing data fully, he continued. Foremost among these are the lack of qualitative data, data that has not been integrated or merged, lack of harmonization of data across border agencies, lack of skilled resources, absence of IT infrastructures, and cultural challenges. In addition, appropriate privacy and confidentially laws must be respected.
Mikuriya said that to overcome these barriers, the agency will promote tools such as the WCO Customs Enforcement Network, which is a global Customs seizure database; WCO Time Release Study, a methodology for measuring border agency clearance times; mirror analysis, or using the HS Code to compare imports or exports of a country with those reported by its trading partners to reveal fraudulent flows or practices.
The organization will also support the use of performance measurement to improve Customs procedures and integrity, and the use of data model which supports data analysis by improving data collection and enabling the sharing of data between government agencies.