Panelists at Opening Session of Day 3 Highlight Key Influences to ICT Modernization Globally
Dubai-UAE: May 17, 2013 - Information Communications Technology (ICT) is an enabler and not a driver in cross border coordination between agencies, stakeholders and the trading public. Although the role of ICT in facilitating efficient trade and cross border management is indisputable; it is the mindset and role of the people that is paramount for the realization of ICT modernization goals, according to Dikko Inde Abdullahi, Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service & Vice Chair West and Central African Region, WCO.
Abdullahi's comments came at a session titled 'The human factor: can technologies help in facing the challenges involved in close coordination between border agencies including customs?” During this segment, experts discussed the evolution of the global customs sector and the protection of borders and ports using modern technologies that facilitate communication and cooperation between countries.
Drawing on the experience of the Nigerian Customs amidst its current challenges, Abdullahi pointed out: “Realizing the key role of the human factor in ICT modernization, the Nigerian Customs Service established the Six Point Agenda - capacity building, ICT, coordination, integrity, collaboration with stakeholders and welfare. This has led to the successful harmonization and collaboration of efforts and functions between all agencies, bringing it closer to achieving trade facilitation in cross border trade.”
Experts at the session also included Khushnidjon Rasulov, Team Leader of Tajikistan's ‘Project Support to Regional Economic Cooperatoin in Central Asian countries; Godwin Punungwe, Director of Trade Facilitation at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Southern Africa Trade Hub; Curtis Clark, Director, IBM Global Development; and Ramesh Siva, Lead e-government Specialist and Customs IT Advisor at the World Bank
Focusing on the challenges of developing countries while implementing IT systems in border management process, Khushnidjon Rasulov said: “Trade is continuously growing in the center Asian countries; unfortunately, drug trafficking and smuggling goods and products keep growing as well, with limited capacities to handle these issues. Therefore, the use of modern technology and risk management is crucially important.”
He added: “We believe that the benefits of using IT systems in border management can reduce the costs and time, increase efficiency, improve both rationalization and transparency, provide accuracy and reliable statistics, and make a better use of limited resources.”
Punungwe highlighted cross border management (CBM) techniques in Southern Africa, stressing on USAID Southern Africa Trade Hub's mission to enhance economic growth and food security through trade. He shared: 'Increased border efficiency and minimizing the time and cost of goods crossing the border demands a high level of coordination, facilitation, cooperation and partnership between border agencies as well as the private sector. The Trade Hub's approach to CBM, therefore, involves coordination of border agencies at one side of the border, coordination at the other side of the border as well as coordination across borders.'
Speaking about the need for organizations to develop a strong social business strategy in order to ensure people-centric innovation, Clark said: “It is not just about building communities within the customs organizations, but also building communities across stakeholders that play a vital role in daily border management. Enabling customs officers with smart devices, for instance, could fundamentally transform the way they do business, in that it will empower them to engage in discussions with the community and be better informed, thereby easing trade processes.”
Focusing on the relevance of the National Single Window to facilitate trade, Siva emphasized the prerequisites for successful implementation of the single window environment. He said: “While ICT plays a critical role in assisting with challenges involved with closer coordination amongst border agencies, it just the tip of the iceberg. A number of other factors are key for the effective implementation of ICT. In order to shift from current processes to online process, for instance, a solid legal and regulatory framework is vital.
“Other factors including a governance and operational model, inter-agency Service Level Agreements (SLAs), user fees and cost recovery, and change management. Given the wide range of factors, ICT emerges as the smallest and easiest factor in the equation.”
The Albanian customs administration also presented a case study on the implementation of IT solutions in customs and the general customs processes in Albania. The study focused on the benefits of implementations of SICPATRACE solution such as maximizing the exercise of tax collection, optimizing controls at borders, improving IT systems and data management, and improving collaboration across borders.