Article: Data analysis a must for economic competitiveness

Sanaullah Abro Additional Collector of Customs (Worked at the World Customs Organization, Brussels)

Data analysis a must for economic competitiveness

The World Customs Organization (WCO) has dedicated 2017 to promote data analysis under the slogan “Data Analysis for Effective Border Management.” The purpose of dedicating a year for promotion of data analysis is to appraise the Customs administrations about the importance of this area, which is becoming a key element in Customs modernization process.

There is no dearth of data with Customs as huge data is generated by Customs clearance processes, shipping declarations, commercial data of trade and information provided by the partner organizations.  This treasure of data is generally not optimally utlizied for modernization of existing Customs processes to increase trade facilitation, revenue collection, control illegitimate trade and bring competitiveness, which is essential for socio economic development and elimination of poverty.

Areas where the data anlaysis can be critical for increasing effeciency of Customs operations and achieving effective border management are need to be identified and explored.

Efficient data analysis can help authorities made informed decisions pertaining to  clearance and examination of goods, risk management, compliance, border patrolling, and passenger profiling at the airports.

In view of IBM Customs solutions, that for Customs to remain competitive or create economic competitiveness in economy, a new differentiation strategy for Customs is necessary. This means using information better, whether for analytics, risk assessment or facilitating faster transactions for trusted partners.

Modern administrations have developed a huge infrastructure for effective usage of data available with Customs. The compliance and facilitations tools are designed by analyzing the data so as to develop customized solutions responding to the specific trade related risks.

The other vital factor is the analysis of historic and behavioral data of passengers and traders. This data is critical for development of a robust profiling system without which modern customs systems cannot be developed on sound grounds.

The third generation Customs modernization has developed cognitive technologies to its customs processes for maintaining edge over economic competitiveness. The cognitive technologies are based on analysis of structured and unstructured data sets and ICT applications to Customs processes for robust RMS, secure trade lanes for Authorized Economic Operators (AEO), secure communications with trade partners, strong risk rules for hassle free trade, identification of illegitimate trade and suspected passengers through risk profile analysis and establishing patterns and predicting behaviors by digitizing the historical responses of traders and passengers.

Fro example, IBM has developed concept of Cognitive systems that can discover, identify and weigh evidence even with mountains of unstructured data sources, which can enable Customs to deal more effectively with large complex data sets.

These elevated risk detection capabilities can result in improved targeting and better deployment of customs inspection resources, lowering operational costs, and improving the ability to balance between legitimate trade and risk management.

The WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya has emphasized that to achieve Customs’ core objectives such as revenue collection, trade facilitation and security in a befitting manner, Customs administrations should make data analysis a strategic priority, acquire cutting-edge technology, establish appropriate automation policies, recruit experts to collect and analyze data, and act upon the data driven insights.

Therefore, it is high time for Pakistan Customs to move forward and make data analysis and ICT systems as a strategic arm of Customs. Without strong support and modern methods of information driven customs procedures Customs modernization dream cannot be achieved.

The Secretary General has further stated that as part of this initiative i.e. data analysis for effective border management, the WCO will enhance the promotion of tools such as the WCO Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) which is a global Customs seizure database; the WCO Time Release Study (TRS) which is a methodology for measuring border agency clearance times; mirror analysis to detect gaps in terms of quantities, weight or value that may reveal fraudulent flows or practices; the use of performance measurement to improve Customs procedures and integrity and the Data Model which supports data analysis by improving data collection and enabling the sharing of data between government agencies.

In view of above, if we want to bring Pakistan Customs in the line of modern customs, we need to enhance partnership with the World Customs Organization, participate in all its committee meetings, attend its working groups in customs matters and collaborate with its umbrella organizations such as regional capacity building organization to keep abreast with world customs fraternity which is moving speedily on path of modernization.

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