17th WCO IT Conference & Exhibition closes with discussions on the use of Blockchain by Customs

12 June 2018

The 2018 WCO IT Conference & Exhibition drew to a close on 8 June 2018, with a summary of the outcomes of the preceding two-and-a-half days of discussions on the latest IT developments in Customs and border management. The Conference welcomed 600 delegates from 75 countries, was supported by 32 sponsors and exhibitors and brought together 70 speakers who took the floor for 11 keynote addresses and 18 plenary and TechTalk sessions.

Mr. Victor Shiguiyama Kobashigawa, National Superintendent of the Customs and Tax Administration of Peru (SUNAT), welcomed the delegates by stressing that it is essential to provide efficient and cost-effective services to foreign traders while ensuring the safety and security of the supply chain. To achieve these objectives, the use of new technologies and digital transformation represent opportunities to radically improve the performance and scope of Customs administrations.

In his opening remarks, the WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya noted that we live in an era where digital technology is evolving rapidly and opening up new opportunities in many areas of economic activity.  He added that the growth of E-Commerce provides vast opportunities to consumers and micro, small and medium sized enterprises, but that there are also many challenges that need to be addressed promptly. It is therefore timely to explore the possibilities that technology can offer to improve connectivity at borders through a whole-of-government approach. 

Dr. Taeil Kang, Director General of the Information and International Affairs Bureau of the Korea Customs Service, recognized that the fourth industrial revolution is being discussed more frequently; this brings innovation into Customs work by integrating various technologies into the IT sector.  He emphasized that the WCO IT Conference & Exhibition has an important role to play, as it brings together all relevant stakeholders to discuss the most recent developments in Customs and border management IT solutions.

Through a video address to the Conference delegates, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Mr. Roberto Azevedo, underscored the importance of information technologies in the context of implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, as well as in the context of supporting the growth of E-Commerce.  He stressed that we must ensure that this digital revolution is truly inclusive for all.

The Conference discussed a number of topics that are attracting the attention of Customs and the broader community involved in the cross-border movement of goods.  The first session aimed to identify ways in which artificial intelligence, supported by big data, data mining and data analytics, can secure and facilitate cross-border E-Commerce movement of goods.

The WCO IT Conference delegates had an opportunity to learn more about the use of cloud computing, including its advantages and risks, as well as some of the latest experiences and predictions on the future use of the cloud by governments.

Speakers in Session 3 endeavoured to connect the dots in the maritime environment and to inform participants about its specificities, as well as how Customs and other border agencies’ and their IT systems operate in this environment.  The speakers discussed some of the most recent and major challenges and opportunities for the future in terms of securing and facilitating the business environment.

The Conference also discussed what the Internet of Things (IoT) is about and shared experiences on the use of IoT technologies in supply chain management.  The aim of the discussion was to identify how Customs and other border agencies can benefit from the use of data generated through the use of IoT technologies by retailers and producers in their cross-border supply chains. 

In the context of cybersecurity, one of the sessions discussed some of the major concerns, key factors of success in management of information security, issues of data protection, and recommendations for the future.

Finally, the delegates had an opportunity to hear more about how Blockchain technology is being used by Customs today, including a number of pilot projects, as well as plans for the future.

Under the TechTalks, the session on Women in IT brought together speakers from different backgrounds who shared their personal experiences, interesting statistics, as well as a number of strong messages for the future. Furthermore, the speakers discussed IT solutions for mutual recognition arrangements of Authorized Economic Operators (AEOs), including the piloting of Blockchain technology in that respect. 

A TechTalk session on the Single Window and the WCO Data Model was held to provide delegates with a number of new examples and latest developments in this domain.  Other TechTalks discussed IT security contingency plans, facial recognition solutions, the UPU Customs Declaration System, Blockchain and additional topics.

All presentations from the Conference will be available shortly on the 2018 WCO ITC web site.

In the margins of the Conference, Dr. Mikuriya visited the future SUNAT Customs Laboratory to observe other ways in which technology is used in Customs. The Laboratory, which is currently under construction, will be established based on the WCO Customs Laboratory Guide of 2017.  It will open in a few months' time in the port of Callao.