highlights from the 2019 wco it/ti conference & exhibition

27 june 2019

hundreds of delegates from all over the world attended the 2019 wco it/ti conference & exhibition in baku, azerbaijan from 12 to 14 june 2019 to discuss matters relating to the introduction and evolution of latest technologies. throughout the three-day event, 81 speakers shared their knowledge, expertise and experience on both software and hardware solutions.

the first session on reshaping policies for technology-advanced trade set the scene for the rest of the conference. moderated by mr. christopher clague, managing editor for the economist intelligence unit's, the round table brought together high-level speakers from customs, international organizations/associations and the consulting industry: secretary general wco dr. kunio mikuriya; mr. benedetto mineo, director general of the italian customs and monopolies agency ; mr. minh doan, vice president and chief information officer at canada border services agency; mr. ulrik vestergaard knudsen, deputy secretary general of the oecd; mr. richard morton, secretary general of ipcsa; and mr. tom isherwood, partner at mckinsey & company.

the actual impact of e-commerce on government policies and procedures was mentioned and dr. mikuriya pointed out that the development of the wco framework of standards on cross-border e-commerce is an important step in addressing the challenges faced by customs with the exponential increase in the movement of small parcels across borders.

the session also looked into how governments can reap the benefits of blockchain, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, and whether strategies for digital transformation have been adjusted to the accelerated pace of change. mr. isherwood stressed that in blockchain, it was the network effect that makes it work and that the wco can play an important role in that respect. mr. knudsen underlined that data is the game-changer today, while mr. morton reiterated that data standards, interoperability and data quality are the key enablers. mr. mineo underscored the importance of the use of non-intrusive inspection equipment and the complementarity of all technologies used, while mr. doan focused on the workforce development and business transformation planning required for keeping up with the latest technological developments. secretary general mikuriya reminded participants that the wco provides information on many of the questions and challenges relating to the use of latest technologies by customs and other border agencies in its study report on disruptive technologies. finally the speakers of this session looked into the cross-border movement of intangible goods and the potential role of customs and other authorities.

another session explored customs and border management’s response to green transport and logistics and trade facilitation and route/network optimization solutions. speakers also discussed travel and the role of customs modernization projects in the overall digital transformation taking place in ‘smart’ airports. technologies such as biometrics and data-exchange systems, based on api/pnr that facilitate the movement and increase the safety of air passengers, were found to be critical enablers.

after an inspiring video address by the secretary general of cites, ms. yvonne higuero, delegates had a chance to learn about innovative projects related to the fight against trafficking of endangered species of flora and fauna, cultural objects and counterfeit goods, as well as means and technological solutions for reducing tax evasion. bearing in mind the relevance of customs for facilitating the movement of vehicles across borders, the conference also explored the future of transport, including drones, smart containers and port community systems. the secretary general of tiaca, mr. vladimir zubkov, stressed that customs is the key partner for the air industry and talked about the lack of compatibility between customs and security data requirements as an issue still to be resolved.

in smaller groups, the conference explored in more detail the steps required for introducing blockchain technology, and different advanced technology solutions such as internet of things, machine learning in the context of non-intrusive inspections and the knowledge and skills required to reap the real benefits from these latest technologies.

the techtalk interventions allowed mainly the private sector representatives, but also international organizations, academia and customs representatives to elaborate, with more focus on technical details, their different innovative solutions and concepts aimed at enhancing risk management capabilities, facilitating document and physical inspection of excisable goods, implementing the single window environment, exchanging information between customs and posts, improving border management in air transport, facilitating transit, enhancing capacities with advanced training for cargo scanner images analysis and threat recognition, progressing the passenger suspect bag tracking systems for customs and other.

the conference, held at the heydar aliyev center, an architectural wonder designed by zaha hadid architects, was concluded with words of appreciation to all those who have contributed to its success.

finally, the representative of indonesia customs announced that the 2020 wco technology conference & exhibition will be held in the first half of june 2020 in bali.

all presentations of the conference can be found on the conference website.

more information

more on the official opening ceremony can be found here.

streaming from the sessions can be found at the wco youtube channel here