Seattle - Structured around the theme "Cloud Computing: A New Era for Customs and Trade," the 2011 World Customs Organization Information Technology Conference and Exhibition opened in Seattle today with around 600 experts from customs and the private sector coming together to explore an issue that has the potential to transform the way business is done across the board particularly with regards to the international supply chain security and trade facilitation agenda.
This premier IT event, organized by the WCO this year in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, will run May 11-13, providing participants with the ideal platform to discuss the role of IT in securing and facilitating global trade, with a special emphasis on how it can improve core Customs functions, particularly in developing countries.
In his opening remarks, CBP Deputy Commissioner David V. Aguilar highlighted customs agencies' key responsibility for economic development and border security and that these were particularly important challenges in today's complex international environment. The better use of information through the use of IT was crucial for facilitating trade and combating cross-border crime. He also thanked the WCO for showing leadership in the discussions on customs reform and for encouraging the private sector to take an active role in this.
WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya underlined the importance of IT for the world's customs community and stressed that it remained a top priority for the 177 members of the WCO. Many aspects of the role of IT as a driver for development across a number of core business areas would be discussed by the global customs body at its upcoming annual sessions in June. He added that these discussions would include information exchange between customs authorities, between customs and other government agencies in a single window environment, and seamless exchanges with industry.
Speaking on behalf of EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, his adviser Oliver Russ emphasized that customs is well advanced in new technology but given the persistent threat from terrorism, which has been remarkably successful in adapting itself to new technological opportunities, he called for better integration of the systems of different security communities. He added that cloud computing not only creates new opportunities for more efficient use of ICT, but also new challenges and potential vulnerabilities in data protection and sovereignty.
Keynote addresses from Linda Zecher, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft and Hans van Grieken, Vice President, Business Innovation at CapGemini explored some of the key strategic aspects of emerging trends in IT with an emphasis on the implications of Cloud Computing for border management.
Choosing scenic Seattle as the host city for this annual WCO IT event is opportune as the city is recognized as being highly influential in terms of IT as well as innovation more generally; key qualities as the WCO continues its focus on IT for Customs and on ensuring that knowledge remains a catalyst for Customs excellence.
The 2011 IT Conference and Exhibition is the 10th organized by the WCO and follows the success of those held in Brussels in 2002, Johannesburg in 2003, Kuala Lumpur in 2004, Istanbul in 2005, Bangalore in 2006, Veracruz in 2007, Seoul in 2008, Marrakesh in 2009 and Dublin in 2010.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.