Archives For Information technology

Picture1There is nothing nebulous about the “cloud”, especially as it applies to developing countries, a new UNCTAD report says. For businesses and governments in poorer nations to benefit from cloud computing’s increasingly rapid and more flexible supply of digitized information – the sort of thing that enables online marketers to rapidly scale up their information systems in tune with fluctuations in demand – massive, down-to-earth data processing hardware is required. Also needed is extensive broadband infrastructure, as well as laws and regulations that encourage the investment needed to pay for advanced information and communication technology (ICT) facilities and to protect users of cloud services.

UNCTAD’s Information Economy Report 2013, subtitled The Cloud Economy and Developing Countries, was released on 3 December 2013.

Referring to cloud computing, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states in the preface to the report: “This has considerable potential for economic and social development, in particular for our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to define a bold agenda for a prosperous, sustainable and equitable future.”

The report shows that cloud computing offers the potential for enhanced efficiency. For example, cloud provisioning may enable small enterprises to outsource some of the information technology (IT) skills that they would otherwise have to provide internally. Companies can benefit from greater storage and computing capacity, as well as the expertise of cloud service providers in areas such as IT management and security.

But the study notes that options for cloud adoption in low- and middle-income countries look very different from those in more advanced countries. While free cloud services such as webmail and online social networks are already widely used in developing nations, the scope for cloud adoption in low- and middle-income economies is much smaller than it is in more advanced economies. In fact, the gap in availability of cloud-related infrastructure between developed and developing countries keeps widening. Access to affordable broadband Internet is still far from satisfactory in developing nations, especially in the least developed countries (LDCs). In addition, most low-income countries rely on mobile broadband networks that are characterized by low speed and high latency and therefore not ideal for cloud service provision.

The report recommends that governments “welcome the cloud but tread carefully”. Within the limits of their resources, infrastructure such as costly data centres must be constructed; at present, developed economies account for as much as 85 per cent of all data centres offering co-location services.

The cloud’s pros and cons

In simple terms, cloud computing enables users to access a scalable and elastic pool of data storage and computing resources, as and when required. Rather than being an amorphous phenomenon in the sky, cloud computing is anchored on the ground by the combination of the physical hardware, networks, storage, services and interfaces that are needed to deliver computing as a service.

The shift towards the cloud has been enabled by massively enhanced processing power and data storage, and higher transmission speeds. For example, some central processing units today are 4,000 times faster than their equivalents from four decades ago, and consumer broadband packages are almost 36,000 times faster than the dial-up connections used when Internet browsers were introduced in 1993.

The potential advantages of cloud computing include reduced costs for in-house equipment and IT management, enhanced elasticity of storage/processing capacity as required by demand, greater flexibility and mobility of access to data and services, immediate and cost-free upgrading of software, and enhanced reliability and security of data management and services.

But there are also potential costs or risks associated with cloud solutions. The UNCTAD report mentions costs of communications (to telecom operators/Internet service providers) and for migration and integration of new cloud services into companies’ existing business processes, reduced control over data and applications, data security and privacy concerns, risks of services being inaccessible to targeted users, and risks of “lock-in” with providers in uncompetitive cloud markets.

Policymakers should waste no time in exploring how the cloud computing trend may affect their economies and societies, UNCTAD recommends. Countries need to assess carefully how best to reap gains from this latest stage in the evolving information economy. In principle, UNCTAD sees no general case for government policy and regulation to discourage migration towards the cloud. Rather, governments should seek to create an enabling framework for firms and organizations that wish to migrate data and services to the cloud, so that they can do so easily and safely. But government policies should be based on a careful assessment of the pros and cons of cloud solutions, and should recognize the diversity of business models and services available. The report underlines that there are multiple ways of making use of cloud technology, including public, private or hybrid clouds, at national, regional and global levels. Source: UNCTAD

Customs' JBMS will ultimately provide the Trade Single Window, through which importers and exporters can deal directly with government agencies, and Customs  and MPI can more ­effectively manage risks for goods crossing the border (credit: FTD Supply Chain Magazine)

Customs’ JBMS will ultimately provide the Trade Single Window, through which importers and exporters can deal directly with government agencies, and Customs
and MPI can more ­effectively manage risks for goods crossing the border (credit: FTD Supply Chain Magazine)

The Joint Border Management System (JBMS) programme is a replacement information system that will meet New Zealand’s future border management needs. Comprising a set of integrated information technology products, owned and hosted by Customs and jointly operated with the MPI, it will give Customs, MPI and industry better information and risk-assessment tools to protect New Zealand’s society, trade and biosecurity.

“An agile, effective and efficient border management system is essential for protecting New Zealand from economic, social and environmental harm, for maintaining and improving our international competitiveness, and for collecting over $9 billion a year of government revenue,” says Customs deputy comptroller Robert Lake. “We need a system that keeps us secure, can handle increasing numbers of people, goods and craft, and meets trading partners’ expectations of integrated systems.”

The JBMS will ultimately provide a single electronic point of contact – the Trade Single Window (TSW) – through which the import and export industry can deal directly with government agencies for customs and biosecurity requirements, and Customs and MPI can more effectively manage risks for goods crossing the border.

Companies will be able to submit a single application to both Customs and MPI to lodge import declarations. It’s faster and more efficient. And they can do so directly, not through a third party like they do now.”

The key functions of the Single Window were to have been progressively available to industry from April 2013, however, Customs said it would take three months longer than it originally anticipated for importers and exporters to experience any benefits from the initial $75 million investment in a new Joint Border Management computer system, JBMS.  IBM had been due to deliver the first tranche of JBMS, which is a joint initiative between Customs and the Primary Industries Ministry, last month. Customs deputy comptroller Robert Lake said the agencies had decided to push back the launch and deliver the project in stages. Click here for more details.

Risk management

Customs has taken a phased approach to designing and building the JBMS programme to ensure secure information management and to enable Customs to manage the risks of turning on a major new IT system. “Each stage – or tranche – will be thoroughly tested with industry until it is performing as expected. Industry will be able to migrate over to the new system over time. Our current systems will remain in place until the new system is fully proven,” Mr Lake adds.

Tranche 1 has been funded by the government and has been underway since July 2011. Costs of the JBMS are shared with industry, and cost recovery charges will start from 1 July.

“From April, the system will support border agencies to use shared information to work collaboratively in analysing travellers and goods. This will allow border agencies to target risk more accurately and will therefore provide greater consistency and certainty in the end-to-end border clearance process for all goods,” Mr Lake says.

In the second tranche, Customs plans to fully replace all background systems, and add further enhancements and the remaining business functions to the TSW. The second tranche is subject to further government approval and funding.

Trade Single Window

The TSW is one of the major components of the JBMS and will enable parties involved in international trade and transport to submit the craft and cargo clearance data that is required by New Zealand’s border agencies electronically, once, through one entry point. They will also be able to register themselves as users of the TSW, and maintain their own details.

As part of the first tranche, the TSW will include registration (of customers and users), most lodgements (craft and cargo clearances, such as import and export entries, and cargo reports), status enquiries and response functions. In the second tranche, Customs and MPI will investigate options for providing further functions, including remaining lodgements, a reference library, information updates, transaction history and other payments. Customs and MPI are also working on a plan to join up MPI’s animal products and plant export certification systems to the TSW.

“The TSW is expected to deliver significant benefits to importers, exporters and others in the international trade supply chain,” Mr Lake says. “These will include improved coordination of processes and earlier certainty of border agency requirements when advance data is provided. Compliant traders will be able to get their goods through the border with greater speed, consistency and certainty. However, the potential benefits for industry will depend on how individual participants use the information from the TSW to make their supply chains more effective and efficient.” The JBMS is expected to deliver significant benefits to the import and export industry over the next 10–15 years. Source: www.ftdmag.co.nz

For further information also visit New Zealand Customs website – Joint Border Management System (JBMS)

 

WCO ICT Conference 2013 - Dubai

WCO ICT Conference 2013 – Dubai

The 2013 WCO IT Conference & Exhibition was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), from 14 to 16 May 2013 and co-hosted by Dubai Customs. The Conference theme, “Effective Solutions for Coordinated Border Management”, attracted over 1,000 participants from 93 countries and 56 Customs administrations, including 14 Directors General of Customs, other governmental agencies and the private sector, who were actively involved in sharing available information technologies, lessons learned from experience, and future visions.

The Conference was opened in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, showing strong support for the innovative approach towards Customs modernization. In his opening speech, His Highness, Lieutenant General, Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, welcomed the participants and stressed the importance of collaboration for effective, coordinated border management applying technology. Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya said that the contribution of Customs to economic competitiveness required better communication, cooperation, coordination and collaboration with other border agencies. In this connection, technology enabled coordinated border management, and the WCO had developed the Data Model with a standardized data set that met the requirements of border regulatory agencies. He also stressed the importance of partnership with the private sector in finding innovative solutions for IT applications, which was the objective of this Conference.

The participants enjoyed a series of panel sessions with high-level speakers from Customs, other governmental agencies, international organizations and the private sector, discussing various aspects of coordinated border management and effective solutions in applying technology. Dr. Anwar Mohammed Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, shared his country’s vision of trade facilitation through investment in infrastructure and technology, as well as consistent policy development, while honouring international obligations.

A very large number of service providers joined the Exhibition and Tech Talks to explain the latest innovations in information technology, and they listened to the needs of Customs and other border regulatory agencies in their efforts to work together to develop joint IT solutions. Source: WCO

 

Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, and Maria Palazzolo, Chief Executive Officer of GS1 Australia and GS1 Board Member, at the GS1 Global Forum 2013

Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General, and Maria Palazzolo, Chief Executive Officer of GS1 Australia and GS1 Board Member, at the GS1 Global Forum 2013

GS1 is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and implementation of global specifications to manage the supply chain, including product identification codes, barcodes and business-to-business standards for the exchange of accurate data. After longstanding cooperation at the technical level, the WCO concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with GS1 in 2007 to formalize cooperative ties.

At the invitation of GS1, the Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, spoke at the GS1 Global Forum 2013 in Brussels on 18 February 2013 where he highlighted the increasing cooperation between the two organizations. Recalling the evolution of Customs with a heightened focus on data management for assessing risks in the supply chain, the Secretary General underlined the importance for Customs to explore the possibility of making use of supply chain specifications that are available in the trade, such as codes and specifications developed by GS1.

He specifically referred to the new WCO Economic Competitiveness Package to explain how Customs contributes to enhancing national competitiveness by facilitating trade using a risk management approach. As this requires the application of information technology, data and message standards, and consignment identifiers, it is important to employ existing technologies and tools in the trade supply chain, through a partnership with business.

Sharing a common interest in supply chain management, including track and trace systems, both organizations have been cooperating in many areas in a complementary manner, as the WCO facilitates Customs-to-Customs and Customs-to- business data exchange while GS1 also facilitates business-to-business data exchange.

Areas of cooperation between the two organizations include the work at the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) and the International Standards Organization (ISO) on standardization and specifications for supply chain management, the work on the Unique Consignment Reference Number (UCR) and the use of GS1 data for Customs risk assessment purposes.

The most recent collaboration includes the addition of a barcode function to the Interface Public Members (IPM) – the WCO’s information tool to fight violations of intellectual property rights at borders. Secretary General Mikuriya urged GS1 members to leverage the collaboration with the WCO at the global level by getting in touch with their respective local Customs administrations. GS1 members appreciated his speech and pledged to explore and enhance cooperation with Customs administrations. Source: WCO

For more of the latest news and happenings at the WCO, please follow the news feed alongside (right).

The following article is very pertinent to any organisation or group considering cloud computing. Soft-marketing tends to delude would-be users into believing they will have full control over their data, and as such, is fully secure. Even in the international Customs and Border Management space there is lots of talk on this subject, yet very little substance. Unfortunately, organisations and individuals are slaves to the technology they use which fashions not only their work ethic but attitudes as well. It is no longer true that technology is a ‘tool’. More time and money is spent these days on technology choice than on training and education. In fact technology is so important it influences law-making and business operations, rendering human discretion obsolete in many instances. Therefore it is imperative that organisations involve business and legal experts in their systems development. 

The recent spate of hackings and electronic security breaches serves to highlight the endemic threat and associated cost of cyber crime. Globally, organisations are forced to reconsider their cyber security measures as cyber criminals become more audacious and technologically innovative. Crimes can take place in both the physical and the electronic medium, with the possibility of technology infrastructure being used as both a “subject” and an “object” of a crime.

The criminal justice system faces a number of challenges in the successful prosecution of cyber crimes. While the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act of 2002 does create a framework for criminalising cyber crimes, including hacking, it does not provide any concrete preventative measures to combat cyber crime. The technical and often remote nature of cyber crimes, including multi-jurisdictional issues where cyber criminals are operating abroad, often prevents prosecutors from being able to present viable cases and bring cyber criminals to book.

Fortunately, the South African government has acknowledged that more proactive measures are required to address the scourge of cyber crime. Cabinet has recently approved a National Cyber Security Policy published by the Department of Communication. The policy creates, among other things, a platform for the creation of a number of structures that would be responsible for analysing and responding to the threat of cyber crime with the ultimate objective of mitigating the effects of cyber crime in South Africa. The State Security Agency has been tasked with responsibility and accountability for the implementation of cyber security measures. It is hoped that this policy and the measures it intends to implement results in the prevalence of cyber crime in South Africa being effectively addressed and countered. Organisations should, in addition to any measures being taken by government, continue to carefully assess their cyber security measures proactively, including by implementing robust systems, particularly in instances where personal data is processed (which includes the collection, recording, transferring or storing of such personal information). The Protection of Personal Information Bill requires the implementation of “appropriate” security safeguards where an individual’s personal information is processed. What will be considered appropriate will need to be determined on a case by case basis and with reference to steps taken in foreign jurisdictions, which may provide guidance in interpreting this requirement.

On account of the fact that there is no way to precisely document the far reaching effects of cyber crime, individuals, organisations and government must ensure that a more cautious and prudent approach is adopted to manage security in any electronic environment. Source: SAPA

Officials at the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA) have made a turnaround on their earlier plan to compel IT companies to raise 20 million Br in capital if they are to be registered to supply devises for electronic cargo tracking. Troubled by an increasing practice of pilfering goods on the Addis Abeba to Djibouti transport corridor, the ERCA hired an US-based company for 2.5 million dollars to establish an electronic monitoring system. HI-G-TEK developed the system using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which will help customs officials get real-time information on the activities of trucks to and from Djibouti port. There are around 10,000 trucks with varying carrying capacities, of which half are fuel transporting vehicles. A trucking company has to pay around 20,000 Br, including installation fees, to get the devices in each truck under its fleet.

The US company has installed the system in the six selected stations along the corridor and trained around 30 officers of the Authority. However, the system is yet to be functional, for every truck on the highway should be fitted with electronic tracking devices to be supplied by IT vendors certified by the Authority. In order to be certified, a company is required to have 20 million Br in capital, produce a performance bond worth two million Birr, and have a five-year contract with major IT suppliers, according to the directive issued by the ERCA to regulate the new system. No vendor has been certified, yet, for many see the requirement to raise such lofty capital as an impediment. So far, GCS Tracking Plc, Global Tracking Plc, Ramsea Industrial Solution Plc, and FC Tracking are the companies that have applied to get into the business. The companies are to supply the seals, locks, and compact readers as well as GPRS modems to identify locations of the cargoes.

Subsequent to complaints from the IT industry, legal experts at the ERCA are busying themselves, studying the experiences of other countries, which they hope will be used for possible amendments. However, these experts are divided over the proposition to reduce by half the current capital requirement, while others argue that a performance bond is enough, according to sources. Surprised to hear about the amendment, Zelalem Dagna, managing director of Global Tracking Plc, sees the change as an appropriate move by the ERCA. However, he still claims that the requirement for a two million Birr performance bond should not be removed but be determined on a project basis.

Officials at the ERCA, which is enforcing the current requirements, however, declined to comment. The Authority is also negotiating with the Ministry of Transport (MoT), which is implementing a fleet management system that will also monitor and indicate the whereabouts of trucks, negotiating with the Authority to interface the two systems. Most of the devices used for both systems are the same, thus can run with a single subscriber identification module (SIM) card, transferring all data for the respective institution, according to an electrical engineer at the ERCA. He is concerned that failure to interface the systems would allow transport companies to jack up prices, which he fears would trickle down to the end user.

By all accounts it seems like the initiative was launched on impulse and a whim without prior consultation with stakeholders. Per usual it’s the consultants who have scored out of this. Source: Addis Fortune

Here’s some food for thought…

For the past few decades, emerging technologies such as biotechnology, microelectronics, information technology and communications technologies have become central to the socioeconomic development of nations. These technologies improve productivity and facilitate better living standards when they penetrate into societies. Among them, information technology (IT) has become the most dominant; IT has revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives, public and private, by connecting individuals, institutions and governments in mutually dependent ways. With its ease of adoption, this interdependence has scaled rapidly, unlike any other technology in modern history. In Africa, for example, despite decades of using electricity, no one can claim that the continent has fully adopted it. The same applies to the aerospace and biochemical industries, among others.

IT is good for developing countries — it empowers people and improves their lives. But, in many African countries, the successes afforded by IT can backfire if it becomes a too-dominant focus. Take Nigeria for example: Despite decades of crude oil exploration, it cannot claim that it has developed indigenous domain expertise in that industry. If the MNCs depart, Nigeria will cease to remain an oil-producing nation, as it lacks the local ability to explore, extract and sustain production. But in the IT industry, most Nigerian firms are well-positioned for any challenge.

The success of IT in Africa has reached a level where it is being dangerously over-emphasized. From The World Bank to The African Union, everyone is talking about IT. IT events are very common everywhere, not to mention the Google, Microsoft, and Blackberry platform-based competitions that are being endlessly unleashed as these brands jockey for position on the continent. The Nigerian government has created a new ministry to focus solely on IT and related areas. And African leaders are neglecting most non-IT technologies. Across most African universities, the only funded and active labs are the IT labs. University administrators are happy to tout how they equipped IT labs, though everything else is broken. Agricultural engineering students are more focused on IT than on learning to build next-generation farm machinery. It’s a troubling pattern, as everyone wants to be seen as IT-savvy.

While IT can be applied to any field, the way Africa is promoting it sets a dangerous precedent. In my continent, “information technology” has become synonymous with “technology” itself. If you don’t know IT, you’re not a techie. You can master diesel engines and polymer technology, but without expertise in IT, few believe that you belong in the technology sector.

So, what’s the danger? Everyone wants to be an IT guy. No one remembers that we still need food. At the University of Nairobi, I recently asked a group of agricultural science students about their plans upon graduation. Only one wanted to stay in agriculture; others are making apps for farmers. Yes, they know more about mobile operating systems and mobile payments than they do about farming! The farms are now IT labs. And while you can simulate farming on tablets, you can’t eat the virtual fruit.

Pick up a typical newspaper on the continent, and you’ll find that the technology column has been changed to an IT column. Newspapers write about Google, Blackberry, Facebook and Apple in the technology section, but non-IT companies — though they’re technology firms — are rarely reported on. Tech journalism is now IT journalism. Even the governments have confused technology policy with IT policy.

I firmly believe that IT has helped Africa, and that it has a role to play as the continent advances. But, there needs to be a balance. The continent needs techies in mining, geology, semiconductors, agriculture, chemicals, and other areas besides IT, and government must ensure that IT does not create a situation that will destroy the continent’s capacity to feed her citizens and compete in the future. Source: Harvard Business Review