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Customs solutions to drive innovation: The time is now

Learn how customs agencies can create a culture of innovation to manage and facilitate legitimate trade in digital goods and services.


The abundance of digital goods and services, the increased speed of their consumption and the rapid growth of e-commerce are reinventing how people live and work. Alongside, this has created new threats and risks for customs agencies. Today, digital is a prime channel for pirating products, laundering money and undermining domestic industries.

Traditionally focused on physical borders, how can the customs industry reinvent itself for digital commerce? Customs agencies need to make policy, process and technology changes to address digital’s disruptive impact on national and fiscal security. Most importantly, they need to create a culture of innovation to manage and facilitate the legitimate trade in digital goods and services while addressing the challenge of revenue leakage and noncompliance.


The business of Customs is changing. Nations must get better at managing trade to increase their wealth and competitiveness. Adding to this complexity is the evolving nature of digitalization. Digital goods and services can traverse the globe, without documentation, risk assessment or inspection. Today’s digital citizens are spending more time online, and they expect government to deliver accessible, reliable services 24/7. Innovation is the only way for customs agencies to get ahead of the changes.

The good news for government is that technologies that can be leveraged for customs innovation are reaching maturity.


Becoming an innovative customs agency of the future is no longer just a goal—it is an imperative. Three areas of innovation that can shape the customs agency of the future are:

  • Connectivity enabled by new technologies—offering connectivity with traders and other government agencies, across borders and internally among the workforce

  • A competency-driven staffing approach—shifting from a process-centric staffing model to a competency-driven workforce structure

  • Intelligent operations—transform traditional, procedure-driven operating models

Customs agencies must build innovation into everything they do, from implementing new customs solutions, products, processes and policies, to transforming frontline services. The right blend of modernization and innovation, combined with agile business practices, can shape a strong future for customs agencies.