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Reimagining customs and border management in a digital world

Border agencies must collaborate and take advantage of digital technologies to manage the security threats of increasing travel and trade.


For those who secure and facilitate our borders, it is not such a small world. Estimates show passenger numbers are expected to double, reaching 7.3 billion by 2034, and freight will quadruple by 2030—placing a considerable strain on government resources, and posing new threats to national security.

Booming populations, like the one in Africa—projected to double to 2.4 billion by 2050—mean that the likely net number of international migrations to Western countries will be about 98 million by 2050.

Such an interconnected world demands that we rethink of how borders and customs agencies operate. Integration is fundamental to any change. Three essential elements can help to deliver integrated border management.


Governments can adopt a number of different models to manage the border and process more travelers and freight, without increasing staff or footprint. Progress has been made, but there are still many instances where border organizations have specific domains of responsibility, reporting, information access and budget. This silo’ed approach forces each agency to compete for its own existence—making attempts to collaborate and achieve shared outcomes more difficult, more costly and less likely to succeed.


When border management agencies combine compatible systems, policies and procedures with stronger relationships between various public service agencies (police, customs and immigration, and agriculture) they can share information efficiently related to contraband, health, security, counter terrorism and crime.

But, to meet the demands of an expanding world, border agencies must:

  • Invest now

  • Collaborate more fully

  • Make the most of the information available to them


Three, essential elements can help to deliver integrated border management:

  • Having a clear mandate and resources. Seek out senior-level support to set a clear mandate, and unlock the right information and resources to proceed.

  • Being ready to collaborate. Working together, border and wider public safety agencies can increase security and drive up levels of citizens' satisfaction.

  • Being digital champions. Closer targeting of people or cargo, coupled with public information, results in intelligence that can be shared in real time to authorized individuals.