When approaching the issue of operational governance in a land port, the vital first step is to understand the context. This is an environment where multiple government agencies are involved in managing port operations, owning several different authorities and controlling several different areas.
It’s a recipe for complexity. But what all these agencies have in common is that they participate in the same overarching process around goods and people crossing the land border, whether coming in or going out.
Also, in a wider context, governments must continue to pursue operational resiliency while enabling economic recovery. To support this agenda, CIOs of border agencies need to innovate, leveraging emerging technologies, data, analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize what they do today – and also accelerate their ongoing transformation to meet the needs of a digital society into the future.
Scoping out the dual challenge
So, what’s the key challenge at the border? To visualise it, think for a moment about the "ideal" border experience when importing goods. You meet the border guards, you go through passport control, and you pass through customs. If you’re importing foodstuffs you’ll probably deal with the national Food and Drug Authority. If it’s electronic devices, it’ll be the specific authority in charge of certificating compliance with local regulations and standards.
If all these contact points are aligned and working smoothly, you’ll have a seamless experience. But the bottom line – especially in regions such as the Middle East, where governments have created multiple agencies to help accelerate change – is that this apparently simply process might involve interactions with 13 or more government bodies, depending on the use case and where you're crossing the border.
And this is where a two-fold challenge arises. First, multiple government agencies usually results in multiple information systems, all dealing with the same process at different stages. So at certain points in time, these agencies and their systems need to communicate with each other. This raises the challenge of achieving integration between them, ensuring that there’s flawless sharing of data.
Second, there’s a challenge related to the key performance indicators (KPIs) used to monitor and measure the entire process end-to-end. The process of crossing the border might appear relatively simple. But when you dive deeper and look at the multiple authorities – with every single authority regarding itself as the source of truth – then there’s a clear need to come up with a broad KPI dashboard or operational performance framework to show whether targets are being achieved, and to provide the foundation of trust between all the stakeholders.
The need for a trusted dashboard and national targeting
Clarity on operational performance is all the more important where governments are setting ever more testing national targets for border throughput and turnaround times. This might mean starting, for example, with a commitment to a maximum 24-hour period from offloading at the port to exiting, and then tightening this turnaround time aggressively to 10 hours and below. This type of target can only be met credibly through having a trusted dashboard that proves a single, shared version of the truth, enabling all participants to see the results and identify the key points to address.
Efforts to create this kind of dashboard can sometimes run into resistance from the government agencies involved, generally because of differences around the technology and issues with the regulatory framework. The outcomes can be stalled pilots and distrust between agencies. To help overcome these issues, more and more agencies around the world are now experimenting with the use of multiparty systems (MPS) to bring greater efficiency, transparency, accountability and confidence to their transactions and processes. The technologies that can enable the pivot to MPS include blockchain, distributed ledger, distributed database and other similar technologies.
For example, blockchain creates records that no participant can change or falsify, thereby building trust in the data, while also providing the basis for a clear end-to-end view of the process without any single authority owning all the data. The huge potential of MPS is highlighted in Accenture’s recently-published Federal Government Technology Vision 2021 , and explored in detail in the fifth trend that we call out – From Me to We.