Customs prepares next phase of IT overhaul

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Customs prepares next phase of IT overhaul

Needs new systems to deal with crime, growing travel volumes.

Australian Customs and Border Protection is preparing to begin the implementation phase of its massive IT transformation, and will soon ask industry how best to start modernising and transforming its systems to deal with organised crime and an ever-growing influx of data.

The agency will hold industry briefings in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney across three days in late October on how best to utilise industry expertise and knowledge when conducting its implementation phase. 

It engaged technology services firm Accenture to assist with earlier planning and design phases. 

Customs still needs to submit a second pass business case to the government for funding of the project. 

The internal IT overhaul is one of a handful of pillars in the agency’s Blueprint for Reform, released earlier this year, which aims to modernise systems to deal with “ongoing and rapid increases in the volume of travel and trade”. 

The blueprint also outlines steps to reduce the agency’s vulnerability to corruption and infiltration by criminal interests, including through cyber crime.

It highlights the need for monitoring of changes in the digital environment; a focus on big data, information sharing and upgrading systems to cope with the growing influx of information; and streamlining core systems to reduce complexity and focus on cyber security.

In a program of work until 2017, Customs plans to consolidate and standardise its IT systems to eliminate redundancies and merge procurement of products and services. As part of that approach, it will focus on IT and cyber security to better protect it against threat of organised crime. 

The agency plans to build out its intelligence capability by collecting, managing, exploiting, storing and sharing information and intelligence, which will link with field technologies and field intelligence collected by officers, in order to to deal with criminal threats and illegal drug and firearm importation.

“Information from our officers in the field, who will be using real-time mobile technology, will feed into our intelligence pool,” the blueprint states.

“This change is critical if we are to fully exploit our information holdings to identify and defeat terrorists and organised crime networks, and defend against the illicit importation of drugs and firearms.”

Customs will also build out internal systems and supporting infrastructure to address the need to handle big data. As part of that program of work it will enhance the systems that support information sharing with other government agencies. 

“The service’s IT systems will need to be able to handle the large volume of information within our own holdings, as well as those of other agencies and industry partners we share information with,” the blueprint states.

“A wide variety of information will need to be accessed and manipulated in near real-time to ensure its effective use, while complying with legislative and privacy controls. 

“To do this, we will need expert information and technical officers capable of managing the complexities of this data, as well as highly skilled intelligence officers to analyse this information.”

Customs plans to connect its systems with the private sector to improve its ability to “share classified information with trusted partners”.

Additionally, it will monitor technologies like 3D printing in order to stay on top of criminals who take advantage of such technologies to circumvent import controls on restricted goods, and investigate tools for advanced facial recognition and wearable technologies. 

In July the agency’s CIO and CTO outlined to iTnews their plan to soon allow Australians travelling internationally to bypass the usual checks and forms when exiting a terminal using online and mobile technology, as well as use facial recognition to pinpoint suspicious arrivals.

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