Most modernisation programmes on revenue administration include the adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) to integrate traditional manual customs and tax processes and procedures into a unifi ed automated information system (UAIS). This requires a holistic and integrated ICT master plan to guide the revenue administration’s strategic investment and usage of ICT. The ICT master plan should be developed within the broader context of the customs and tax reform and modernisation master plan. Experiences in the Republic of Korea and Singapore show that having an ICT master plan is crucial. The ICT master plan aims to defi ne the directions of revenue administration through UAIS (Universal Automatic Identifi cation System), and subsequently address the gap between the current situation and the desired state, based on a comprehensive assessment and a diagnostic study of the current situation.
The components of an ICT master plan broadly include the (i) UAIS architectural design, (ii) legal framework, (iii) security, (iv) implementation strategy, (v) maintenance plan, and (vi) other elements.
UAIS architecture: The ICT master plan should describe clearly the overall proposed UAIS architecture, with detailed functional and technical specifi cation of key modules of customs and tax regimes, and how automation will benefit the revenue administration and trade community.
Legal framework: The master plan should address issues such as the legality of electronic data, elimination of paper documents, and manual signatures and stamps. It should also assess current legislation pertaining to acceptance of electronic data, & propose changes, if needed.
Security: The master plan should ensure that (i) data sent across and stored in the system are protected, (ii) users are authenticated, (iii) data confi dentiality and integrity are preserved, and (iv) non-repudiation is achieved.
Implementation strategy. An implementation plan should include (i) phased implementation that will prioritize functions that get implemented fi rst and why, (ii) change management that will identify whose and what concerns have to be addressed fi rst; (iii) interim measures to achieve the full plan; and (iv) proposed timetable or scheduled targets.
Maintenance plan: Systems are implemented and left to use and deteriorate in some cases without support, upgrade, and enhancement to meet business environment changes. To prevent this, a maintenance plan should be in place for (i) hardware maintenance by making available parts and back-up equipment; and (ii) software with vendor support to fi x bugs/resolve problems, helpdesk/call center support,scalability, support for system software upgrades such as a new version of the database or operating system.
Other elements: Depending on the situation and sensitivity of the systems, a business continuity plan or disaster recovery plan may have to be included to address full data duplication, and the timeframe within which the system must be recovered in degraded or full operational mode.
Promoting ICT master planning through regional cooperation: Currently, the Asian Development Bank is supporting customs master planning of the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan in line with the implementation of the regional customs modernization and infrastructure development project; and jointly with the Government of Republic of Korea, the development of an ICT master plan for Mongolia customs in support of a trade facilitation and customs modernization project to be fi nanced by ADB.
Singapore’s experience: An example of ICT master planning. Singapore’s track record in harnessing ICT, particularly, TradeNet and E-Customs Management, resulted to signifi cant improvements in the (i) effi ciency of customs inspection and risk management procedures, (ii) turnaround time for processing trade documentation, and (iii) approval of applications submitted by shippers and freight forwarders.
Singapore has deployed an automated immigration clearance system using smart cards and biometrics at key immigration and customs checkpoints. Recently, the Government has commissioned the development and operation of TradeXchange, the next-generation ICT platform for trade and logistics to facilitate information exchange among commercial entities and government agencies that will enable more effi cient movement of goods within, and in and out of Singapore.
The success of Singapore’s ICT master planning and e-trade and customs initiatives is attributed to a strong partnership among government agencies, private industry, academia, research institutes, community groups, and civic and voluntary organisations. Each player will contribute toward developing the initial concept of the ICT master plan and refining the strategies and plans.