GCIA-2021 : Global Customs Innovation Award on Data Quality

PEN-CP invites Customs Administrations from all over the world to share their innovations for tackling problems linked to data quality. The most impressive solutions and most promising ideas will win the trophy Global Customs Innovation Award (GCIA-2021).

  • GCIA-2021 Track #1 — Best proven solution in customs & data quality
  • GCIA-2021 Track #2 — Best solution idea in customs & data quality


Background and context

 Data is not only the number one currency of the information age, but also the main commodity of digital customs. To take advantage of digitalization, modern customs administrations have transformed into data- driven organizations that rely on timely and accurate information on cross-border traffic: goods, economic operators, modes of transport, trade lanes, and so forth. In the process, data quality has become a critical success factor of customs operations worldwide. Even so, customs experts sometimes suffer from the low quality of data which cannot be fully utilized at present for the purpose of risk management or other customs operations. Common problems relate for example to input mistakes by declarants, vague descriptions, incorrect HS codes, missing sender information, and the overall reliability of the data.


The PEN-CP Global Customs Innovation Award (GCIA-2021) invites customs from around the world to share the outcomes of their innovation projects and initiatives that have resulted in improved quality of data used by customs. The projects shall showcase new principles, techniques, tools, and cooperative arrangements that improve data quality across one or more dimensions:

  • Accuracy — Is data correct and how well does it represent reality?
  • Completeness — Does a dataset include all critical data elements?
  • Granularity — Does data provide detailed enough information?
  • Timeliness — Is data available when it is needed?
  • Standardization — Is data in a standardized format?
  • Comparability — Can data be used with other information to support decision-making?
  • Variety — How many distinct sources are available?

The contest for the Global Customs Innovation Award welcomes actions and ideas from customs that demonstrate innovative approaches to data quality. The contest has two tracks: one for tested solutions and other for novel ideas. Both tracks focus on data quality innovation: implementation of a new technology, cost-efficient capture of high-quality data, connectivity to (additional) high-quality data sources, and methods for reliable cross-validation across datasets, to name a few examples. The innovations can be linked to any type of traffic (import, export, transit), mode of transport, or origin of data (for example declaration data or data external to customs).

The plan is that the winning submissions will be followed up by one or more other PEN-CP Innovation Instruments, like hackathons, challenge competitions, prototype grants, etc. We also aim to offer large- scale visibility to the winning submissions, via social media posts, web-conferences, journal articles etc.


GCIA-2021 Track #1 — Best proven solution in customs & data quality

 The first track is about past actions and projects that customs have already completed. Competition entries shall describe what data quality issue was addressed, what improvements were made, and what results and benefits were achieved in the end.

For example, a past action could demonstrate how customs has implemented a blockchain technology to increase the accountability of data. As another example, a solution could be a piece of software that scrapes information from e-commerce websites for valuation and goods identification purposes (for instance, data on prices, weights, or countries-of-origin of specific products).


GCIA-2021 Track #2 — Best solution idea in customs & data quality

 The second track focuses on original ideas for improving data quality in the future. In this track, the competition entries do not need to be technically detailed, as the novelty and expected impacts of the ideas matter most. Future-oriented, ambitious out-of-the-box ideas are welcome here!

A solution idea can be, for example, a new way of ranking data sources by the quality of data they feed to customs. Alternatively, a solution idea could be about incentives for encouraging traders to supply data to customs in a standardized and comparable format.


Examples of topical data quality themes of customs interest

 Here are some examples of topical data quality themes:

  • Monitoring of data quality. Customs can prevent deterioration of data feeds through systematic quality control. What customs can do is to cross-validate data that can be found in multiple sources and to conduct physical checks to spot inconsistencies between goods and the associated data. Data suppliers could be rated by the quality of data they
  • Adoption of recognized standards. Internationally recognized standards offer a common basis for data management in the customs domain. The more customs follow standards like the WCO Data Model and EU Customs Data Model, the easier it is for data suppliers to provide services that meet the needs of many customs administrations. Common rules for data formats also tackle the problems of data validity and
  • Cooperation with data suppliers. Customs will find that many data suppliers are keen to improve the quality of their data assets together with customs. In a typical setting, customs would experiment with a dataset and then give feedback to the supplier how the datasets could be made more suitable for customs
  • Increased accountability. Companies and individuals are more inclined to provide quality data if they are held responsible for it. To increase accountability of data suppliers, customs can carry out compliance checks and impose contractual penalties on those who supply poor data. A key for accountability is the understanding of how different data elements are generated and where they come


Specific objectives and motivation for the GCIA-2021 action

 In the frame of PEN-CP being ‘a Novel Customs Innovation Boosting Network and On-line Platform, offering Valuable Innovation Intermediary Services’, the GCIA-2021 has the following four objectives:

  • To identify, share and learn from promising innovations and solution ideas in the broad context of data quality in
  • To create new types of ‘innovation pipelines’ or ‘upscaling of innovations’, where raw ideas born with Innovation Award submissions are taken further with other types of instruments (e.g. challenge competitions), in a step-by-step manner, towards fully operational solutions and
  • To introduce and promote new thinking and novel approaches for increasingly innovative Customs administrations in the
  • And, during this process, to have a bit of fun,


Facts and guidance

 Who can participate? Customs administrations and customs officers across the globe. You are free to choose if the submissions are in the name of an individual officer, team/ unit, or full administration; just please comply with the rules of your administration, thanks.

  • Schedule: GCIA-2021 submissions can be made between 1 February and 31 July
  • How to participate? As the first step, send an “GCIA-2021 - Expression of Interest” email to pen-cp-arttic@eurtd.com and to pen-cp@cross-border.org (please include both email addresses). Detailed instructions on the submission protocol, including URL-link to the “PEN-CP online-platform for submissions”, will follow soon after you send the first email to
  • Format for describing the solutions (track-1) and the ideas (track-2): Aim for maximum one-page summary (in word file); technical details, illustrative diagrams etc. can be added as annexes (no page limit on annexes)
  • Languages: English or French
  • Evaluation process: The submissions will be evaluated and ranked by three experts from the PEN-CP consortium and two experts from the WCO (= a five-person expert team).
  • Scoring criteria: Originality and realized or expected
  • Award: Recognition, global publicity and invitation to influence the follow-up innovation upscaling
  • Additional prizes: The winners of both tracks will receive five units of PEN-CP coffee break kits; plus, PEN-CP will make a small financial donation to a national or local charity of winner’s choice (in full compliance with the national regulations, of course).
  • Disclaimer: PEN-CP project and it’s customs innovation activities are owned and administered by the PEN-CP consortium. The project has obtained administrative cooperation by the WCO for the specific purpose of improving the GCIA-2021 evaluation process.

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