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Two people standing in front of shipping containers.

Global merchandise trade volumes declined by 14.3 percent in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the previous period as COVID-19 containment measures affected economies around the world according to WTO data released on September 23, 2020.

Microsoft has produced a white paper on data collaboration to enable fair, safe trade through intelligent connected Trade Windows and how technology can promote trade facilitation globally.

Customs authorities have a leading role in managing the pandemic

Modernizing and transforming customs agencies through new technologies will give them the resilience to come back to economic growth and development. One of the most pressing issues revealed by COVID-19 is the need for better connectivity and collaboration across borders. Data has the greatest potential for impact when it is shared for the purpose of collaboration—with a focus on its usability.

Increasing transparency by sharing information on trade measures introduced in response to COVID-19—and making that information publicly available—can help ensure that essential goods can quickly reach those most in need, such as less-developed and land-locked countries. Taking advantage of this turning point to adopt recent technologies such as AI, IoT, Blockchain, and Big Data will transform and streamline customs procedures and contribute to reviving countries’ economies through trade.

A single trade window has the potential to help customs authorities facilitate legal trade, protect citizens and the environment, and ensure regulatory compliance. Data flowing through the single trade window and across government can identify both growth opportunities and risks. Customs authorities’ use of that single window also would provide material for policymakers drafting new legislation. Microsoft can help achieve this vision of “intelligent connected trade windows.”

Some of the key benefits of the intelligent connected trade window include:

  • Trade and business improvements
    • Supporting organizations of all sizes to grow trade
    • Driving value creation, GDP growth
    • Attracting new investments and up-lift of own nation
  • Productivity improvements
    • Process automation and efficiencies
    • Higher predictability via high-quality real time data
    • Premium services
  • Trusted ecosystem
    • Upskilling of the trade ecosystem
    • Transparency within the ecosystem
    • Less intrusive inspections and more information sharing

Intelligent collaboration with Microsoft’s innovative cloud platform

Governments and customs administrations realize that increasing demand for free and secure trade—in particular, an e-commerce environment—requires data standardization. Information needs to be viewed and analyzed from a national and international perspective as well as between data providers and data consumers. When trade transactions extend over multiple countries, the agent or trader completing the customs forms might have only partial information about the underlying transaction, logistics, and earlier or subsequent transactions.

To support the evolution of trade in a digital environment, Microsoft is focusing on innovation, integration, and interoperability. The investments we are making will ensure long-term innovation and build trust by supporting data sharing, data privacy, and data veracity and transparency. Microsoft Cloud interoperability and Open Standards enable seamless operations among connected trade windows. Moreover, the portability of workloads between platforms is vital if customs and ports authorities are to realize the benefits of agile, elastic infrastructure. Microsoft is invested in making this a reality in the complex trade environment.

Microsoft provides state-of-the-art data privacy, security, and governance solutions such as Azure Data Share and Azure Purview. These solutions support data sharing to and from Azure and other platforms. They also support Blockchain technology to address specific business needs involving trust, AI for distributed collaboration, and Safe Havens. In early October, Microsoft researchers Andrew Baumann (@1andrewb), Marcus Peinado, and Galen Hunt (@igalenhunt) unveiled a groundbreaking new system called Haven that could allow users to run existing software and data in the cloud with equivalent trust in the privacy and integrity of the data as if it were on-site or in a secure co-location facility.

All this brings users one step closer to a true ‘’utility computing’’ model for the cloud. In this model, the utility provides resources (processor cores, storage, and networking) but has no access to user data. Through a large and ever-expanding network of datacenters around the globe, Microsoft offers global data residency. In fact, Azure allows customers to choose from more than 60 regions linked by one of the largest interconnected networks on the planet, with more than 150 datacenters and growing.

Trust is a key ingredient in data-sharing initiatives. Azure Confidential Computing allows data to be combined for uses such as AI while retaining confidentiality. Microsoft also shares cyber threat intelligence data, such as the open-source data available on COVID-19 related cyber threats to further bolster cybersecurity. And while the data divide is not inevitable, the economic, societal governance advantages that safer data sharing can bring will be unlocked through collaboration across stakeholders and regions.

The path forward

The opportunities to use data are greatest when the data is shared and useable. That impact can be maximized through active collaboration between organizations. We encourage the public and private sectors to lead by example. They will have more impact through data-sharing initiatives when there is a collaboration among all actors. For example, the use of differential privacy highlights the growing range of technical methods available to enable data sharing while ensuring strict protection of privacy. Azure Confidential Computing allows data to be combined for uses like AI while retaining confidentiality.

The transformation of interconnected single trade windows can generate strong value, particularly in accelerating economic growth, attracting investments, enabling cooperation and complementary trade, and creating more jobs while providing a fairer distribution of resources.

To learn more about Microsoft vision on Intelligent Connected Trade Windows we invite you to read our white paper. Also, to learn more about Microsoft Public Finance solutions, visit our website.