Entities to leverage technology to improve border security
People wait outside the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency in Kingston. (File photo)<br>

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Government entities charged with protecting the country's borders are looking to make greater use of high-level technology in carrying out their operations.

At a recent conference on 'Leveraging Technology for Effective Border Security', held at the National Police College in St Catherine, entities such as the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA), Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), also committed to a multi-agency approach to improving the country's national security.

Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at PICA, Andrew Wynter, says providing the agencies responsible for border security with improved technology will save the country millions of dollars and reduce human error or corruption.

He says that PICA is incorporating more high-tech devices in its day-to-day operations, and cites the Automated Immigration Kiosks as the most recent technological improvements at the agency.

The kiosks utilise sophisticated biometric checks to facilitate faster and secure processing of passengers.

“The use of these automated kiosks at our airports and the wider incorporation of facial recognition technology are now being fully integrated into our border control system,” Wynter points out.

He notes that the agency is fully in support of an integrated agency approach to border security and is in conversation with JCA to cement such a move.

“Having one system with designated codes to each agency…this technology will allow us to track any illegitimate and unlawful activities or persons that can expose our borders to threats,” he points out.

He says that working together will aid in minimising breaches and increase accountability and help agencies to better manage risks and threats.

“We have to recognise the benefits of a protected border. We are living in a heavily technologically driven world, and that means it will be difficult to use manual systems to track or prevent criminals from penetrating our borders,” he points out.

The acting CEO notes that the kiosks enable PICA to update their database and have information ready to disseminate to the police where there are unusual and suspicious travel patterns.

For her part, commanding officer at the JDF Coast Guard, Commander Antonette Wemyss-Gorman, says agencies must work together to fill the gaps that expose the country to illegal trading of guns and other activities.

She says there is no one technology that will give a wholesale solution and strongly recommends several forms of machinery and tools with a flow of information to get the desired results.

She notes that maritime operations aided by technology, can go a far way in reducing the flow of guns, drugs and contraband into the country.

“You don't want to be intercepting the threat when it is on your doorstep because by then it will be too late… you want to detect the criminals before they become a threat to our waters, and the introduction of new technology will do this,” she declares.

The commander explains that the threats come in various forms, including illegal fishing, unsanctioned movement of persons and goods through ports, immigrants entering without proper documentation, smuggling of guns, drugs, and human trafficking.

She adds that because the space is much larger than the resources to secure it, technology and a collaborative approach will improve the monitoring and detection capabilities of border-security entities.

Deputy CEO in charge of Border Protection at the JCA, Alwyn Nicely, says investments in Information Communications Technology (ICT) and the development of technology-driven business processes, are not only making agencies more efficient in the services they deliver, but are creating new levels of transparency.

He says that agencies operating as a web will make it more difficult for corrupt individuals to breach the country's border-control systems.

He made reference to initiatives like the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) that is being used by the JCA as an example of technology that is improving border security and, ultimately, national security.

ASYCUDA is a computerised customs management system that covers most foreign-trade procedures. The system handles manifests and customs declarations, accounting procedures, and transit and suspense procedures. It can also be configured to suit the national characteristics of individual Customs departments.

“Customs Jamaica has always been automated. However, we have always been operating in a silo manner. This ASYCUDA system is bringing everything under one simple umbrella and it's working beautifully,” Nicely explains.

“Jamaica's ports of entry handle millions of individuals each year and tons of goods carried by persons or shipped as cargo. There is no way that these movements can be effectively monitored and managed, from a security perspective, without the use of this type of technology,” he points out.

Nicely notes further that through the IBM i2 Analyze's intelligence analysis, the agency is able to “track the travel history of someone over a period of time, and I can use this system to track a person's or container operator's travel history. Any unusual trend means I alert the police”.

The IBM i2 Analyze facilitates information-sharing and intelligence-production with the flexibility of both web-based and rich desktop clients. It accelerates analysis of large volumes of data through an extensible, service-oriented environment, designed to integrate into your existing enterprise infrastructure, and simplify database connectivity.

The deputy CEO says i2 Analyze supports operational investigation and improves situational awareness by providing faster, more informed decision-making across and inside of organisations.

“This helps us to makes smarter, more informed decisions with a repository that provides a centralised, aggregated view of information from disparate sources. This is technology working out the data and showing us a pattern to catch the criminals. We can even share the info with the police before any move is made,” he points out.

He says with such a system, information-sharing can take place among agencies such as PICA, JCA and even Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited (KFTL), leading to increased organisational efficiency and effectiveness.

Executive Director of the National Security Policy Coordination Unit (NSPCU) in the Cabinet Office, and organiser of the NSPCU conference, Jacinth Byles, says there was a consensus among the participants to build systems and operations, with the technological infrastructure to prevent breaches of the nation's borders.

Byles further adds that the agencies made a verbal commitment to implement devices and tools that would increase the use of technology in all aspects of national security in an effort to build a safer Jamaica.

There was also a call to implement a central database, as well as a control centre, to facilitate seamless information-sharing based on the various operations and protocols of each agency.

Other agencies that took part in the conference included Ministry of Health, KFTL, Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Maritime Institute of Jamaica (MIJ) and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).

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