Time to open-source ASYCUDA and CTS? (by IBM's Stewart Jeacocke)

Stewart Jeacocke is the Customs Leader from the IBM Center of Competence. He's promoting what is likely the best idea yet for the future of ASYCUDA and the WCO's CTS.

His blog can be accessed here.

And has been copied below for quick reference. 

Stewart Jeacocke:  "Time to open-source ASYCUDA and CTS?"

Chris Thibedeau (TTEK) has posted an interesting blog post covering how some IGOs have become IT solution providers rather than standards providers. 

I agree with some but not all of the points raised by Chris. It is clear that the WCO (with CTS) and UNCTAD (with ASYCUDA) have become IT solution providers for customs authorities. Whether they should or shouldn't have done this is a moot point; the key question is what to do now.

I suggest that the best outcome is that the applications which they have developed be made publicly available under an open source license. Open source is a well proven and successful software development approach (over 75% of the Web runs on software developed in this way).

The WCO and UNCTAD could continue to operate in the way they currently do and the new open source license arrangements would bring the following benefits to users of the applications: 

  • Increased transparency. Everyone could see how these applications are put together and understand how best to use them and integrate them with other aspects of their operations.
  • Increased choice. A healthy ecosystem of organisations (both IGOs and commercial) would develop around the applications to provide value added software and services (such as a robust application support and maintenance service for ASYCUDA or a machine learning algorithm for CTS targeting rules)
  • Increased innovation. Open source development provides a way for governments, IGOs and commercial organisations to collaborate effectively which will increase innovation. By contributing changes back to the open source code-base all organisations can benefit from the work done to enhance the application
  • Confidentiality maintained where necessary. There may be small parts of the code-base for these applications where it is necessary to maintain confidentiality in order to protect their effectiveness. Any built in targeting rules that come with CTS might be a good example. Whilst the majority of the application would benefit from being open-sourced these parts could be separated and only be licensed to trusted parties under similar agreements to those that exist today.