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Unveiling the WCO DM Version 4.0.0

17 October 2023

The WCO has just released Version 4.0.0 of the WCO Data Model (WCO DM v4). A compilation of clearly structured, harmonized, standardized and reusable sets of data definitions and electronic messages to meet the operational and legal requirements of cross-border regulatory agencies, the WCO DM is a critical tool, enabling IT systems’ interoperability, enhancing data quality and promoting the adoption of a data culture within Customs administrations.

One of the standout features of WCO DM v4 is the introduction of the WCO DM App, a free, interactive web-based application that allows users to easily view, search, and compare data elements in the WCO DM, without needing to navigate multiple platforms. The WCO DM App has significantly improved the WCO DM publication, which was previously available only in spreadsheet format. The app includes access to user-friendly guidance materials in wiki format to help users with the necessary know-how to drastically reduce the time required to perform key implementation tasks such as data mappings.

In order to simplify its architecture, the components of the WCO DM are organized into small building blocks called information packages (IP). Each information package is a subset of the WCO DM and is relevant to a specific context. The WCO DM App includes a WCO DM mapping tool that allows WCO DM users to map their national dataset to the WCO DM. The mapping tool helps translate the national dataset into a My Information Package (MyIP) which describes how the WCO DM is implemented at the national level. The MyIP indicates the level of conformity of the national dataset to the WCO DM.

Version 4 also improves the quality of the WCO DM by resolving data redundancies and inconsistencies. It enhances the clarity of data definitions and eliminates ambiguity. Simplified structures and building blocks are also provided, making the WCO DM more user-friendly and easier to understand and implement.

There have been technological developments in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems, with software platforms communicating with each other’s systems using API, a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing web-based software applications. API transactions use data-serialization formats for information, such as JSON, which provides a light data interchange format that is easily readable by machines, as well as by humans. Its main feature is that it has been devised to support very large volumes of information. The lingua franca for everything API is named OpenAPI, an initiative which aims to provide a new way to describe electronic services in an agnostic form of the programming language or of the technology supporting such services. It offers the possibility to build services which are technologically independent from one another but which remain compatible and interoperable.

WCO DM v4 enables users to harness the latest electronic message formats and exchange protocols with the support of the JSON message format and OpenAPI. It includes a set of Guidelines on JSON and on OpenAPI, respectively, providing a basic set of rules for developers to implement the WCO DM using the two data exchange formats and message protocols.

In addition, the WCO DM App has been equipped with functionality to generate syntax documents from a MyIP. The supported syntax documents include an OpenAPI document, JSON example message, XML example message, XML Schema and XML Schema dataset. The WCO DM App syntax generation capability makes MyIP an essential component of the steps to be taken by Customs administrations which are considering the adoption of the WCO DM (the steps have been described in an article published in March 2022 in this magazine).

The WCO DM reaffirms its role as the key tool in Customs modernization and digitalization initiatives by providing several new features and enhancements with the release of version 4. In addition, the WCO DM provides flexibility to existing users by allowing them to migrate to the latest release when they are ready. Version 4 provides the ability to quickly identify changes from a previous version to help users consider if they have a need to migrate. Existing users should only migrate to v4 if they determine there is a technical or business need.

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