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Creating Smart Connectivity with UN/CEFACT

Trade and transport physical flows of goods are moving more and more towards the use of electronic data exchange to replace the paper flow of information. Electronic messages are being proposed from all sides often, independently from each other, developed within a bubble of their individual process. But information flows need to be exchanged across multiple sectors and stages of the supply chain.

The United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) under the UNECE has been developing eBusiness standards for over thirty years. The well-established UN/EDIFACT messages are widely used today in many sectors. Certain messages like the vessel container reports replace up to 2000 sheets of paper per vessel. The benefits of paperless have been well established with faster communications, less human errors, reusability of data, cost savings, etc.

Standardizing paper documents into electronic formats is not very difficult and with the advent of the eXtensible Mark-up Language (XML) twenty years ago, any company can easily create its own electronic messages to replace paper. But how do these communicate with others? They are often done in isolation, concentrating only on the individual document and related processes. Other actors on the supply chain upstream or downstream likewise have worked to dematerialize their processes, but again this is often within an isolated bubble. At each stage of the transaction from producer to consumer, the relative information is reinterpreted and translated to fit each stakeholder’s process. This is further accentuated with actors in different nations using different logics. What is needed is a global approach.

UN/CEFACT proposes such a global approach and offers widely-accepted solutions based on clear semantics to create smart connectivity across the global supply chain. It has developed an encyclopedia of individual data elements representing all of the possible business terms in an international transaction across the supply chain and has ensured clear links between these terms from one activity to the next in order to ensure interoperability. With over 800 experts from all corners of the globe, from both the private and public sectors, working together to make robust semantic standards, UN/CEFACT has a wealth of deliverables to cover all electronic trade transaction needs.

These will be at the center of discussions at the 33rd UN/CEFACT Forum in Geneva from 1 to 5 April 2019. The Forum will debate in particular progress on: blockchain; the Internet of Things; eIdentity; eInvoicing; ensuring better quality data from its source with data pipeline communication; sectoral-specific Reference Data Models; traceability of agriculture products; textile products and transport, etc.

The Forum will also host three conferences on the following topics:


It will run parallel to the UNCTAD eCommerce week.

For an overview of the Forum, please visit: http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/cefact/cf_forums/2019_Geneva/WeeklySchedule.pdf