• on Jan 30th, 2012 in Strategy & Public Policy | 2 comments
    As America was expanding in the 1780s, the founding fathers realized that open access to secure and private communication among its dispersed citizens was critical to forming political groups and holding free elections without fear of retribution. The U.S. Constitution empowered Congress “to establish post offices and post roads,” the most common form of telecommunication (communication over a distance) in 1789. The founding fathers provided the necessary infrastructure to “bind” the growing nation together through communication and commerce. Thereby, the Post Office Department (now the U. S. Postal Service) was born.

    In the late 1800s, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case involving conflicting interest between two electric telegraph companies, stated a broad interpretation of Congress’ constitutional postal powers:

    “…The powers thus granted are not confined to the instrumentalities of commerce, or the postal service known or in use when the Constitution was adopted, but they keep pace with the progress of the country, and adapt themselves to the new developments of time and circumstances. They extend from the horse with its rider to the stage coach, from the sailing vessel to the steamboat, from the coach and the steamboat to the railroad, and from the railroad to the telegraph, as these new agencies are successively brought into use to meet the demands of increasing population and wealth.” (PENSACOLA TEL. CO. V. WESTERN UNION TEL. CO., 96 U. S. 1 (1877))

    The Postal Service has modernized many times over, moving well beyond manually sorting letters and delivery mail via horse-riders. Today, however, people, government, and businesses are transitioning to using the Internet to communicate, because of lower cost and nearly instant delivery. Yet, the Internet lacks privacy and security in digital communications and transactions. In addition, Internet access is too expensive or merely unavailable for many elderly or poor citizens. While free markets excel at many things, enforcing privacy and security or providing access to disadvantaged groups have not been among the core responsibilities of the market. In America, these have historically been the duties of its representative government.

    America’s requirements for a secure national communications system have evolved since the Constitution was drafted, but the fundamental need for such a system seems to remain. Does America need secure universal digital postal services as much today as it needed traditional mail in the past? What do you think?

    This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.

  • on Jan 23rd, 2012 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 7 comments

    A leading book on business strategy and innovation claims, “through innovation, business organizations can change the world.”

    A 2010 study on global postal innovation by Capgemini states “there is a general tendency among all postal operators to diversify by investments outside their core business (mail, parcel),” especially into the logistics and financial services areas. Among European operators, Poste Italiane, Swiss Post, Deutsche Post DHL (Germany), and Austrian Post, in particular, have increased their share of non-core business.

    Poste Italiane introduced the Postepay prepaid card at the end of 2003. Over 5.6 million customers in Italy have used this reloadable card, which allows them to make purchases and withdraw cash from ATMs. There is a one-time fee of €5 ($6.44) for opening the account and adding funds to the card or withdrawing money costs €1 ($1.29) at an Italian Poste.

    A number of other posts have made their own innovative marks. Canada Post in partnership with BackCheck, now offers ID verification at their locations. Post Denmark, working with financial partners, signed almost 3.5 million users for its eBoks digital mail service, almost 2/3 of the population. Austrian Post operates a banking network called PSK BANK, which has trained financial advisors at every postal branch and offers services including:

    • Free bank accounts.
    • High-yield insurance products such as retirement planning products.
    • Eastern European stocks.

    Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

    This blog is hosted by the Information Systems directorate.
  • on Jan 16th, 2012 in Delivery & Collection | 21 comments

    City and rural carriers deliver and pick up mail, including letters and packages. In addition, they are familiar figures who care about the people they serve, often helping in dramatic ways while making their rounds in neighborhoods 6 days a week. The U.S. Postal Service has many examples of carriers sending for help when senior citizens fail to collect their mail, alerting residents of fires, aiding accident victims, and even stopping burglaries.

    But what else can carriers do? Could they provide additional services because, after all, carriers and their vehicles are present 6 days a week in every neighborhood in the U.S.? Each potential service opportunity for carriers should be evaluated by three criteria: the investment required, the risk assumed, and the potential benefits that could be achieved. So, what are some other responsibilities that carriers can take on while delivering the mail that would result in a positive return on the Postal Service’s investment?

    How about:
    • Meter Reading.
    • Gathering data on road and weather conditions in metropolitan areas by placing Global Positioning System (GPS) devices in carrier vehicles.
    • Collecting Census Data.
    • Updating mapping components in metropolitan areas (new addresses, etc.).
    • Delivering other items besides mail. Right now, the Postal Service offers last mile delivery service to UPS and FedEx. Who else can benefit from this service?

    What do you think about carriers handling non-postal related tasks? Do you think the Postal Service should provide additional services that can be handled by carriers? In addition to the services listed what would you suggest? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

    This blog is hosted by the OIG's Delivery Directorate.

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