• on Feb 24th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 5 comments
    [dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] H [/dropcap]ow has the digital age changed your life? Do you still shop in a store or buy online? Get the newspaper delivered or have an online subscription? Read hard copy books or use an e-reader? If you chose the digital options, you are not alone. You may be a digital native, one of those who are most comfortable working in a digital environment. The Internet and the digital economy are fundamentally changing communications, transportation, and commerce. This “digital revolution,” in combination with the great recession of 2008 to 2009 has affected postal operators all over the world causing a steep decline in the volumes of personal, business, and advertising mail. This shift from the physical will only accelerate as digital natives become more prominent in the workforce. In a white paper released today, the Office of Inspector General analyzed the changing digital landscape as the first in a series of papers on the Postal Service role in the digital age; here is a sample of the key trends: 1.There is a progressive shift from the physical to the digital by business, government, and consumers. 2.Control has shifted from the sender to the receiver. 3.The Internet has evolved from mass broadcast media to personalized conversations. 4.Explosive growth of mobile devices increases consumption of content “on the go”. 5.E-commerce is growing rapidly but has not reached its full potential. 6.Mobile commerce is positioned to grow significantly in the U.S. market. 7.Digital technologies have facilitated global commerce. Though there has been a rapid shift of communications and commerce from the physical world to the digital, there are shortcomings and fundamental gaps that prevent all U.S. consumers from migrating into the digital world. They include: •The Internet and all of its functionality is not available to all citizens to reap its economic benefits. There is a lengthening tail of digital refugees, which will only increase as the digital revolution progresses; •There is a potential threat to the principle of “network neutrality,” nondiscrimination in access to communications networks; •There is still a lack of an adequate level of privacy, confidentiality, dependability, and security in digital communications and transactions as desired by citizens, with the potential of involuntary profiling of consumers; •The digital infrastructure has limitations in connectivity and bandwidth, provided by companies that could go out of business at any time; •There are inadequate personal information management tools to effectively deal with the increasing volume of electronic communications and applications; •There is still insufficient availability of affordable digital currency and secure and convenient financial tools to transact online; and •There are limits of choice, even withdrawal of the physical option as companies push consumers into digital-only communications. Given the Postal Service’s role as a trusted intermediary in the physical world, what role do you believe it should take in digital world, if any? Give your comments below. To learn more, click here to read the paper. [retweet] This topic is hosted by the [tooltip text="The Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC) conducts research on economic, business, and policy issues related to the Postal Service. RARC's staff includes experts in economics, operations research, and data analysis."] OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC). [/tooltip]
  • on Feb 7th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 3 comments
    [dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] I [/dropcap]n recent years, a growing number of people have chosen to avoid crowded shopping malls by doing their holiday shopping online. To a certain extent, online shopping reduces their carbon footprint by keeping these individuals from driving to and from the store. However, their packages still have to be delivered. What if postal customers could choose to have carbon neutral delivery for an extra fee? In 2009, Itella, Finland’s postal service, introduced a program where customers could pay extra for carbon neutral delivery, adding the “Itella Green” marking to letters for less than a penny or parcels for around five cents. Itella achieved carbon neutrality through a combination of energy efficient delivery vehicles by funding reputable, environmentally-friendly projects. While Itella’s plans include increasing carbon efficiency in all three phases of the package delivery process: sorting, transportation, and delivery, the greatest carbon efficiency gains currently come from their shift to electric or fuel efficient delivery vehicles. On February 1 Itella made the cost of carbon neutrality a standard part of all postage, making it the first country to offer completely carbon neutral delivery. That way, when a customer uses Itella to send a letter, package, or direct mail, they know they are getting zero net emissions. Through their efforts, Itella has made carbon neutral delivery, a key element in developing a “green” reputation and an advantage in competitive areas like package delivery. Is offering carbon neutral delivery as a separate, specialized service that customers can purchase an idea worth exploring for the Postal Service? The Postal Service is already in the process of converting its delivery fleet to cleaner electric vehicles, making carbon neutrality easier to achieve in the coming years. Moreover, does it make sense to give consumers a choice in terms of the environmental friendliness of their mail delivery? Sources: Hellmail Itella This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Nov 2nd, 2010 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 7 comments
    In a world where speed is everything, a new product is becoming popular that takes it s-l-o-w. It’s called Future Mail. In China, several companies are offering to deliver mail as slowly as you want, — even weeks, months, or years into the future. No time machine necessary! Some customers are using Future Mail to send letters to their future selves, others use it to be sure their anniversary, birthday, or holiday greetings will arrive exactly on time. Future Mail customers simply fill out, address their cards, letters, or packages, and specify the date they want them delivered. These new companies will make it happen. One can even purchase gifts and flowers to be sent in the future. When signing up for the service, customers are assessed a fee depending on how long the company has to hold on to the deliverables. Customers must also provide current contact information, in case their item is undeliverable in the future. Once the letter or package is handed over, the company tucks it away in a safe place until the date selected comes around. Though some customers have concerns about what happens to their packages if the companies fail, the service continues to catch on. This unique service may prove to be a new revenue stream for the U.S. Postal Service. Do you think there will be a market for Future Mail here? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

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