• on Feb 25th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 18 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service is a key player in a year-long trial of a unique public-private partnership effort that would let citizens securely and voluntarily sign up for online services at multiple agencies using a number of different digital identities. The user would then use whichever password and identity is most convenient – whether the identities are issued by the government or a private company – to log in across multiple government agencies. As the most trusted government agency, and with a 200-year history of security and privacy in delivering mail, the Administration tapped the Postal Service to manage the technology behind the Federal Cloud Credentialing Exchange (FCCX) pilot project. The Postal Service would be taking on a digital version of its role in the physical world, delivering sealed packets of identity data securely between government agencies and identity providers. Press reports on the pilot project suggest that if it is successful, people might one day be able to change an address online by logging into the Postal Service website with the same passcode or smart card that they use to file taxes with the IRS and buy books on Amazon. But to start, the Postal Service is expected to begin working with suppliers to try the service on test customers, ID providers, and government offices. The FCCX will not store any personal data and will be designed to prevent agency personnel and other participants from tracking citizens’ activity across agencies. This effort represents the Postal Service’s first move into supporting federal e-government services, a move it is well-positioned to make. It also could serve as a template for providing other online services that promote security, privacy, and certification. Recent reports of hacking by foreign entities into the data centers of major news organizations and corporations have again reminded consumers of how vulnerable their online data can be. While many of us prefer the convenience of online bill paying, shopping, and communicating, concerns are growing about the threat this poses to privacy and security. How can the Postal Service transfer its trusted role in the physical world to a role in facilitating commerce and e-government services in the digital world? What opportunities might the Postal Service have in providing solutions to these online security and privacy concerns?

  • on Jan 28th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 18 comments

    With a large network of facilities and post offices, and yet mail volumes in decline, the U.S. Postal Service finds itself with a good deal of unused capacity. The dynamics over closing and consolidating facilities has raised the question of whether there are other uses for them. Further, the Postal Service could still own the facilities even after it closes or consolidates operations. Rather than sit empty, could the Postal Service use some of that capacity in non-traditional ways to generate additional revenue? One idea, if the law allowed, would be for the Postal Service to provide self-storage services at unused processing facilities. It could also provide safe-deposit boxes at under-used post offices. Self-storage allows users to rent storage space in the form of rooms, lockers or containers on a monthly or annual basis. Safety deposit boxes might be a miniaturized version of self-storage units, where the user could store especially valuable goods or papers in a secure and fire-safe box. These types of services would require little additional overhead or labor hours, although additional security personnel might be needed. Current law limits the Postal Service’s ability to offer services that are considered non-postal and in the past, some industries have resisted Postal Service’s efforts to enter into new business opportunities. However, as the Postal Service faces ongoing financial challenges and continued resistance to consolidation plans, is it time to consider new ways to use its infrastructure? Should the Postal Service be allowed to use its facilities to offer non-traditional services, like self-storage units and safety-deposit boxes? What offerings would you like to see? Do we need to rethink the infrastructure or simply allow the Postal Service to consolidate to match resources to workload?

  • on Jan 21st, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 4 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service can play unique and positive roles in the expansion of the peer-to-peer marketplace, as suggested in a new OIG white paper, Peer-to-Peer Commerce and the Role of the Postal Service. American consumers are familiar with peer-to-peer (P2P) digital commerce and increasingly comfortable buying and selling that way. Millions of people place offerings and shop on eBay, Craigslist, etsy, and other sites every day. In recent years, the P2P segment has grown beyond these traditional product sites and now includes services from which users can rent a vacation room in someone’s house, lend or borrow a private car, or even hire someone locally for small jobs, such as baking cookies for a child’s classroom party or assembling modular furniture. However, there are a number of problems in current P2P commerce that may prevent wider adoption by the American public. Market participants face the challenges of balancing convenience with privacy and the potential for economic or physical harm. Some of these issues can be addressed through enhanced digital identity and authentication services, but there are other opportunities, which the paper presents. The paper describes P2P digital commerce and challenges and gaps in the current marketplace, including several types of fraud and threats to personal property and physical safety. It then identifies Postal Service products and services that exist today or might be developed in the future to facilitate market expansion. Current postal ancillary and special services, both physical and digital, are well suited to the P2P market. These include insurance, Registered Mail, Certified Mail, Collect on Delivery (COD), Track and Trace, Return Receipt and Return Receipt for Merchandise, Restricted Delivery, and other services. Please share your comments on this concept as well as observations on your own P2P experiences, if any, below. Do you believe a trusted intermediary such as the Postal Service could help in this segment? Please give us your comments below:

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