• 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:

  • on May 29th, 2012 in Strategy & Public Policy | 1 comment
    When online, how do you know who you’re really communicating with? Does that affect your shopping or banking habits? Do you know people who don’t use the Internet much because they are afraid of identity theft? The latest statistics from a Pew Research Center study demonstrate the pull of the Internet: •80 percent of Americans are users, whether through personal computer, tablet, or smartphone; •many of those users do not conduct any kind of commerce; •30 percent have not made a purchase online; •and 40 percent do not bank online. Would a more secure approach to online identity raise those figures? The Office of Inspector General’s new paper Digital Identity: Opportunities for the Postal Service examines the world of digital identity as well as many existing digital authentication solutions, including pilot projects, and potential roles for the Postal Service in the digital identity ecosystem. The paper posits that there is a need for a trusted and neutral body to identify, authenticate, and certify users in a straightforward manner that reduces sign-up friction and maintains privacy with very clear, concise, and enforceable policy guidelines. The Postal Service, given its national presence, physical infrastructure, and history of protecting privacy, could operate in a number of roles: •As a Trusted Third Party Online – The Postal Service could verify individual or business addresses (with permission from each user) for other organizations to facilitate eCommerce or other online transactions. •As an Identity Provider – The Postal Service could offer its own digital identity service, an opt-in service verifying attributes of consumers, businesses and organizations. •Providing in-Person Verification Services – The Postal Service could expand the work it already does for passports and offer in-person verification of mailing addresses through its network of post offices and postal carriers. What do you think? Is there a role for the Postal Service in digital identity? Share your thoughts below!
  • on Oct 11th, 2010 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 7 comments
    PostalOne!® is a web-based system designed to facilitate business mail processing and allows the Postal Service to electronically collaborate with business mail customers. It is also used to streamline the mail acceptance and postage payment process. Mailers can either submit a paper postage statement (a summary of items mailed showing postage) or use one of three electronic formats. •Mail.dat® •Mail.XML •Postal Statement Wizard (PSW). Mailers may qualify for Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) discounts when they submit postage statements electronically using Mail.dat or Mail.XML. The Mail.XML submission method supports near real time validation of mailing data as well as compatibility with current ecommerce technology. Mailers can also enter mailing information, such as type and quantity of items mailed into the PostalOne! system over the Internet using Postal Statement Wizard. Both Mail.dat and Mail.XML submissions have increased in recent years. In June 2010, over half of all postage statements were submitted electronically, and of those, 89% were submitted using Mail.dat. That’s a sharp contrast from the beginning of the fiscal year, when 78% of business mail postage statements were submitted in hardcopy format. While electronic postage statement processing is a promising tool for making the Postal Service more efficient, it still faces issues: Does the cost of mailer software development and upgrade offset IMb discounts? Are rejected electronic postage statement files processed timely? Does it help the Postal Service to collect all its revenue? What do you think of businesses submitting and postal employees accepting business mail postage statements electronically? Is electronic postage statement submission a boon or a bust? More information on this project can be found on our Audit Projects page. This topic is hosted by the OIG's Cost, Revenue & Rates audit team.