• on May 2nd, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 2 comments
    President Obama’s State of the Union address in January included the announcement of the National Wireless Initiative, which would expand wireless broadband coverage to 98 percent of the population within 5 years. With that large percentage of the population on the verge of being wired, could such a network be leveraged by the U.S. Postal Service to modernize its obligation to deliver mail to every household in America? The initiative provides financial incentives for private industry to expand wireless broadband infrastructure. The incentives are necessary because building a nationwide, interconnected communications network is cost prohibitive in some areas of the country. Once constructed, though, this network will be used by government agencies for a number of purposes including coordinating emergency response and communicating important information directly with citizens. The Postal Service must provide universal service to every address in the United States under the Universal Service Obligation (USO). The USO requires that Americans have ready access to postal products and services through postal carriers, collection boxes and post offices. It also requires the Postal Service to deliver the mail to every street address, six days a week. Perhaps the Postal Service could connect every physical address with a secure e-mail address. Other countries offer similar services, such as Finland’s NetPosti, which is a digital alternative to the physical mailbox. Every citizen gets an account and an e-mail address tied to his or her social security number. Postal customers could opt to use hybrid mail and have their letters and flats scanned and delivered to the customer’s secure postal e-mail box instead of to a physical mailbox. The Postal Service could also print and deliver the letters from a sender’s e-mail box to a recipient’s physical address if so desired by the sender. A number of private sector companies have made limited attempts at providing such a service in the United States, such as Zoombox, but none of them have the resources or infrastructure at the Postal Service’s disposal to offer reliable hybrid mail service to a national audience. Let us know what you think. Should the Postal Service explore the realities of implementing this service in the near future and use the internet to help meet its universal service obligation? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
  • on Apr 19th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 14 comments
    Although the digital option has grown as a channel for Americans to communicate, purchase, and store personal information, there are drawbacks that leave a significant portion of the population underserved. To meet the population’s needs and “bind the nation together” in a digital world, the Postal Service must modernize its role. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center has completed Part 2 of a series on the Postal Service’s role in the digital age. Building on the first white paper which explored the facts and trends impacting communications, The Postal Service Role in the Digital Age – Part 2: Expanding the Postal Platform, presents a strategic positioning framed by three guiding principles: •Promoting solutions for the communications problems of the digital age •Using the core competencies and assets of the Postal Service •Considering the policy implications of the strategy based on the current legal and regulatory environment Using an “eMailbox” that links a physical address to an electronic mailbox for every citizen and business, the Postal Service could build a digital platform that supports communications and commerce for postal, governmental, and commercial applications. The paper provides six additional initial applications for consideration, including: •An eGovernment application that promotes the expansion of government services throughout the postal platform and uses the eMailbox to send and receive secure and official communication with federal agencies. •Tools for identity validation, privacy protection, and transaction security that allow users to verify the individuals and businesses they are communicating with, the safety of their personal information, and security of their purchases and financial transactions. •Hybrid and reverse hybrid mail that allow senders and receivers to convert digital documents to physical and physical documents to digital. •Enhancing services for the shipping and delivery of secure online purchases through flexible pick-up and delivery options, expanded payment choices, and a cost calculation that includes all charges and fees for purchases (even international) at the time of sale. •Digital concierge services that use the eMailbox to integrate an individual’s physical and digital communications in a single place. These services act as a type of secure “lock box” and help manage the “information overflow,” providing quick access to important communications and other personal documents (such as medical records and wills). •Develop a network to buy and redeem cash and digital currency at Post Office™ locations and online. To learn more about the strategy and specific areas the Postal Service should consider, click here to read the paper. Do you think the Postal Service has a role in the digital age? Would you use any of these applications? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).