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).

Comments (14)

  • anon

    Yes, I think that the Postal Service has a role in the digital age. I think I'll use these applications. In my opinion it is very important to use it in work. Good article, thanks.

    Jan 28, 2012
  • anon

    These are all good ideas. I've been pitching them for three years. People before me have pitched them as far back as 1981 when USPS invented e-mail but was blocked from entering the business commercially. If you want to see what USPS is capable of, let the company operate like a real company and give it some flexibility to decide products and services on their own as well as prices. We have the integrity to help small and medium businesses succeed and be an enabler and not a monopoly in every opportunity. Have regulatory oversight but limit what the PRC can do. Right now, our hands are tied. We have plenty of good ideas on the table but no authority or approval to execute them. Let us calculate our own risks. We're the nation's second largest company. I think we could be trusted to make smart decisions.

    Jun 22, 2011
  • anon

    I would like to know why in Chicago if there are new opening for employment,for clerk, mailhandler, etc and u have already pass the postal test why do u have to take it again. If there are opening in these areas why not pull people who already pass the test so they can be hired. It doesn't make since to take the same test again when u have people in line waiting for these jobs and u are telling them they must take the test all over again because the is something new. So what hire US, we been on the waiting list two years or more now because it something new we have to take the test again and that's fair. Can somebody look into this.

    Jun 08, 2011
  • anon

    I don't think that the USPS could ever successfully implement an e-mail system. Why would people pay to send e-mails when they could send them for free at Hotmail or Yahoo etc. Adopting advertising would corrupt the integrity of the USPS because now citizen's security would be compromised. The USPS would be under the mercy of its commercial supporters, and not the consumers. There is also a large degree of distrust between the American people and its government right now. Corruption, lies, cover-ups. Every law enforcement body, without warrant or merit, would be accessing and reading people's mail secretly and without notice. As such is the climate in America today.People aren't afraid because of them breaking any laws, but because they're being publicly ostracized for their non-conformist thinking and views. Because there exists a possibility, that a non-identifiable person with access could use private information to black mail citizens, steal ideas, or marketable concepts. Because they could and it would be hard to prove. How will you protect citizens from ID theft? Have them scan birth certificates, Driver's licenses, or Social Security Cards? Now you just created an online target filled with those sensitive documents for theives. What if ID thieves create these accounts using stolen credentials before the actual citizens sign up for them? How will a citizen then be able to lay claim to that name and address? Months of paperwork and expensive court litigation to prove you're Jhon Smith and should have that mail address. Because I assume it won't be long before the credit bureaus have unprecidented access to these databases of citizens in order to cut down on Identity theft and this will make the accounts both necessary and a target. I consider it a severe security risk. Credit Bureaus are the number one biggest leakers of personal information. Anyone can get a report on anyone. Now they have access to whatever documents or security tokens you will require in order to sign up and use your e-mail system. That information clerk making minimum wage at Experian can now secretly sell that to whoever they choose. And the USPS doesn't have any control over it. Sure I'm speculating. But if its possible, its a problem. Because that means someone will try and take advantage of the system down the road and many people will suffer for it.

    May 18, 2011
  • anon

    I do see a need for "electronic cash." Online businesses that offer "prepaid cards" wouldn't be doing so if the costs of making and distributing the cards wasn't cheaper than Visa/MasterCard processing fees. To me, it seems they need an alternative so badly that they're willing to pay for and implement one themselves. And I do see an opportunity for the USPS to leverage having a storefront in every town to be able to push this. But I'm personally not sure the USPS could pull it off. I still remember the quiet death of Pay@Delivery.

    May 13, 2011
  • anon

    I believe NIST, National Institute Standards and Technology, another federal agency, would be an excellent resource and great partner for the development of eMAILBOX --- which I think should be one of the core strategies for the Postal Service to carry out its Universal Mail Service obligation moving forward. Has anyone from the Postal Service or your office reached out to with Have any one from your office? If not, perhaps you could recommend that the USPS should at least explore that option with best of the best technology and information security experts rather than put the idea on a backburner as "defensive" strategy.

    May 10, 2011
  • anon

    This proposal assumes the public wants a govt email address tied to their physical address - WRONG! This proposal assumes all have access to computers & skills needed for emailing - WRONG! This proposal refers to serving "unbanked" members of the public - these people don't have a bank account, it is also likely that they also are not computer literate! Bad idea & reeks of "big brother". The proposal isn't UNIVERSAL SERVICE, it is elite service to those who have computers & computer skills. What about the poor, the elderly, those who aren't tech savvy?

    May 10, 2011
  • anon

    USPS cannot expect to even stay in business if they do not improve their delivery and customer service. I have had numerous packages lost and/or delayed in delivery. Some of the mail carriers/package delivers are functionally illiterate and incompetent. They are unable to read the names and information on an address label or get their work done appropriately. USPS needs to really step it up when it comes to delivering the product. If not, they will surely go out of business. The digital question is MOOT in my opinion, until the work staff is efficient and competent.

    May 06, 2011
  • anon

    I feel like not enough marketing is going to the core clients/business customers of the USPS and if the USPS would market these areas then the market for business and shipping would grow. The USPS has to take the in your face approach when it comes to training their city carriers on how to "sell" their products to their customers and must train their staff in how to address and communicate these options for the customers they communicate with.

    Apr 28, 2011
  • anon

    What are you people thinking? Dude, we move physical mail. Keep it at that. Don't sell stuffed bunnies, chocolate bars, or try to be an internet service. The USPS OIG needs to go catch crooks. We will always be needed as long as we don't screw it up! That's it. Back to basics. Keep it simple. Guy Nohrenberg

    Apr 21, 2011
  • anon

    Great! More things we can't afford to do that won't make enough money to cover the jobs that it creates for people to make spreadsheets to send to post offices to show how bad they are NOT making their goals--show middle managers can be further harrassed about MORE things. Can we just get rid of the things that don't work already? What is the purpose of EXFC measurement and paying testers to drop mail if offices are required to transport a 44 cent letter hundreds of miles "just in case" it "might be" a test letter? Why pay for VOE surveys if managers fear retribution for low scores and the scores do nothing to change the work environment? The s#!@ always runs down hill. Any new program you implement, someone will make it appear as if it is the greatest ever, but at what cost?

    Apr 24, 2011
  • anon

    How can the usps look to the future when they are shackled to such inefficient procedures in the present? For instance, how much money does the usps waste each year printing zero cost labels and receipts for pre-paid international priority packages? While I applaud the effort to make sure people are paying the proper postage, its utterly stupid to burn 2 $0.00 cost postage labels and a foot long receipt to justify the clerks time doing the work the customer already did. Until the USPS learns how to escape the present the future is nothing more than a pipe dream.

    Apr 20, 2011
  • anon

    “The most significant hurdle to further eCommerce growth is online payment. Fearing identity theft, consumers are reluctant to share personal financial information on the web.” I proposed using the 7-11 Japan model, oh eleven years ago in an ideas program... I hope this gets more interest now, due to the revenue shortfalls...

    Apr 20, 2011
  • anon

    Since the beginning of industrialization there has been the post office. Few decades later, then came the telephone. Before that there was Wire services with ITT. Seems like yesterday, when I was a young professional. Even then with the urshering of the digital age, I wondered why the Post Office and ITT did not lead this age with ATT. Since, it is an unstated view that the Federal Government with the Army and private support from inventors and states, seems to me like you would have taken your money upfront and ran like the fastest Olympian with all that cash you could be hauling. You see, everybody with an eye or two that can see, and a ear or two that can hear would make the normal leap of faith that you just merely had to state your sponsorship of the Internet with FCC and the electronics industry you could be hauling maybe up to one third of all disposable dollars. Dispite what the smartest lawyers would do, you need the special kind; the attorney to get your loot stuffing everybody's pocket right about now. Think about it. The ach is a wire transfer or whatever.... never mind do not get into this debate. Just bill them in the form of a lawsuit. Each and every internet carrier or whomever has taken an unlawful slice of the pie. Now, I pay my bills electronically; but for two hundred even three hundred years I paid my bills via the mail. Note, everybody even left you a calling card. Get em for infringement on the post office. Make up your own e-mail software, and clock the stuff like it was your only form of income. Meter the stuff, add some do-dads, make a pretty little screen, and I meet you at the cash register with all the loot I know I have been squandering waiting for you guys to get the stuff in gear. The internet is major commerce. I must have spent at least 500 a year for years just fooling around on Ebay. Enforce those no-compete contracts, give UPS the boot where you can, and get your dough upfront. (Note: To impressionable people - do not use my tone or vernacular and take it slow do your research and shot to kill (pink slip, demotions, the whole gamut is ready to be taken down it could fall within 48 hours if you do it right; oh yeah- you'll need your own home grown product just link your software to the mail - whatever (now I'm getting into something I never thought about, you figure it out) any nay-sayers right up front: stonewall take no prisoners until you get your income tell congress how much loot the bad guys took over 30 years and look forelorn, I've got my money right here waiting for you to come to your senses and demand your money.) Now, I do not speak in these terms even vaugely as a real person. When I use this diction it is to spot light that if you do not get your income corrected, then it's the kind of body that will walk around unfortunately with your income, unearned, and unjustified. So, now I have many mail boxes, I just want one; the one with your Trademark on it. I do not want anybody to touch my stuff, and I want to pay you to keep it for me. Then, I want you to do your studies and tell me how much the service costs. Then I want all my stuff, that you say I can, under your email identifier for all kinds of wonder full statistics and studies. I want all the federal protections you got on my E-mail, and for you to monitor thieves with those protections. I want you to have my stuff, with or without my knowledge to prosecute any and all illegal activities in-state, interstate, and foreign. But,I want Federal protection on my name and the other contents unless it can be used to show whatever where eve; These are the terms. And, best of all I want you to charge stamp fees when I send messages for business intent, e.g. to pay a bill, to send money, to buy stuff on the internet. You (USPS) and the Federal Government will probably have enough money left over to fully fund "Feeding America" a favorite charity of mine and pay retiree benefits. What are you waiting for, only money grubbers not from the USA/Canada will jump you. Heh, heh, you should do this for all those stock transactions for individuals also; everybody needs to pay into this one. You could replace Verizon's email client and leave all that other stuff alone, for instance, phone products, and get it rolling. Grab AOL and few others, and all the trollers will stop spending money that is not theirs. That should stop all those damn virus people flat on their kisters. You'll save the country and need Congress and States to buy in. But, uh, if you can, send a bill that shoyuld get everybody in the mood, if they think someone has their money like they took it from the treasury it does. Oh, yikes, I forgot to tell you my nickname "Troubles" not as in "Bubbles".

    Apr 19, 2011

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