Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The United States Postal-Online Ordering-eMailbox-Bank Service?

In a case of unfortunate timing, a bold and creative plan for the future of the U.S. Postal Service in an increasingly digital age was released today.

The agency is in a unique position to provide electronic mailboxes, take the fear out of online transactions, facilitate international commerce, and help the “unbanked,” the USPS Office of Inspector General report says.

“The Postal Service Role in the Digital Age: Expanding the Postal Platform” says USPS’s size, level of trust, and experience running a national address system would make it a welcome participant in a variety of Web-based activities. That's because the online world "has a fragility, a susceptibility to viruses and interruptions in service.”


The Postal Service’s RIBBS (Rapid Information Bulletin Board System) was infected by Blackhole Exploit malware two weeks ago and has been mostly unusable since then. The attack resulted in searchers and visitors getting such warnings as Google’s “This site may harm your computer” notice.

Worse, Blackhole Exploit can steal confidential data from an infected site's visitors, according to Zscaler.

“It's alarming . . . that a page belonging to a big-time institution like the USPS could be used as a vector for this sort of attack,” wrote Neil J. Rubenking of PCMag.

Still, the OIG report contains many interesting ideas for the Postal Service’s future, though it does not attempt any profitability or cost-benefit analyses. Here are some highlights:
  • “Using a foundation that links a physical address to an electronic mail box for every citizen and business, the Postal Service can build a digital platform that facilitates communications and commerce for postal, governmental, and commercial applications that are available to all.” USPS could offer “hybrid and reverse hybrid mail that allow senders and receivers to convert digital documents to physical, and physical documents to digital.” That idea might not sit well with companies like Zumbox and Pitney Bowes that already market electronic mailboxes.
  • “A growing proportion of U.S. citizens are unbanked, including working families, new immigrants, unemployed, homeless, or noncreditworthy individuals. The Postal Service would use its identification verification skills, as it does with passport applications, to facilitate authenticated cash or prepaid debit card disbursements from state and federal agencies to these individuals at local Post Offices.”
  • “Most U.S. websites do not accept orders for delivery to international addresses or payment by foreign credit card. Fewer offer efficient and cost-effective solutions for 'fully landed' or true cost pricing, which includes paid duty, taxes, customs fees, insurance, and residential delivery charges.”
  • “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.”
  • Citizens could use an “eMailbox” for secure communications with federal agencies and to store such personal documents as wills and medical records.“This could be paired with physical kiosks (connected to government department call centers) at Post Offices where needed."


Anonymous said...

A good idea shouldn't be killed just because USPS cannot arguably implement it. if anything, we should hold them accountable to good execution. The Postal Service should assign existing talents or hire new ones to implement this initiative. if it cannot do that, then we have a bigger problem at our hands.

Anonymous said...

Been there, Done that. USPS offered most of these services in the mid 90's and our wonderful congress kicked them out of the business then as unfair competition.

Mark in WNY said...

Too bad that Anon # 2 feels so negatively regarding retrying initiatives. The differences from "mid 90's" technology to Congress have changed by many orders of magnitude.

That kind of small thinking, e.g. I tried that once, so it will never work is what kills our country in competition with the evolving world. Most likely he's a politician, or at least thinks like one.

C'mon, then, let's have another go at it....

Anonymous said...

Thanks to WNY for taking on Anon2. That's the spirit! He/she is probably not a politician, but a Postal employee with some good ideas stifled by bureaucracy. Whether some (certainly not all) of these ideas were offered up in the 90s or not, timing may not have been right. You have a new PMG and a new Congress now. Get off you butt and rattle your cage a little, the way they do in the private sector! You've got a pension coming to you, what are your worried about? Change like this doesn't come from the top. Stop carping and do something about it!