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The Postal Service Role in the Digital Age: Expanding the Postal Platform

June 1, 2011

The Postal Service Role in the Digital Age: Expanding the Postal Platform (PDF)
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

The Internet and the digital revolution are fundamentally changing the worlds of communications and commerce. The digital economy continues to grow at a rapid rate. Electronic substitution of traditional mail is accelerating as both consumers and businesses adopt electronic processes across multiple domains. Mail users are shifting from traditional hard copy distribution models to a variety of new ways to digitally communicate, advertise, or transact. They are attracted to greater convenience, faster service, and lower cost. The digital revolution has become the “disruptive innovation” to the traditional business of the U.S. Postal Service. With several different communications channels competing for consumers, the Postal Service needs to modernize its role to accommodate for the digital age.

The transition to a new digital landscape is already under way, but the path forward is undefined. The Postal Service should consider new products and services that reflect the evolving mandate to “bind the nation together” in a new world where people are increasingly communicating digitally. 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.

The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC) has initiated a project to study the impact of the digital revolution on the future of the American postal ecosystem. This paper is the second in a series. The first paper described the radical changes affecting communications and commerce, identified trends, and discussed the impacts. This sequel identifies a set of applications the Postal Service should explore as a first step in redefining its mandated role of “binding the nation together.” While there is no indicator of how much of our communications and commerce will go digital, the migration is nonetheless creating a lengthening tail of digital refugees, which will only increase as the digital revolution progresses.

The conceptual framework depicted in the diagram on the next page constructs a strategic positioning for the Postal Service to consider. The framework is developed in response to three guiding principles:

  • Providing solutions for the communications problems of the digital age.
  • Utilizing the core competencies and assets of the Postal Service.
  • Pursuing applications that are considered proper for the Postal Service.
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