Rising to the new reality of digital postal services
By Inyene Ibanga
TECHDIGEST – Modern developments in the global postal industry show that technology plays a pivotal role in postal services. It acts as an enabler and a driver for better services for consumers. The future impact of emerging technologies and innovations portends more viable growth and positive benefits for postal services and consumers.
Digitalisation disrupted the postal sector by causing a growing decline in the volumes of physical mails and parcels. This is manifest in the continuous downward slide of revenue for postal services since the advent of digital technology.
But in the last three decades, the postal sector has begun evolving to remain functional and relevant, as the traditional economy transits into the digital economy, in which technology is the main driver. The sector recognises the imperative of digital technology as fundamental to all aspects of postal products offer and delivery.
It is responding to these challenges by steadily adopting innovative automation (the automated sorting of and centralisation of parcel and parcel operations) for enhanced productivity, diversification into the provision of data documents and digital services (boosting revenue-generating services), and creation of digital interfaces for seamless connection between customers and the delivery workers.
Automated sorting and centralisation of letter and parcel operations, automated scanning, and sequencing of letter deliveries to street level are important developments in the postal sector.
Driven by the disruptive impact of digital technology, competition, and customer demand, postal services are using advanced and emerging technologies to improve operational efficiency and to offer new products and services.
Those factors have triggered new waves of digital transformation in the postal industry, as many postal services are using innovative technologies like mobile internet and Global Positioning System (GPS), Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips, sensors, and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).
It is in recognition of the significant role of technological innovations in contemporary postal services that the Universal Postal Union (UPU) came out with the theme “Innovate to Recover” in celebration of this year’s World Post Day.
Nigeria joined other member countries of the global postal body to mark the 2021 World Post Day with an announcement by the Post Master General of the Federation, Ismail Adebayo Adewusi that the Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST) is committed to leveraging technology in its service delivery as a service 2021 World Post Day operating in the digital economy.
Adewusi noted that NIPOST has an important role to play in the successful implementation of Nigeria’s digital economy, hence the need for the organisation to embrace technology, diversify its services and reposition itself for quality customer services, to boost revenue generation.
He said: “The global post has this year focused on ways and means of harnessing a better World with improving living standards for humanity after recovering from the clutches of the pandemic. It is a fact that the post is a fundamental instrument to the equality of all citizens. The Post Offices creates free entry and businesses to all ages, classes, races, and religions.
“It has become expeditious for us to operate at the same level wavelength with other internationally recognised service delivery companies.”
“With many postal administrations diversifying and expanding their operations to move sales of their products and services beyond borders, postal services are inventing new means and methods to satisfy the customers.”
From all indications, NIPOST is poised to reinvent itself by fully adopting digital technologies to drive its operations to achieve an optimal level of productivity and efficiency, through the provision of digital customer-centric products and services.
NIPOST has to take advantage of its offices/property spread across the country to provide e-government, e-commerce, and e-financial services to unserved/underserved and excluded populations such as women, the poor, the less educated, and those in the informal economy.
E-commerce stands at the forefront as the driver of innovation in the postal services because competition in the e-commerce market provides positive incentives for all market players, parcel carriers and retailers, and tends to spur the development of new delivery solutions.
To offer sustainable digital postal services, NIPOST needs to rely on its extensive physical network/assets by complementing post offices with digital services to expand its competitive edge and capacity to reach a large proportion of the population.
There is a need for the postal service to forge partnerships with private companies to be agile, share risks, and reduce financial burdens. Apart from offering hope for the postal sector, this agile approach is being used by postal corporations to balance their social impact and financial sustainability.
Government should provide NIPOST with sufficient financial resources to fund full digitalisation projects and deployment of services that meet international standards.
The government needs to recognise NIPOST as a critical part of regional and national digital strategies, especially because the NIPOST network across the country is a tool for advancing digital inclusion.
Considering assurances by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Pantami, that the unbundling programme of NIPOST is at the final stage, Nigerians are looking forward to seeing a postal service driven by technology and innovation to deliver quality service that is crucial to communities.
Inyene Ibanga is Managing Editor TechDigest and writes from Wuye District, Abuja.