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Should the USPS Go Digital?

The United States Postal Service has received the distinction of being the most efficient mail organization around the world. Unfortunately, the USPS is only efficient in doing the same thing that they have been doing for the more than two centuries that it has been in existence: Delivering letters and parcels. And it is this job that is slowly fading.

With the advent of online communications like email, social media, and voice over internet protocol (VOIP), the United States Postal Service has seen a decline in the letter delivery services availed of by postal customers. Indeed, as more and more postal clients revert to faster forms of communication made possible by the rise of the Internet, it would seem that the USPS is getting behind the times. This leads us to the question: Is it time that the USPS consider going digital?

The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, the USPS is now already in the process of doing so. Currently, the president of digital services for the Postal Service Paul Vogel is studying ways to help the USPS survive by being more than just a channel for digital mail. Heidi Moore of The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/15/us-postal-service-digital-future) writes how Vogel strives to make the USPS a channel for “digital package tracking, quick response codes that would allow consumers to scan their mail with their smartphones, "m-commerce" using mobile devices.” At present, the biggest technical effort of the Postal Service is MyPost which seeks to be “a personalized website that would allow people to log in and see all the packages that are coming to them, as well as all the packages they've already received, in one digital place.”

David Williams, meanwhile, the inspector general for the US Postal Service agrees that it’s about time for the Postal Service to “extend its embrace” to digital communications: “We believe everyone should have an email inbox as well as a mailbox.” His idea is to have an e-government platform where an email inbox “would be certified by the post office and that could be used not just for messages, but also as a kind of cloud server to store passwords, medical documents, photographs, authorizations for doctors ... a kind of federal safe-deposit box for sensitive personal information.”

Of course, these ideas have its hurdles to overcome. For starters, hacking and the security of information stored in the system would certainly be a primary concern that many postal customers would question. But perhaps the more serious obstacle that the USPS has to face before all else is the legislative aspect. The USPS has to obtain Congressional mandate before they can set all these digital plans in motion.

Certainly, the USPS recognizes the importance of going digital and has already taken the necessary steps to do so. But whether it will receive its go-signal from Congress still remains to be seen.