World Postal Service: Digital Transformation Creating Digital Divide in E-Commerce
While many note that it’s generally cheaper to mail e-commerce goods than to send them by private shipper — a fact that doesn’t escape the notice of Amazon and other retail giants — the myths that traditional mail is an outdated form of shipping or too slow to meet customer expectations still persist. The world’s connected postal services have undergone a considerable amount of digital transformation to meet the demands of modern-day cross-border e-commerce. However, that transformation comes with a cost.
The world’s postal delivery services have always been adept at delivering even to rural and remote places for the same small fee. But that is changing as the digital transformation continues and inadvertently creates a new kind of digital divide.
A digital divide created by any means can have rather severe, albeit unintended, consequences. For example, consider the recent near breakup between the U.S. postal service and the Universal Postal Union (UPU), an agency of the United Nations (UN). The UPU is the body that makes it possible for mail to travel across borders unimpeded and at a set low cost. The proposed break from the UPU almost resulted in U.S. voters abroad either not being able to mail in their vote for the 2020 election at all or having to choose a private delivery service for around $60 per ballot. That could have resulted in many Americans abroad not voting at all or not getting their votes returned in time to be counted.
Fortunately, the UPU third Extraordinary Congress wrapped up on a high note for mail patrons around the world. UPU members including the U.S. agreed in the Sept. 25th vote to “accelerate rate increases to the system for remunerating the delivery of inbound international bulky letters and small packets. Self-declared rates are to be phased in starting as soon as 2020. Under the agreed solution, member countries that meet certain requirements — including inbound letter-post volumes in excess of 75,000 metric tons — would be able to opt-in to self-declare their rates starting 1 July 2020.” The UPU now also has set thresholds to buffer low-volume developing countries from these sudden changes to the earlier agreement and the subsequent impact.
However, the UPU’s work in continuing to improve efficiencies in order to remain competitive with private shippers on speed, reliability and cost continues. Therefore, digital transformation continues unabated in several member countries. But not all countries are progressing at the same rate. A digital divide exists and is quickly becoming more pronounced.
“Postal networks have the potential to lead the way in providing both citizens and businesses with affordable access to the economy through the delivery of e-commerce items, but for the entire sector to benefit from this opportunity it will have to work to reduce inequalities across the network,” said UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein.
The UPU announced today the release of its Postal Development Report 2019. The report’s findings are drawn from the UPU’s postal big data, official postal statistics and surveys in order to measure the…