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The seemingly dire financial situation of the Postal Service is gaining attention in the media, including a recent Washington Post article, and many opinions can be found in the blogosphere (this one included!).
Our view is that the Postal Service is sum of its parts is worth more than the whole. Opinions range widely as to where to go from here. Some purists argue that the Postal Service’s protected monopoly should go away if it is no longer our primary conveyor of personal information. Most of the proposed ideas are incremental and conventional; i.e., sticking to the role of the USPS as the operator of a distribution network of hardcopy communication.
In our view, the situation must be approached in a bold, innovative manner predicated on USPS’s constitutional mandate, which is to bind the nation together. In this role, USPS should position itself in the “enabler of connections’, in addition to being in the distribution business.
As we witness the explosion of social networking media, and their rapid adoption by businesses for a host of uses, we ponder whether USPS could become an actor in facilitating networked connections in the physical world; connections that have no digital analog (pun intended).
- Can a postal delivery unit serve as a warehouse to connect an appliance manufacturer with its service repairmen?
- Can a post office serve as a connection between citizen and other government services (e.g., a physical portal to government services)?
- Can a postman establish connections between the elderly and health care providers?
- Can a postal truck canvass streets to connect traffic and weather services with commuters? or with law and order officials?
- Can the unparalleled visibility of hardcopy correspondence between parties help establish connections of a higher utility to senders and receivers (within the boundaries of privacy laws)?
- Can the postal service be an agent for the coming of age of social networking? As cyber connectivity matures, isn’t it likely to migrate into the physical world, and wouldn’t the Postal Service be the perfect cyber networking’s physical alterego
A discussion at a national level (because of the iconic role of the Postal Service in the fabric of everyone’s and every business’ lives) is needed. Fast-track sector liberalization should be on the table to allow the Postal Service to exploit its under-valued assets (people, imaging technologies, data networks, trucking fleet, real estate) and its logistical capabilities; both of which are remarkable.
The sum of the parts is much larger than the whole, and much value can be extracted by reconfiguring the capabilities of the Postal Service network in yet un-thought ways that may fill many voids and gaps in the market and for citizen.