USPS offered digital modernization ideas from overseas

Thursday - 5/5/2011, 12:28pm EDT

Phil Herr, director of physical infrastructure issues, GAO

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By Julia Ziegler and Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The U.S. Postal Service is in the red but how does it get out? The Government Accountability Office says USPS should look to other countries that have been in similar situations for the answer.

"The Postal Service is in transition. Mail volume is down 20 percent over the last vie years. In an effort to remain self-sustaining, they have to consider other options that are out there too," said Phil Herr, director of physical infrastructure issues at GAO.

In a new report, GAO examined how postal services in Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland have modernized their mail systems to reduce debt and improve mail delivery in the 21st Century.

Some of these countries have expanded Internet options for mail, allowing residents to email the post office and have the office print and mail the document. This service is "more secure than a tradition email platform," Herr said.

On the retail side, some foreign post offices have partnered with businesses, such as grocery stories and retail businesses, which offer greater convenience because users are already going to these businesses.

Another idea is the parcel locker: Instead of having mail delivered to your home, the mail is delivered to a locker where it's convenient for the mail recipient to pick up, such as on the way to and from work. The parcel locker saves money in the "last mile delivery," Herr said.

"Rather than go to house two to three times and hold a package, (the post office) can say it's in this place and you pick it up," Herr said.

According to the Standard-Examiner, the U.S. Postal Service is already considering digital options for mail delivery.

In June, Google executives, social media experts and techies are holding an event called PostalVision 2020 to discuss the future of the Postal Service. According to The Washington Post, USPS executives have been invited as well but no word whether they will attend.