Friday, 8 March 2013

Australia Post boss spruiks new digital mailbox concept

Do you hate email? Is security a concern? What about spam? Too much rubbish coming down the pipe? It seems that Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour thinks so, and he sees an opportunity in "digital mailboxes" to develop a new business and offset losses from a fall in Australia Post's regular mail sales. The story, on the Australian's website, is paywalled. Fahour believes "email is on the way down" and this will compound in the future because "the next generation of people coming up" "don't email at all".

The story also says that "Revenue for Australia Post's parcels business will surpass its letters business for the first time this year." All of which is very interesting and you have to applaud Fahour for looking into the future to find ways to build financial strength in his company by embracing the internet and the opportunities it offers. Internet sales of goods bought by Australians are mainly purchases from domestic online businesses, we learn: to the order of 75 percent. And Fahour says that "it's mainly small and medium-sized businesses that are the engine room of our domestic e-commerce market". In a real way there is a big upside for a company like Australia Post in the age of the internet, just as there's a downside. Fahour is looking for more upside with this digital mailbox idea.

I can see how this could be pretty useful for all Australians. One problem with email is the phishing type of spam that mimics the emails of large businesses, like banks or shipping companies. They attach a file to their spam email that they tell you to click on, which can infect your computer with a virus or even something worse like spyware. (No, I've never clicked on one of these files.) So many companies do not use email for business for this very reason. It's just not secure, and people get taken in. My bank, for example, allows you to send messages to customer service representatives but this only takes place once you have logged into the internet banking interface. So it's all internal and secure. Email cannot offer this kind of transaction but a secure digital mailbox might be able to do so.

And it's not just banks that avoid email. For example, I get emails from my mobile phone service provider that contain PDFs carrying monthly bills. But my landline phone service provider still sends me regular mail every month to show me what my charges are. Same with my electricity provider. Different companies use different ways to communicate with me, and government departments avoid email completely except for initial communications.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could have a single logon to give you access to a place where all of these transactions could take place? I think there is a tremendous potential for a digital mailbox and, even more, for a universal digital payment facility that all of your service providers could use: banking, electricity, gas, ISP, telephone, health insurance, car insurance, car registration. The list could go on and on. So I applaud Fahour for seeing the downside of email and looking for a way to circumvent its weaknesses, and offering a new service to customers that can help to make their lives easier.

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