The Australia Post announced on Tuesday the launch of its digital mailbox, which would serve as a digital storage vault for Australians and would connect consumers with banks, utility companies and government agencies.
The digital mailbox is an indicator that the agency considers information technology a friend, not a foe, which could even enhance the postal office's revenues. The different approach to technology is in contrast to traditional approach taken by the U.S., Canadian and British postal agencies, which is to attempt to bring back to life the dying snail mail service.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the digital mailbox would serve as a link where Australians could select from different options to pay goods and services of businesses and government agencies. He assured users that the mailbox would have a bank-level security through encryption of all communications to protect users.
He disclosed that the Department of Human Services and Australian Tax Office are among the agencies that will participate in the pilot stage of the venture, the second phase of Australian Post's $2-billion digital strategy.
Among the potential early users of the digital mailbox are four million Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support customers who use the Australian government online services. Centrelink is expected to send 28 million letters online in 2013 through this facility, Mr Conroy said.
Companies that have signed up for the digital mailbox service include telecom giant Telstra, pension provider AMP, and banks Westpac, ANZ and the National Australia Bank.
Consumers will receive their bills and statements electronically free of charge, while businesses that would avail of the service could communicate with their clients at a much lower cost compared if they would use the snail mail. This service would definitely benefit Telstra and AMP which currently account for 70 per cent of the mail volume of the country's top 10 mailers handled by Australia Post.
In 2011, Australia Post introduced the 24/7 storage boxes which Aussies could access anytime and day of the week to pick up the items they ordered from online stores. The service helped boost the agency's income.
Digital Post Australia, a consortium made up of Computershare, an investor service company, and Fuji Xerox and Zumbox Software, is considered a competitor of the new service offered by Australia Post. Zumbox rolled out a similar service in the U.S. in June 2011, which will operate in Australia by the end of 2012.
The digital mailbox taps the cloud computing technology, although there are some questions over how secure the service would be because Australia Post was hit last week by a computer glitch. The glitch exposed the names and locations of thousands of Australians who received parcels. Australia Post had to temporarily close its electronic parcel tracking service.
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