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My office recently released a paper looking into the possibility of offering a Postal Service sponsored on-line eMailbox that would work like your current physical mailbox to receive official correspondence, bills, legal docs, opt-in advertising, etc. on-line and would link to your physical home address. It would be a closed loop system meaning that only those with a postal eMailbox address would be able to communicate with each other.  Most industrialized country postal operators offer some type of this service already (with a few exceptions). Would you use this type of service? Do you think the Postal Service should leverage its reputation as a trusted intermediary to provide this? Would you a lockbox storage feature that could allow you to store legal documents, medical records,etc. on-line and accessible anywhere? Love to hear your thoughts.

http://www.uspsoig.gov/foia_files/RARC-WP-12-003.pdf

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I would if it offered a clear value to me that didn't exist elsewhere.  If just another email box, I probably wouldn't.

 

But I would love to have my medical records online (dentist to doctor).  I'd also love to find a way to store important documents like property tax statements, SSA statements, perhaps like passport/birth certificate info, etc.  Kind of like online safe deposit box. I'm not a good paper filer any more (I have a binder that is woefully out of date).  And I do feel weird that only copy of my social security card is flimsy paper that is almost torn in a drawer in my house.

I'd also try this out if there was a clear proposition for government.  For example, if they said, if I opt-in to this online box, it is saving the environment or tax dollars.  Or perhaps even a value- I think for Vanguard and Bank of America when I opted out of paper statements, they offered me a free month or two of a premium service. 

Agreed.  The USPS missed the bus on this one in a big way.  By the time the 90s rolled around, it was obvious that physical mail was going to be massively reduced over the next several decades.  Every chart I've seen since and before has reinforced that.  The unfortunate part is that instead of trying to find a way the Government can actually help and provide a value-added service, the response from Congress always seems to be "Tax the Internet!"  Well, guess what, that doesn't work either.

Providing HIPAA-certified accounts?  Gold.  Providing NIST-approved email for govvies?  Gold (for instance, I can send a SECRET document via the USPS registered mail.  What's the electronic equivilent to that?). 

We have so many opportunities to latch onto the great things the private sector is doing, and then expand on them for the public good.  Which, really, should be the optimal configuration for any system like ours.  What about eBook publishing for the government (where's the push from GPO into BN.com, Amazon.com and others?).  What about providing grants and support for open source software projects that help small businesses be more competitive, communities reduce their IT costs, and government to raise the tide for everyone?


These are the challenges today that show how out of the loop Government has become.  My hope is that its just generational - there seem to be plenty of people slowly winding their way through the ranks who have similar attitudes and ideas.

Good ideas John, and also some good questions. Why hasn't the GPO linked with BN or Amazon? As for an eMailBox, the model would probably have to have a rock-bottom user charge to be competitive. And that means will the USPS or the Feds allow advertisers on this site?

 

I agree most with this reply.  I don't buy the negative arguements regarding USPS ... they can update themselves and get better!  There is no reason the USPS can't figure out how to leverage the information age to enhance their business and services.   They can also improve their management and practices.  I am in complete agreement with the statement that I would use a Postal Service eMailbox IF "it offered a clear value to me that didn't exist elsewhere."  The people at Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and others are constantly coming up with innovative web applications .... the USPS can to!  They just must think "out of the box" more instead of the same, old routine.

I agree. Security and trust are needed for med records, etc. Maybe it will get that moving faster.

I would use the service to safeguard important documents as you mentioned. i would think that working with the right agencies to market the service, they could provide an email system that would add value to our current environment.

I think, given the sensitive data they're potentially suggesting I'd want to know that the security is rock solid. That's my biggest issue with anyone offering to collate data about me. Anytime you put stuff like that in one place it's a hacker target.

Given my experience with USPS over the past two years, it's not likely.  They have some great people working for them, my neighborhood mailman, for instance, and if not for him, I'd be pulling my hair out.  I moved from Maryland to Zimbabwe and asked for my mail and my wife's mail to be forwarded, leaving my son in the house. I did this on line at the USPS site at a cost of $1.00 for each of us.  They started forwarding my son's mail to my new address, but not ours.  Thankfully, our mailman kept our mail and gave it to us on our visits back to the US, but we had a few late-payment problems to deal with.  So, I changed it back - they then promptly started forwarding everyone's mail to my Zimbabwe address (through the US State Department, not internationally).  I blew a fuse and changed it back again.  Now, at last, I'm getting my mail and my wife's mail, but, get this - my son's mail again as well. USPS and computers don't seem to fit well.  No way would I trust them with valuable documents.

I think you make a good point Charles.  My many years experience with the USPS is not good either.  Having seen how they operate and working for the federal government it appears they are like any other agency... the biggest problems that no one wants to address is the management.  Mid-level and upper level management is the problem.  Favoritism, cronyism, nepotism... created a sheer good ole boy system.  During the 80's and 90's, I have witnessed many veteran friends that claim the trick they used was to hire you and lay you off before you could join the union.  Bring you back later and do the same.  This would keep you off the union rolls and keep you in suspension... no benefits and they work you like a dog.  But if you are in the good ole boy club, they'll pull you into the union and presto!  I am not sure if this is still happening, but I am positive alot of their issues are related to the mis-management.  All supervisors and managers go theough their good employees and bad employees... but when you have constant mistakes like Charles explained and no one does anything about it... it creates a cancer throughout the system to be a failure.  I am sorry, but it is not hard to find capable workers that know how to use computers and have an aptitude to be creative and learn...

I tend to agree with some comments made by Charles and Spanky. It is very difficult for an organization (especially government organization) to adapt information age ideas with an agrarian age mindset. Having had work in the federal system for over 20 years, federal organizations have done very poorly with rapid implementation. The USPS was unable to adapt to the consumer emerging needs, due to a myriad of reason (in my opinion, complanceny killed the USPS). Back to topic. I would probably use the eMailbox for official purposes. I like the idea of point to point mailing and providing a secure delivery system.

Let me give away the billion dollar idea. Sending and receiving electronic mail is great, but what happens when you want to send something to a love one who does not have the electronic mail service.

Here is my idea for USPS. The eMailbox consumer has the option to create (electronically) a personal letter to some one and for a small fee the letter is printed and delivered by USPS. Don't just stop there, allow the consumer to upload photos, documents, recipes, anything that can be printed and send it with the electronic letter that the consumer produced. The loved one who does not have internet services, can now receive a hard copy of your electronically produced correspondence. The USPS needs to expand their thinking in order to stay relevant.

I have to say as a consumer, I would not trust the same folks who can't stop delivering the mail of a dead guy 6+ years following his death or the mail of someone who's never lived at my house or in this state because his last name is the same as mine...or his second ex-wife's mail because they were too lazy to complete change of address forms and apparently when I moved from an apartment 10 miles away from theirs (to 4 states away), my change of address form became theirs? I've worked with individual post offices, mail carriers, the deceased's family members, organizations sending them mail, etc. Although it can be a fun exercise to entirely embarrass some organization about why you are receiving the ex-spouses, second ex-wife's mail... talk about apologetic!!!

I would love a centralized email account for all individuals of the home tied to the address where junk, bills, etc. could go. I'd love some kind of system tied to my Social Security number for taxes, medical records, voting, legal stuff. Do I think it can happen? Maybe with an entirely new group of folks? NOT with the USPS. Sorry folks, I love you, but you haven't changed enough with the times or shown the behemoth is manageable with just the bits of paper we continue to let you toy with.

My next biggest issue with having any sort of 'national clearing house for your info/data'....privacy anyone? Hacker's dream as I mentioned above, but  it'd be threatened even from within. The IRS would drool over the prospect of having the ability to peek into your assets to see exactly where the money is. So would medicare or your insurance company.


I do agree, that despite some employees of the postal service being upstandin, hardworking and honest people, like any govt agency, they are rife with slackers, buddies, cronies and criminal level mismanagement. They make mistakes all the time, and whoppers too, but there's no accountability. I mail my credit card payment on time, and the check doesn't get to its destination, it's MY fault that the postal service lost it. They drop the ball, I take the fall.

 

IMHO, they'd treat our data the same way.

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