Share best practices, tips & tricks and discuss digital communication as it applies to your daily government lives.
Reach more people and get those people to take action.
How can we make government more paperless?
August 25, 2010 at 4:15 pm #108965
I have two questions for you:
- Why can’t I send an electronic message to a mailing address?
- Why can I get my credit card statement and my mortgage statement electronically, but I can only get my Social Security Statement and County Taxes in the mail?
If I know where you live, I can send you a box of chocolates, a DirecTV ad, or a campaign brochure, but I can’t send you something
electronically… Why? This makes no sense and kills a lot of trees.
Sometimes the most obvious questions have the most confusing answers. It’s possible that the privatization of the Postal Service in the 1980s created a situation where the Postal Service needs to focus on maintaining its $68B revenue stream in paper mail delivery rather than promote a more modern form of delivery. That doesn’t really matter to me, but what does matter is how a new approach to address-based digital delivery could save the government a ton of money and help the environment.
If government could send the public statements / publications /etc. based on mailing address, imagine how much money it could save.
Government sends over 200 million electronic messages per month through GovDelivery by email, SMS, and social media on topics ranging from H1N1 to egg recalls to updates in local park hours. Effective today, we’re trying something new that will lead to governments being able to send “Digital Postal Mail” direct to a mailing address. You can sign up for free through our partnership with Zumbox here to check it out and let me know what you think.
For the past several years, we’ve been looking for ways to help government save money on printing / postage / transaction costs while also improving communication. There are many exciting ways to do this. A government office can transition print newsletters and publications to electronic form, move more citizens online for “customer service” issues, reduce costly traditional public advertising with more direct communication, and communicate proactively on ongoing issues so people don’t call in to costly call centers.
However, it’s very challenging to point to a single piece of mail going to a single individual— a DMV renewal notice, a Census survey, a Social Security Statement, a Tax Statement, and say that you can send that piece of mail electronically just by knowing someone’s mailing address.
The challenge leads back to one frustrating issue. You cannot send traditional “mail” to someone electronically unless you get them to sign up for it. The problem is, even when e-statements are offered, each person has to sign up separately for e-statements from their bank, credit card company, mortgage company, city, county, state, federal government, and everyone
Our new partnership with Zumbox is the result of a search for a service that is safe and secure where a citizen can sign up one time to get an electronic mail box that anyone, including the government, can reach simply by knowing the person’s address.
From a government perspective, here are the key capabilities we saw as “must have”:
- Free for government to use (would be nice if the U.S. Postal Service gave govt. free sending… a digital service
should provide that benefit even if private companies will have to pay)
- Can be used across government (if people sign up to receive Social Security statements, they need to be able to get County tax statements in the same manner)
- Reach people based on their location with geo-specific notices
- Send secure documents to a mailing address rather than a larger documents
- Enable the documents for online payment and for “paper statement opt-out”
- Save documents forever as “secure storage” for the owner of the mailbox
Our new partner, Zumbox, meets these criteria and more (HIPAA compliance, etc.). Now, our challenge is to figure out how to get members of the public to signup to participate. We’re running a pilot with a major city soon, and we’re seeking other government agencies to
participate so let me know if you’re interested in a cost saving / green initiative that will also improve public communication.
I would love your ideas on what will help get members of the public to signup:
- Go green / Go paperless
- Save the government money
- Get permanent online storage of your mail
- Some other message
Thanks for your feedback, and please signup for your own Zumbox and let me know what you think of the signup process and how best to get the public to buy into this.
August 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm #108979
Interesting. I’ve signed up… I’ll let you know how it goes!
August 25, 2010 at 4:31 pm #108977
People often perceive the issue as access, but I believe one of the biggest challenges is security; how will my information stay secure? Realistically, an outside mailbox isn’t secure, but gaining access to many records is more difficult and timeconsuming.
August 25, 2010 at 4:32 pm #108975
Awesome! Thanks! I look forward to your feedback.
August 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm #108973
Great idea, Scott. Signed up for it and promoting it to my superiors to use and promote for city business mailings.
August 25, 2010 at 4:34 pm #108971
The security issue is huge. One problem we’ve seen over the past couple of years is that it takes great expense for our clients to setup their own “estatement” systems do to HIPAA and all of the other important regulations out there. Having one central, secure, place where Ramsey County, City of St. Paul, State of Minnesota, and the Social Security Administration can all reach me provides nice economies of scale. I hope that increases the odds that this approach can be successful.
August 25, 2010 at 4:38 pm #108969
Awesome. Let us know if they are interested and want to participate in a no cost pilot effort. Some cities (e.g., NYC, Minneapolis) have tried to promote the capability with out much success. We are trying to put our experience getting people signed up for digital updates from the government to use so we can get some big numbers of people signed up which is when the big savings (of trees and $s) starts.
Incredibly, more than 10K people signup for electronic updates from the government everyday through the GovDelivery platform so hopefully we can get some subset of that interested in this program.
August 25, 2010 at 7:45 pm #108967
Anything so I don’t have to use my filing cabinet…where I have no idea where to put or find my paper docs.
I love having things electronically, in pdf, in search. Backed-up on my external hard drive
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