Drones, phones and automobiles
UPU looks to the future and how innovations, especially e-health and e-governance, are likely to play a growing role in 2019
Three years ago, Amsterdam’s bustling Utrechtsestraat was the testing ground for new and innovative technologies to make the street sustainable by reducing CO2 emissions and improving the environment.
One of the project’s partners was Netherland’s postal service, PostNL. The postal operator’s goal was to use its network of employees and infrastructure to help make “Climate Street,” as it became known, the first step towards creating sustainable smart cities.
Since then, PostNL has continued to leverage its dynamic network by turning its workforce and post boxes into the frontline for almost anything ranging from inspecting the performance of street cleaners to testing the quality of air and even measuring traffic movement.
These developments are proof that the world’s postal networks are being rapidly recalibrated for 21st Century purposes. To understand more about key trends and developments in 2019, UPU News spoke to Daniel Nieto, the Universal Postal Union’s Expert on Digital Inclusion and Policy Innovation, on how technology helps governments, businesses and citizens.
Nieto is quick to point out that, although technology – not just drones and driverless cars – is compelling Posts across the world to introduce change, there are differences in perspectives and approaches. Different regions, according to Nieto, are embracing different technologies to suit their own specific circumstances.
He points to North Africa where drones are viewed as having the potential to revolutionize postal delivery; but notes, in Latin America, this view is not necessarily shared.
Nieto argues that 2019 is likely to see the addition of a raft of new services on e-health and which use technology to supply medicine to remote areas. Many of them operate through mobile telephone applications. E-democracy will also grow with Posts offering platforms to citizens enabling them to interact with governments.
“E-voting is about making sure that those who may be excluded from society – the disabled, elderly and sick – can vote electronically and be empowered to fully contribute to their society. It is about enabling citizens to interact with their governments,” Nieto added.
E-commerce is another area where great changes are occurring. Nieto argues that technology is rewiring our thinking about the Post and allowing innovators to link ideas with suitable stakeholders, and by doing so, broaden their impact.
Nieto stresses the digital transformation of the Post cannot succeed without being allied to regional and national digital strategies. Apart from technology, he says there is a need for designated postal operators to navigate through the digital ecosystem to identify relevant partnerships with start-ups and to deliver better services.
Nieto also warns on the risks, especially protecting the huge amounts of data generated by the new technology. He says lack of protection is a risk to innovations, but believes Posts and UN agencies such as the Universal Postal Union, which are trusted, can offer solutions. These organizations could be a neutral third party and help to store and protect sensitive data captured by the Post in areas such as e-health, e-commerce, and e-government.
Manager, Communication and Events Programme
Universal Postal Union (UPU)