IGF 2022 Day 1 Lightning Talk #90 The postal sector role in the digital economy

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> MODERATOR: So what would you see as a role regarding digital transformation in the world? And as you may be aware, the postal sector in many parts of the world provides access to government services. Through tele centers, access centers or the post offices generally. So my name is Tracy HackShaw and I'm the postal ‑‑ to my right, Rodney Taylor, secretary general of the Caribbean telecommunications union. Will give you a brief background himself. And Hanna who is the chief executive officer of Ethiopost, which is Ethiopian postal services. I'm going to ask my colleague Rodney what does he think about the global digital compact, the future of digital transformation and his perspective as to how perhaps the rule of countries in developing world can play in this transformation process?

>> RODNEY TAYLOR: Thank you. Good morning. Rodney Taylor. Based in Trinidad and Tobago and the organization I head is intergovernmental organization established by government in 1989 with a focus on harmonizing telecommunications policy. I'm representing the telecommunications and digital, the ICT component of this discussion. So my background isn't in post. But I will get a bit more into how I have started to connect the two postal services and digital transformation. Based on my own experience working in the government of Barbados. And the opportunities COVID‑19 presented for us to collaborate more closely with the postal service.

With respect to the global digital compact, in light of IGF in its 17th year coming out of the world summit on information society ‑‑ I think we want to welcome ‑‑

There is a recognition that it is useful to have a discussion around internet governance issues. And as you see from your attendance here, that there's so many different components. It's echoing. So there's so many different ‑‑ when we talk about the internet, issues of human rights and gender equality, issues of youth involvement, issues of connectivity and cyber security. Really, how do we move forward at the global level with a collective agreement and how the future of the internet, how the internet should evolve for future generations?

Under the auspices of a body like the United Nations which is in terms of an international organization, it has the respect of governments, private sector and so on.

So it's about how we move forward collectively with internet and digital development in the interest of all mankind. And, again, you can probably give more in‑depth discussion. In terms of the digital transformation and the work with the postal service, in the pandemic, I worked with the government of Barbados.

Like many countries, there was the lock down. Many government departments are closed. Critical services could not be accessed. Simple things like renewing a driver's license which you needed to do. And some persons could not work because their job involved driving and were not able to renew. And in very short order, we were able to work with the postal service to digitize the application process for a driver's license renewal of your driver's license. Providing 24‑hour access to that process. And then, working with the postal service to integrate to their systems to allow for the delivery. They would receive notification picked up by the postal service and delivered to your door. And in fact, it was sort of an ah‑ha moment. And recently, we had our prime ministers who said we really ought to bring services to people as opposed to bringing people to services.

So I think what the postal service represents is a community‑based service and an opportunity for governments to bring services closer to people. So service centers, you spoke about that. The delivery, once you are interacting with government in a digital environment, provides opportunity for end to end digital. You apply, you pay. It is brought to your door. That is the model that Estonia used for many years. I've had people who said I don't know where the government offices are. I don't know. I've never been to them. And I think this is sort of the model going forward. We need the postal service to enable that. Beyond that, it's an opportunity for persons, for example, who are under proposal to allow them to access digital wallets, for example. To on board them for digital services. The postal service provides a service for persons to apply for U.S. Visa. Where they may not have a credit card or may not have the digital skills to do it. If you've does the replied for U.S. Visa, it can take an hour or more. It's very complicated if you are not tech savvy, in particular.

Those are just a few examples I wanted to give in connection based on my own experience.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. That was an excellent introduction. And he was subbing for you. This is Yu Ping Chan. And she will give us critique on the global digital compact. What I would like to do is Rodney already started talking about the postal sector and how it fits into the GDC. So can I ask you, hear what we're going to hear, when you hear that come back and kind of ‑‑ so let me ask to give us a brief introduction to yourself and follow up from Rodney as to what you see in a country that is maybe challenges with the whole change and letters and parcels and revenue going down. The postal sector and the global digital economy.

>> HANNA ARAYASELASSIE: Thank you. Responsible for providing the services of the territory of Ethiopia. I think I'd like to start by explaining why we're talking about the postal sector in the context of digital economy. Especially for people outside the postal sector, it may not be immediately apparent how the two can work together. Typically considered ‑‑ rather than work together. Especially looking at one of the teams under the global dimming compact. It's very much aligned with the postal sector's responsibility to provide universal personal services within the territory.

So in that sense, there is an essential alignment between the postal sector and digital economy. And given the extensive network that the postal operators have throughout the country, we have a global network of more than 650,000 branches. And Ethiopia has 700 branches throughout the country. I would like to think of the network as a railway tracks on which you can add additional services. In that sense, when we talk about the digital economy and providing inclusive services, the postal sector becomes one of the essential partners in this agenda.

So one is in relation to creating this enabling environment. Digital payment and bringing the services to the people when we talk about e‑government services. The idea is the postal sector given extensive network end to end and considerable reach throughout the community. Would be an ideal network through which all and any government services can be provided to the system. It can be a breech between the government and other residents for any kind of interactions. That's one area. And then the other is regarding e‑commerce. A lot of our transactions are moving online. And in that process, given the network plus the years of experience the postal sector has in terms of logistics and packages, that's another major area the postal sectors can play a very important role in. And we've been preparing ourselves to realize the digital transformation within Ethiopia. Working closely with the project to make sure our processes are optimized and ready to handle e‑commerce transactions. So that's the first step and secondly looking at the digital payments.

So through all of this, working to make sure they are digitalized. And we're partnering up with the relevant Stakeholders within government and outside to make sure that we are optimizing the already existing network and years of experience to realize the digital transformation.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. That was another excellent tick on the role of the postal sector and digital economy. However, now that we have the perspective, what is this digital compact thing? We've heard about the digital cooperation agenda. How can the post play a role in this overarching digital compact.

>> YU PING CHAN: Let me apologize for coming late. I was with the IGF panel meeting at this moment to talk about the global digital compact. And let me start by saying the global digital compact is the secretary general's vision can come together not just governments but Stakeholders, private sector to really agree on the principles. Needs to be open free secure and inclusive for everyone. The dark side of digital technologies. You've heard about the potential risks and dangers as well. In this overall picture of what it is we're aspiring to create in terms of virtual and online world, we need to have a broad perspective.

And so when we look at the contribution to the digital economy, the connectivity and inclusion, for government services, we really go to the heart of what we want to create. Power individuals and communities and make sure it is for individuals and communities. Linked to sustainable development goals. The UN affirmed this is part of agenda 2030 and making sure digital is put at the service of people and communities everywhere. Even if we address the challenges, we need to realize the potential benefits, the transformative power as well. And very concrete example of how this takes place. Excited and honored to have been part of the union's consideration how it can attribute. I understand already initiated this consultation process creating this is part of existing innovation group and consulting Stakeholders. How is it we can incorporate these perspectives in terms of the posts and experiences that relate. Human rights, connectivity, inclusion and so forth. Those practical ways of looking at what does it mean to have an inclusive digital transformation?

Inclusive and oriented to development digital economy will be very important when it comes to the global digital compact. We can realize how we need to work towards collective goals. It's really been a pleasure to have been part of this conversation. Happy to talk about some of these elements further if there are any specific questions. This is to say this conversation here and a lot of what's going on where how particular areas of work and the contribution of sectors or Stakeholders contribute to the UN's consideration of the global digital compact is very important. We are very glad the IGF have taken on this global digital compact and make as a multi-Stakeholder community representing the views and voices and making sure this is part of the global discussions. I'll end by saying we are based in New York. We hear what the New York Community thinks. And it's conversations like this that are so valuable and important of what the international community needs to do if the digital future we want is to be open, inclusive and free for everyone, all countries around the world.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. That was another really good segue and introduction into what we're going to do now which is really get into the consultation process. It's not a lot of time but we have 15‑20 minutes we can feel some interaction with yourselves and our colleagues online. I'm hoping that you will be able to field some of these questions or comments. Open up the floor and ask you here and online also recognizing my colleague is moderating online to indicate what exactly do you think the postal sector can do in driving digital agenda and digital transformation. Can the post survive this?

Can it be a leader to the process?

So the floor is open to comments, questions, interaction, engagement. Don't be shy. Just raise your hand. I don't know if we will get the online moderator to see anything. There's a question in the room.

>> Thank you very much. My name is Christine and I would like to hear the panelist's thoughts about using the wide network of post offices to accident panned connectivity for all. I would love to hear about that. Thank you so much.

>> HANNA ARAYASELASSIE: The infrastructure is one of the major pillars. Many ways the post can increase access to connectivity. And we've had a good experiment partnering in rural areas. So we are in the process of gathering the learnings from that to come up with better models to increase connectivity. Important in a country where the significant part is in rural areas and have a comparative advantage. So look at ways of leveraging that network throughout the country to see how we can create access. And there are many other successful examples in other countries where postal offices set up IT centers and other models to reach and communities can be included in the connectivity. Thank you.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Questions, comments. Anybody online? I have Nigel. I know this guy.

>> Nigel from the Caribbean telecommunications. Following this track about using the post offices to distribute access and delivery and so on. From your global perspective, are you seeing most of the postal services being still government owned and controlled or is there a trend?

If it's mostly government owned and controlled, is there a challenge to get the resources to do the developments we've been talking about here? And what sort of strategies are you seeing?

You might have a role to play in making this happen as well.

>> MODERATOR: Nigel, Nigel, very difficult question. I don't think Oprah answers questions. I'm going to ask my colleague Juan Moroni, one, if he heard the question. And two, can he jump in and participate and perhaps respond to Nigel?

>> JUAN MORONI: Yes. I'm online. Can you hear me?

>> MODERATOR: We are seeing him talking but not hearing him in the room. So Juan ‑‑

>> Hi. Hello?


>> MODERATOR: Not hearing you anymore.


>> MODERATOR: Say something.

>> JUAN MORONI: Yes, I am talking.

>> MODERATOR: Go ahead.

>> JUAN MORONI: Can you hear me?


>> MODERATOR: We are hearing you now.

>> JUAN MORONI: Okay. Sorry about that. Okay. I can see you. Sorry. The camera is on the other end of the room. Thank you so much to the panelists and for the question. As Tracy was saying, it is a complicated question. But we have good news. We have launched a project called connect to post. Which is a project which is intended to connect all the post offices in the world by 2030. So this is pretty much answering to the question of what the UPU is dog to advance connectivity of the postal network. And this is not only to connect the post offices, but we are connecting a community.

So by connecting the post office is to the internet aiming to connect the communities this post offices service. As we have heard a lot of the post offices in rural areas which are traditionally underserved communities. A lot of potential. By connecting the post office and also to bring these digital services that we have been discussing to these communities. I do not want to take more time.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you.

>> HANNA ARAYASELASSIE: If I may add and to speak to your question. In most countries, the operators are still owned by the government. A few countries privatized the operator. And set up as corporations or companies. It's a profitable company. So I would say this set up is quite ideal. The postal network and the postal operators do get government support. And well placed to finance the investments that would be required for the kind of interventions we're talking about.

>> RODNEY TAYLOR: Just quickly, the challenges around delivery of traditional male for the telecommunications. How do you get it to rural communities where it's not feasible to do it. We have 100 people in this community is not feasible. And maybe they have to come to us. And government has a role to play and not regulating. I like the model where it is a corporation. There is government support and so on. I'm sure there's some kind of regulation around it as well. So it's not strictly for profit and really is a service that's being delivered to everyone universally. I like the model that Ethiopia has. And falls under government ministries. Purely government but going forward is something worth consideration.

>> YU PING CHAN: Tying this together, this idea of connectivity. ITU has the digi project. Bundling the demand together and using a school and post office as a center for the community to stimulate this demand could be a way where collective bargaining can drive down the prices. And for hard-to-reach places. Could we use this as a means to address commercial private interest and get to that last model connectivity element?

>> MODERATOR: Certainly, I've seen in my country where at access center approach does work well. If that extended to post offices in the underserved areas quite extensively, it will really work and bring benefits to those communities that can happen. So there's one more question in the room. See if I can give online a chance. Is there anyone online want to say anything?

Someone is talking. Or is it me?

Some questions online?

Okay. Let me pause for a second. And maybe I can ask my colleague to just give us some interactions and I'll come to you after. What role can the postal sector play in facilitating digital identity as a key building block in the digital economy?

From Michael Palage. And there's another question from Fahimel. How can using IT in the post industry help digital economy growth in developing countries?

So got those two questions. So let me go to the panel with that and put the mic in my colleague's hand. And you'll go next.

>> HANNA ARAYASELASSIE: In data context I would like to say in the framework of the broader digital Ethiopia 2025 vision. In that context, the post is considered one of the key partners in achieving that. And secondly, it's enabling systems. That speaks to the digital and payment systems. On those fronts, they are working closely with the concerned government institutions. We've partnered up with the national ID project in facilitating both the registration and distribution of digital ID numbers to communities.

In this context, the post becomes a critical partner. One of the challenges in a country like Ethiopia where you have 120 million people, most of them living in rural areas, getting people on board for the national ID project becomes challenge. Giving our investments throughout the country, becomes network for registering people and getting credentials across to them. And this is also part of our broader government services package. And secondly, around digital payments and this also speaks to the second question. What are posts to digitalize own services. Been giving financial services for a couple of tickets. Very much bulk payments processes where we are currently working on digitalizing these payments. We do see the post playing a very important role. And linked with our commerce initiative. We've been working in the context of the UPU support to launch a domestic and cross‑border e‑commerce initiative. As part of that digital payment becomes critical.

So in the context of e‑commerce, we've been working on, first of all, making sure all the issues that are causing a hindrance for e‑commerce operations are addressed. We are looking at transport e‑commerce in the context of incoming and outgoing e‑commerce. We've launched a transit e‑commerce operations, where we handle packages coming from the rest of the world to the rest of Africa given the excellent network that our airlines has. So through similar initiatives, we are working towards enabling trade within the continent both in transit and coming out as well as the domestic scenario. So that's around e‑commerce. And one last thing is e‑government serves. When we talk about e‑governance, there's a lot of initiative to make sure services are provided online. And in that effort as well, the post becomes an ideal partner.

First of all, post offices can serve as one stop centers for all kinds of government services. Where you have, for example, federal, regional, all sorts of levels of government. Would be difficult for people to navigate through the government system itself. And it would be ideal to bring the service to the people through the extensive network of branches that we have. So in that regard, we're also working on expanding our IT capabilities in terms of infrastructure and human resources to be able to deliver across this. So there is a lot of areas in which the post would be ideally placed to support this call towards digital transformation.

>> RODNEY TAYLOR: Thank you. You've said everything. I'll say the highest level of authentication is still in person. So you can onboard from your bedroom at home. For the highest level, it required verification. It becomes service bureaus. For government you can do it in your neighborhood. In the city center. So that provides more convenience. And this has to provide services more convenient. And more productive rather than standing in a government department. And the second thing I'll say is still hard cards being used. It doesn't have to be. But where the card is still required, the postal service can deliver those credentials. If we want to have inclusive digital transformations and some things we take for granted.

Rural communities, many of the households don't have postal codes. Many of them even squatting online not properly registered. The postal workers know exactly because they are very often from the community. They know exactly where to find. DHL or Fed Ex or any of these companies will have a real challenge because there's no postal code or half hazard development in this community. The postal workers because they are from the communities have a much better understanding of the community and a much better way of identifying and tracking for the delivery of these credentials. Thanks.

>> MODERATOR: Last comment from our colleague.

>> Hi, everyone. Matthew from the foundation in Kingston, Jamaica. My question builds on the last one as well as Nigel's question about governance. Initially, the way I was going to ask the question was whether the governance of postal services are fit for purpose for enabling the kind of transformation that is needed. Certainly, in the Caribbean we've seen the private service providers that are helping people order packages from all around the world getting them to the Caribbean. Touched on the second one which is businesses, small and medium enterprises wanting to deliver packages and services to the rest of the world. I certainly have a number of friends that have businesses in that latter category that are extremely frustrated with the experience they receive from the postal service trying to do that.

And so I think there are a number of ‑‑ we often hear the plans and the things we author we want to be able to do strategic plans, goals, 2025, 2030. I'm curious to hear from the panelists, beyond the plans, what are the things most challenging from a governance perspective that hinder your ability to execute the things in your strategy or the services that are being demanded of your constituents?

>> HANNA ARAYASELASSIE: Thank you. Very good question. So I think with governance, since there are so many different kinds of models specific to the country, I can't really speak to all of that. But the experience of Ethiopia, for example, where the postal operator is owned by the government, but it's run as a company, I find to be a very good governance model. Why is that?

As opposed to a typical government institution that's run-on budgetary thinking. It gives you the motivation and also the tools to be able to institute the kind of efficiency that's needed for the postal network to compete. And competitive sector. I do think that under this model where it's a corporation, you ever been a better fighting chance to institute the culture needed to be efficient and deliver the kind of service the other community needs.

I would say we've had a very good experience over the last few years. Seen our service quality improving and to your point, we've had a good track record. And I think that's ‑‑ if utilized properly, it's still government owned. If you have the autonomy to make the decisions that you need to make, it's global. I would say the governance is not quite prohibitive to be able to address the increasing demands from the customers.

>> RODNEY TAYLOR: We were very impressed. And it does fall under the government ministry. All government employees. With Covid, you had a short window to stand up and create partnerships. Do you have the capacity to do this?

Of course, we deliver thousands of packages every day. Of all the services the government stood up prior to the pandemic, the digital transformation, they got the highest praise from citizens and social media for this particular driver's license renewal because it was brought to their door. This was a real, wow, whoa. This is government. And I think from the point of view that even the public service and we have the initiative called 21st century government. Even if it isn't a private or quasi private corporation, there is a real realization that governments themselves have digital transform or be more responsive. The notion of all bureaucratic unresponsive government is going out if we are ready to effect the digital transformation.

>> MODERATOR: You will have the last word as we get ready to go to our opening ceremony.

>> YU PING CHAN: This is precisely why the post perspective is important. There is the element when we talk about governing digital. And this explanation and examples is possible to post. The input is really important. And all of yours as well. Very practical perspectives on how we can use ICTs.

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>> YU PING CHAN: It's been an amazing conversation and I look forward to hearing from all of you.

>> MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Thank you, Rodney. And thank you, Hanna, for a wonderful conversation. Thank you very much. Thank all of you for coming and participating. Those online, thank you very much. Thank you, Juan, for organizing the session. With that, I will bring us to a close. And let's go to the opening ceremony. Don't forget, you can't bring your devices there. Leave your devices outside. That's what they say. Thank you very much for coming.