THERE is need for postal and courier service providers to embrace modern technologies to boost business as volumes have declined due to alternative means of communication being offered to customers, authorities have said. Speaking at the World Post Day commemorations held in Kwekwe at the weekend, the Director General of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, Engineer Charles Sibanda, said the postal and courier operators can only ignore technology at their own peril.
"We believe there is a huge opportunity in the postal and courier services sector, if only the service providers can realise that they cannot operate in isolation. E-commerce is the in-thing although it is at its infancy in developing countries such as ours. Perhaps it is the golden chance that our designated operator and courier companies should be eyeing e-post and e-courier services," Eng Sibanda said.
He said despite the emergence of new means of communication due to rapid technological advancements, postal services have remained an integral and important part of economic growth as it supports trade and other economic activities.
"With just 10 days before this year's World Telecommunication Standards Assembly set to open in Dubai, I wish to recall the important role played by the postal sector in bridging the digital divide in the information society around the world," he said.
He said the postal sector is still the preferred partner in the realisation of the information requirement objectives as a result of the challenges being faced by international communities.
"With more than 660 000 post offices worldwide and a labour force of more than five million men and women, the postal sector is ideally placed to make information dissemination and transportation of goods a reality," Eng Sibanda said. He said his organisation would continue to support initiatives aimed at promoting provision of services through the postal system especially to the remote parts of the country as many people had benefited from the co-operation between Zimpost and local telecommunication companies.
Speaking at the same event, Zimpost managing director Mr Douglas Zimbango said traditional postal services were facing viability challenges because technology was causing major shifts in customer preferences.
"While it is technology that has led to the demise of the traditional postal business, it is technology that can take us where we want to be. The company has embarked on a computerisation drive that will see it playing a key role in the e-commerce development and the roll out of community information centres in rural areas," said Mr Zimbango. He said Zimpost had sourced funding for 28 such centres of which six will be in Midlands province and that these centres would help bridge the digital divide as well as generate revenue for the company.
Mr Zimbango also noted that Zimpost had signed strategic alliances with partners in different sectors of the economy to ensure the quick transition of the company from a 'letter post driven business' to an 'agency business driven concern' that will see the company's product offerings being redefined into different categories with different strategies. He said they were working with other sector players to enter into interconnection agreements to improve access even for those operators who are not represented in rural areas.
Mr Zimbango also reiterated the importance of the postcode and addressing projects set to begin in the first quarter of 2013, that will ensure that all households including those in the rural areas get addresses.
"These addresses will play a key role in government and emergency services programs," he said.
World Post Day is celebrated annually on October 9. It marks the creation of the Universal Postal Union on October 9, 1874, during the first congress held in Berne, Switzerland, and invites UPU member countries and all postal stakeholders to celebrate postal services as a valuable public service that contributes to the social and economic development of countries.
This year's commemorations ran under the theme: "A new strategy for a new world".