Africa: From Stamps to E-Services, UN Postal Agency Adapts to the March of Time

The United Nations global post agency, the world's second oldest international body created at a time when the postage stamp was at the cutting edge of communications innovation 70 years before the UN itself was founded, marked World Post Day today with a pledge to fully embrace the digital age with logistical and financial services.

"Posts are an integral part of the increasingly digital world," UN Universal Postal Union (UPU) Director General Edouard Dayan said in a message marking the Day in Doha, Qatar, where more than 2,200 delegates are attending the agency's 25th Congress.

Postal services are not standing idly on the sidelines as they evolve and play their role in an era of new information and communication technologies, mobile telephones and the Internet, he stressed. The Congress has already approved major proposals on future activities, especially in the areas of trade facilitation, financial services and financial inclusion, and postal e-services.

In addition to maintaining a universal network that provides modern products and services, the UPU establishes the rules for international mail exchanges among its 192 members and makes recommendations to stimulate mail volume growth and improve quality of service for customers.

Yesterday, the UPU announced that the .post platform, resting on the sponsored top-level domain given to the agency in 2009 to be managed on behalf of the international postal community, was available to its 192 member States for exploitation.

The platform is intended to replicate in the electronic world the same conditions the UPU created in the physical world for the global exchange of electronic mail items on a secure and reliable single territory, which also brands legitimate postal services on the Internet.

"Posts across the globe will fulfil their potential as motors of national economies," Mr. Dayan said, calling on governments to step up to the mark and ensure their essential support for the postal sector.

Letter-post still accounts for 48 per cent of global postal revenues of $304 billion, but in some countries postal financial services account for more than 50 per cent of the revenues. While postal e-services still contribute modestly to revenues, Posts are making strides in adapting to new realities or intend to progressively develop postal e-services, while maintaining the efficiency of their traditional services.

The latest UPU statistics for 2011 point to a continuation of clear trends in the global postal sector, including a decline of letter-post volumes, the growth of parcels as e-commerce evolves and Posts progressively enter the logistics industry, and the continuing growth of postal financial services, which increasingly generate a greater share of postal revenues.

On the sidelines of the Congress, the winner of the UPU's 2012 International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People, Marios Chatzidimou, a 14-year-old Greek boy, was to receive his gold medal during a special ceremony. This year young people were asked to write a letter to an athlete or a sports personality they admire to tell them what the Olympic Games mean to them.

In his letter, Marios wrote to Roger Federer, putting the world's top-seeded tennis player in ancient Olympia alongside athletes such as Diagoras of Rhodes and Polidamas and creating a dialogue with him.

As a UN agency and international organization only the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), created in 1865, is older than the Berne-based UPU, which was founded in 1874.

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