The postal service is in danger of becoming obsolete if it does not adapt to e-commerce, even as it embarks on a reform plan, said Ministry of Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Deborah Payne.
The reform plan, involving the assistance of the intergovernmental Universal Postal Union (UPU), is expected to lead to the development of a postal bank, digitisation of postal codes, introduction of new addressing standards and better regulated postal market.
Addressing a UPU regional workshop on operational readiness for e-commerce, Payne said postal service operators in the region could not continue “business as normal”.
“Postal service operators must realise that they have to deliver more than just mail to remain relevant in a 21st Century environment.
“You have to be cognisant of the competitive environment in which we now operate and you must be prepared to change to meet the demands of a global market,” Payne said.
The permanent secretary said that the Barbados Postal Service (BPS) has sought to maintain an advantage in the competitive global market through innovative marketing tactics and heightened security.
While acknowledging that the postal service has been used for importation and exportation of illegal contraband, Payne said the Home Affairs Ministry has taken steps to tighten security.
Post offices have been equipped with scanners, tightened internal operations and partnered with Police, Immigration and Customs and Excise, she added
Payne said: “A vital component of our e-commerce therefore has to be a relook at our security systems to ensure that the necessary measures are in place to safeguard our operations from such activity.”
The BPS is participating in the UPU’s Integrated Postal Reform and Development Plan which aims to create a postal reform plan for Barbados based on determining universal service obligation, development of a postal sector policy and to review and update legislative framework governing the local industry.
She urged postal service operators to seize the opportunity to maximize their economic potential through e-commerce, reporting that by 2020 940 million online shoppers will be spending almost US$1 trillion in cross border e-commerce transactions.
“Regional post is well-poised to benefit from even a fraction of this trade as importers,” Payne stressed.
Acting director of the Barbados Civil Aviation Department Tracey Forde-Bailey also spoke about the importance of integrating information communication technologies (ICTs), courier services and logistics operators into the postal industry for better services and efficiency.
Bailey said: “ICT and a reliable logistical network is the key to a seamless entire cross-border operation. To enhance overall the quality of cross-border e-commerce, postal operators must develop a number of solutions and pay careful attention to the reliability, speed and tracking mechanisms. The sector must be committed to perform quality monitoring techniques of their postal operations using online tools and electronic means.
“A truly seamless service across borders requires more than the simple delivery of goods. It requires effective coordination between transport operators, harmonized network, and sound regulatory regime. To achieve this, the postal operators must work together in all efforts and on a constant basis to provide efficient cross-border services.”