E-government could help dig the Postal Service out of its financial hole

Markus Gann/Shutterstock.com

The answer to both the U.S. Postal Service’s financial problems and improving government efficiency could lie in the Internet, according to the USPS inspector general.

The IG issued a white paper Tuesday detailing how the agency would use its existing programs and infrastructure to improve online services governmentwide -- known as e-government.

The inspector general identified five areas where the Postal Service could improve e-government, including both online services and in-person help with electronic transactions. For example, the OIG recommended using the existing application Electronic Postmark -- a service that allows users to verify the authenticity of an electronic document and to monitor when it has been altered -- for government communications.

The white paper -- which represents suggestions but not final policies -- pointed to USPS’ expansive brick-and-mortar operation as a valuable resource to all federal agencies. Both Post Offices and mail carriers could assist in providing services to citizens “who are not willing or unable to use the Internet, or where a face-to-face transaction is needed,” the OIG wrote. Such transactions include identity verification, document notarization and payments and disbursements.

The OIG suggested the Postal Service take over the distribution of federal benefits payments to citizens without bank accounts through prepaid cards. After receiving the card, a user could go to a Post Office to reload it.

Finally, by “utilizing its vast physical network and roots in every community in America,” USPS could play a part in expanding broadband access to every American citizen, the OIG’s report said.

The Postal Service would have to take several steps to prepare for its new e-government responsibilities, including creating a dedicated unit and coordination with other agencies. The OIG suggested several possible revenue models to address the agency’s “current financial liquidity issues.” Possibilities include collecting service fees from agencies, collecting user fees from individuals and partnering with private sector providers.

Calling the current landscape redundant and inefficient, the inspector general called for the Postal Service to step in to mend other agencies’ shortfalls.

“The evolution of e-government promises to fundamentally reshape government services for the benefit of citizens and businesses everywhere,” the OIG wrote. “It presents the Postal Service with an opportunity to leverage its digital and physical networks, historical mission, and other assets to enhance the services provided by other agencies.”

(Image via Markus Gann/Shutterstock.com)

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