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Meta data not limited to telecom

President Obama makes a distinction between the contents of phone calls and the information generated by the call (he calls it meta data, we used to call it transaction-generated data, and now it falls within the scope of big data), here is the analogy that is governing his thinking: Mr. Pickering was targeted by a […]

End of the telegram in India

In 2011, we wrote about the end of the telegram in Sri Lanka. When telecom and posts were bifurcated in Sri Lanka, telegrams went with posts, somewhat illogically. In India, they went with telecom, so they lasted a little longer. But BSNL’s failure to offer improved service and features while keeping price below costs did […]

Ideas to save the postal service

For those who believe in bringing the dead back to life: Even better, imagine if you could email a letter to the post office, pay for the stamp online, and never set foot outside of your door? You could send mail digitally, with minimal fuss. People still like receiving letters, if it wasn’t such a […]

South Asian Postal Union?

Postal services everywhere are in trouble. South Asia is no exception. What one does to remedy the situation is the important question. The Indian government seems to think that training 10 officials from the SAARC will do it. And that the solution involves greater cooperation among money-losing, inefficient administrations. Wow. “The proposal to set up […]

Is there hope for government postal services?

In Sri Lanka, the window for saving the post has probably closed. According to the latest Household Survey, a Sri Lankan household spends LKR 4/month on postal services and LKR 750/month on telecom services. You cannot build a viable business on that kind of money. There will always be a need to deliver packages (until […]

Sri Lanka: What people spend on telecom, in relation to total communication and recreation expenditures

The 2009-10 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) is a representative sample survey based on responses from 22,000 households from all across Sri Lanka, except Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Mannar districts that were considered too dangerous because of uncleared mines. It is a veritable treasure trove of data on how Sri Lankans live, what the differences […]

Is the US Postal Service a broadcast medium?

The right analogy is key to a decision to subsidize. When the main thing USPS does is distribute coupons, what rationale is there for subsidy? The Internet can’t be used to tele-transport packages, of course, and our use of package delivery services, including the Postal Service’s, has grown with e-commerce. But the Postal Service is […]

Good bye Amazon, the Indian workaround is around the corner

In the recent special issue of Information Technology and International Development, Ayesha Zainudeen et al. identified the non-ICT barriers to the spread of e commerce in developing countries, including payment mechanisms when credit cards did not exist and the bad state of the postal services. The NYT has a fascinating story about how Indian entrepreneurs […]

Postal woes: End of the road for government monopolies?

We have worse postal services in our region. They do not have hard budget constraints, so they keep going. But the future looks bleak for those that do have hard budget constraints: Mail volume has plummeted with the rise of e-mail, electronic bill-paying and a Web that makes everything from fashion catalogs to news instantly […]

Fixing the post

In the 13 years I lived in the US, I saw the postal service change. It was a horrible, rude bureaucracy when I moved there; and I saw the reengineering at work in the last few years. Counter staff were actually trained to smile and be nice to customers (and those who could not be […]

Sri Lanka post: The sickly child atrophies further

When one only reforms only a part of an interconnected sector, the unreformed parts start to atrophy. Because of union resistance and the perception that the post was not that much of a money maker to start with, the hitherto conjoined posts and telecom were bifurcated and reform efforts focused on telecom. So 30 years […]

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