UPU World Leaders Forum underlines digital partnership opportunities
The annual dialogue, held during Parcel+Post Expo in Frankfurt on 17 October, explored cross-sector collaboration under the theme, “Partner to transform – Powering postal digital (r)evolution”.Opening the forum, UPU Deputy Director General Marjan Osvald noted that the discussions came at a “pivotal moment for the UPU” as the organization explores potential avenues for cooperation with the private sector.
“The UPU has recently opened up additional opportunities for our wider postal sector colleagues to add their voice to the deliberations of the UPU through the Consultative Committee,” he said.
The forum’s first panels explored the digital readiness of the postal network, bringing together Zimbabwe Post Acting General Manager for Operations and Marketing Venencia Sigauke, SAP Industry Manager for Postal and Parcel Services Christoph Kopka, and UPU Coordinator for Digital Policies and Trade Paul Donohoe.
They highlighted the power of the Post’s physical network, which could be used to deliver a number of digital services in support of socioeconomic development and business goals. Raising awareness among potential partners, as well as educating postal employees and customers, would be key to harnessing this potential, they said.
“We need to change perceptions and continuously market digital platforms. People are not used to access services digitally, they are used to accessing [postal] services physically,” said Sigauke.
Donohoe noted that the UPU was working to raise awareness of this potential amongst key partners, including international development agencies, governments, and the private sector, through programmes such as its digital readiness assessments.
The second panel examined how emerging advanced technologies could reshape the sector, bringing together Posta Shqiptare CEO Anisa Kaltanji, Analysis Mason Partner and Head of Postal Practice Ian Streule, International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications Executive Director Ricardo Simões, and UPU Financial Inclusion Programme Manager Saleh Khan.
Panellists demonstrated how advanced technologies were opening up immense opportunities for the Post to move ahead, at the same time advising the sector to keep sight of its most valuable asset – customers’ trust. The Post could therefore enhance the uptake of cutting-edge services with its physical presence and closeness to customers.
Kaltanji recalled the important role the Post’s physical presence played during the pandemic – a time when digitization accelerated rapidly. “The only human touch most of us faced during COVID was the postman,” she said.
“People trust the postal system to deliver a wide set of services,” said Khan, adding that Posts had an “appetite for exploring this topic, seeing what can be done to leverage distributed ledger technologies, and innovate within this field.”
Panellists suggested the UPU could play a key role in enabling the right regulatory environment and standardization to implement new technologies and provide a seamless customer experience.
The forum’s final panel looked at leveraging partnerships to drive change across the sector, with Ship2MyID CEO and Founder Santosh Gopal, Escher Group CEO Brody Buhler, UPU Consultative Committee Chair Walter Trezek, and UPU Resource Mobilization and Stakeholder Engagement Programme Manager Alexander Thern-Svanberg.
They narrowed in on the ways the UPU, its member countries, and the private sector could benefit from each other’s insights and solutions, particularly in light of the recent opening of the UPU Consultative Committee to private sector companies. The Committee allows those from the wider sector to add their voice to UPU decision-making processes.
Buhler shared recent research from Escher, showing the changes in customer expectations since the beginning of the pandemic and underscoring the importance of a seamless e-commerce parcel delivery experience.
Gopal highlighted that the UPU could act as a focal point to collect data from not only members, but wider postal sectors participating in the Consultative Committee, emphasizing that “data is what makes money for everybody.”
The panellists discussed how exchanges between UPU members and private partners on data exchange, standards and regulation via the Consultative Committee could drive the UPU to modernize faster to help Posts and their partners respond to and anticipate customers’ needs.
Later in the day, Stéphane Herrmann and Gustavo Damy, representatives from the UPU’s Postal Technology Centre, provided a more in-depth look at its technological solutions offering, including its electronic data interchange systems and big data platform. They noted that many of the UPU’s technical solutions were now open to wider postal sector players.
“Our strength is our diversity – we have all the players together to create the basis for innovation and the products that go with it,” said Damy.
In a special roundtable discussion, representatives from new Consultative Committee members Zonos, Ship2MyID, Geomain, Stampsdaq, Logistic Natives and Eurora highlighted their solutions as well as how they could interface with the UPU and its membership to add value.
They again underlined their willingness to work with the UPU to enable the right conditions to drive the sector forward.
Watch the 2022 World Leaders Forum & Technology Showcase recordings here.