Dear Sugar: Time and ability plus double capacity has forced my pen to dance automatically on this benedicted sheet of paper. I love you spontaneously and as I stand horizontal to the wall and perpendicular to the ground, my medular-oblangata stops functioning.
Where were you, when brothers used to write letters with dictionaries? If you never received letters like these, you know nothing and probably a Y2K generation baby boomer. Broken English it might have been, these ‘melodious’ words were popular during an era when a letter was the ultimate mode of communication.
Things have since changed drastically since the turn of the millennium, as abbreviated messages are the order of the day via bbm, whatsapp, Facebook, making the letter’s role as a communication tool down the bottom of the list. This paradigm shift meant postal operators such as BotswanaPost, had to transform their business model to ensure sustainability.
From snail ‘traditional’ mail to cloud services.
The Postal Services is one of the oldest public services in Botswana, having been established in 1875 by the London Missionary Society. In those days, pairs of “runners” carried mail between various points on a stretch from Bulawayo up to Mahikeng, from Molepolole to Kuruman. The initial mail runs were from Missionary Post to another Missionary Post, until the Declaration of Protectorate, when the Colonial Administration “adopted” the LMS runners and pleaded with Robert Moffart to supervise a more formalised method of mail transmission between the Cape Colony and the hinterlands of Southern Africa.
That’s the huge contrast that clearly demonstrates how BotswanaPost has transformed and claimed its place in the changing communication landscape. A leap of transformation is an understatement for one of the oldest service providers in the country. In fact, for BotswanaPost when it envisaged taking that first step to begin the journey in uncharted waters to transform, modernise and diversify it was inevitability than a choice. Had the Post remained a traditionalist service provider, its relevance which was on the wane due to advancement of technology in the communication sphere and changing consumer preferences and tastes, would be near absolute.
Not to say mail has totally become extinct as globally it is still the majority driver of revenue of Postal service operators. This week Post Offices across the world are celebrating the World Post Day, under the theme ‘Posts claim their place in the changing communication landscape”.I have adapted the theme to headline this analysis due to its precise relevance to the current status quo of one of the important motors of economic activity and growth pre-dating the 19th century.
Today, Posts are poised to play a very important role in a new wave of globalization being ushered in by the Internet, which calls for greater inclusion of citizens everywhere.
In his 2014 World Post Day message Universal Postal Union (UPU) Director General Mr. sated that for postal services to flourish, technology and Internet connectivity is essential, especially in developing countries, where only 32% of the population has access to the Internet.
Initially, technology was viewed by many as the end of an era of mail services but at BotswanaPost. That is the reason why in 2011 BotswanaPost came up and implemented a strategy ‘Icon of Excellence’ to respond to the changing landscape. The Post is now harnessing Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to stimulate communication particularly in the rural areas as well as business growth on other products like parcel mail and money transfer, which are driven by technological capabilities.
Hence, for BotswanaPost, new technologies do not pose a threat to our business; instead we see them as a stepping stone to execute our strategic objectives.
Despite the transformation, BotswanaPost has not changed what the Post office has always done. We remain the good old central meeting place in the heart of communities, where people came to post letters, for their mail order parcels. It is just that how we do it is rapidly changing.
The Post has increased the use of ICT by creating innovative channels such as PosoCloud, PosoCard as well as introducing products such as pre-paid electricity payment through mobile and internet banking to provide customer convenience.
The global postal network is a tremendous asset for extending this digital reach – not only for the benefit of citizens and businesses, but also for Governments, development agencies and other stakeholders looking for solutions to many of the challenges our world is grappling with.
According to the World Bank, Post Offices are the cheapest providers of remittance services, ahead of Banks and money transfer operators.
Posts are also the second biggest contributors to financial inclusion after banks, with one billion people holding a postal account.
The UPU state that there are new opportunities with cross-border e-commerce. Although this business is still relatively new, global online sales should reach 1.5 trillion dollars by year end. More often than not, online purchases are delivered by the Post.
The future therefore lies in e-commerce. That is why BotswanaPost will continue to innovate, invest in technology to ensure that it is able to provide efficient, state-of-the art services. As consumers become increasingly savvy and technologically driven, the Post is duty bound to ensure that it stays ahead of technological developments and grow its capabilities to adapt with the dynamic nature of customer expectations.
As the industry landscape evolves, BotswanaPost stand ‘horizontal to the wall and perpendicular to the ground’ and claim its place in the changing communication landscape. The Post Office still remain the central meeting place for the village, it’s just that the village is now a global village.
*Wanetsha Mosinyi is a Communications Manager at BotswanaPost.