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Wednesday, 17 August 2011 10:53

Turnbull calls for Government to offer all citizens an 'electronic pigeon hole'

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Shadow communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull has called on the government to offer every citizen a free 'electronic pigeon hole' essentially an permanent email address for the receipt of government documents. We not sure if he has pinched the idea, but this is pretty much the same concept that is being made a reality in the US by Pitney Bowes.

Turnbull said: "Government could save hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions over time, by saying to every citizen 'We will give you a lifetime address, a lifetime pigeon hole - john dot citizen dot date of birth dot gov dot au, something like that - which is yours fror ever and at which you will receive communications from government at no charge and you agree that we won't need to sent you letters.

"I think most people would find that acceptable and it could be expanded to include information for other providers. It would cut costs and make interactions much more efficient. You have to  wonder why it has not been done'¦I feel that in this town there is is real inertia."

The Pitney Bowes service, Volly, being introduced by its Pitney Bowes Business Insights division (PBBI), is however, broader in scope and targeted at the private sector as well as government. It is designed to be the electronic equivalent of the traditional mailbox and is due for launch later this year.

The intent is that companies, and government bodies will be able to deliver essential communications like bills and electronic versions of 'junk mail' - promotional mailings - but with the customer being able to selectively filter and block those they do not want and with PBBI offering targeted delivery using demographic information.

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In addition to providing channel to customers, Volly will be able to accept payments and issue reminders to customers about bills that are overdue.

PBBI president, John O'Hara told ExchangeDaily last month: "We would get a number of mailers to post their online bills into this repository called Volly where consumers can have one place to interact with all their transactional documents. And we would help the billers to send you only relevant personalised programs - for example we would not send promotions for garden furniture to an apartment address."

He said that, ahead of the US launch, PBBI had already signed up about a dozen big mailers," and added: "Because Volly is cloud based we could offer it anywhere and we are already talking to some big mailers in Asia. Servers could be located within a particular country but we have not gone into that level of detail yet."

We think Turnbull's is an excellent one, but rather than government going alone and building this at a cost to the taxpayer it should go to tender for a system similar to Volly with the deal being that the successful bidder would be required to offer one (or more) partitions for government information but could then offer facilities to the private sector for use in a fashion similar to Volly.

It might be the perfect vehicle for Australia Post - which is struggling to define its future in a world of rapidly plummeting letters and burgeoning growth in resource intensive parcel delivery - to secure its role in the digital future.

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