They say ‘Times change and those who change with it survive’. For the National Post Office, just like any postal services worldwide, this Chinese adage has been a strong motivation in the face of the digital world.
As the Internet defines the trend in global communication where many messages are delivered via Instant Mail Services and e-mails, post offices find themselves in a tight corner, but in Rwanda, the National Post Office has kept pace with deliveries and flourishes on, James Karuhanga writes;-
Lawmakers, this week, queried the relevance of the post office in a world of changing communication technology in addition to the rise of trendy and more efficient competitors.
The legislators were speaking after the Minister of Youth and ICT tabled a revised 1992 legislation establishing the National Post Office (NPO) on Monday.
Contrary to common perceptions, technological advances have not made the national post office services irrelevant, Minister Jean Philbert Nsengimana told Parliament.
MP Gideon Kayinamura and others queried the level of accessibility and status given advancements in technology and the rise of competitors, including bus companies and international postal express mail operators such as EMS and DHL, which deliver mail and parcels faster.
Queries in Parliament
MP Basile Bayihiki said unlike in the past when NPO monopolised the sector, things have changed.
“How is the competition currently, when you factor in the services provided by others like EMS and DHL?” MP Jean Baptiste Musemakweli asked. “There are many services that used to be provided by the post office, including money grams, fax, and others. Are they still in place, or these e-mails and social networks have reduced them?”
Musemakweli cited a continuing debate that technology has cut into postal services profits.
Nsengimana, however, argued that NPO is adapting to technological advancement quite well.
“Honestly, the post office is in a good situation. It is making profits. From 2007 to-date, profits continue to increase–they moved from Rwf17 million in 2007 to Rwf100 million after taxes last year,” Nsengimana said.
“All these indicate that the post office is able to adapt to the changes in technology, be it through bringing in new services or increasing efficiency in management,” the minister added.
How NPO adjusted
He also reminded lawmakers that NPO does not cost taxpayers money as it “is not allocated any budget, but uses money from its own earnings.”
In October 2011, NPO Director-General Celestin Kayitare said the body was venturing into electronic money transfer in order to cope with the growing competition in the vibrant postal and courier industry.
At the time, Kayitare said NPO had posted Rwf124 million in profits in the previous year, compared to Rwf23 million in 2008.
Nsengimana said NPO properties countrywide are safe and in line with Vision 2020–postal services will reach at least all sectors in a wider plan to ease universal access and cut cost.
In the recent past, NPO officials have stressed that the Internet, instead of killing the post office, is a complement and that integrating ICT is boosting innovation to improve service delivery.
They admit that even though the Internet cut into mail deliveries, people are still sending and receiving thousands of packages and parcels through post office.
In addition, e-commerce, which is enhanced by the integration of ICT, express mail delivery, and other services, still flourishes.
“We are not underestimating the power of technology, but we embrace ICT in order to deliver the services to meet the needs of our customers and better manage our worldwide post delivery system,” Dieudonné Maniragaba, the NPO commercial director, said.
NPO has more than 20 branches countrywide
One of the key changes is that unlike in the past when the NPO monopolised postal services, other businesses offering services similar to what the NPO is doing will be regulated by guidelines in a related ICT Bill which is still under committee scrutiny.
The minister said: “As we all know, many other businesses offering similar services have entered this sector. In the analysis done, government realised that these other actors cannot continue to operate in an illegal manner. This Bill, thus has, it that these services can be provided by others as well but with respect to operational guidelines, and monitoring of how they offer those services will be clarified in the ICT Bill.”
On the new Bill, the minister explained that the National Post Office continued to be governed by the 1992 law.