Ahmed Fahour.
Ahmed Fahour.

AusPost CEO says shopfronts still essential in digi-world

In this Golden Age of instant, mobile connectivity, we - as a nation - have an exciting opportunity to create a more dynamic and productive economy that delivers benefits for all Australians.

But as rapid technology adoption and innovative business models open access to new commercial opportunities globally, there are still millions of Australians who aren't online and, therefore, don't have easy access to the growing range of everyday services that are being delivered digitally.

While we don't know exactly how many Australians aren't online, some estimates put it at four million. That's one in six Australians.

Additionally, it's estimated that only one in four Australians are currently accessing government services online. 

These facts highlight two imperatives about our transition to becoming a truly digitally connected service-based economy. First, we need to be very mindful of ensuring disadvantaged and isolated citizens remain included and retain access to vital services. And second, we need to keep innovating in the important area of citizen-centric government service delivery.

In both areas, Australia Post is uniquely positioned to make a contribution.

We already offer services on behalf of more than 750 businesses and government organisations - via our post office network. We offer them access to a nationwide shopfront of over 4,000 stores, enabling their customers' easy, convenient access to important services, in their own community.

For example, we currently process more than six million physical and digital identity verification transactions every year - enabling important services such as passport applications, driver's licence renewals and police checks. We accept (and process) bill-payments on behalf of hundreds of companies and government organisations. And we also handle everyday banking transactions on behalf most Australian financial institutions, including the Big Four.

As companies and government agencies increasingly seek to digitise their service offering, Australia Post has the brand and the community-based retail network that enables them to retain a nationwide, physical, face-to-face channel for service delivery.

But, undoubtedly, the future of service delivery must involve an omni-channel, customer-centric approach. We know that our customers expect a seamless experience at every touchpoint - whether that be online, via a mobile app or in our post offices.

Over the past few years, we have been working closely with government bodies and community organisations to digitise services and, in doing so, enhance the ability of individuals to connect to the digital economy, regardless of their personal circumstances.

For example, we're currently working with the CSIRO's data innovation group, Data61, to look at ways to encourage greater utilisation of digital channels for government service delviery.

We're also collaborating with our community partner, Infoxchange, to roll-out digital education and mentoring programs to help more people in our communities get online and access everyday services with confidence.

Recent studies have estimated that the Australian government will unlock some $18 billion in productivity benefits if just 20% of traditional transactions move online over the next decade.

For our part, we have been investing heavily in our own digital capabilities to enable the facilitation of a greater number of secure and authenticated services. For example, we're undertaking R&D to better understand how we can apply technologies like biometrics and blockchain that will help Australians securely manage their credentials online and enable greater opportunities for eCommerce.

In an era where the pace of change is accelerating, we need to make digital access work for more Australians. But, at the same time, we have to retain effective, accessible services in local communities, where people work and live. 

Ultimately, it's about ensuring we help our communities realise the productivity benefits of our connected digital age, while ensuring nobody is left behind, or excluded from accessing important, everyday services.



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