Australia Post will shortly be releasing their free Digital Mailbox in an attempt to future proof their business and step further into the online world.

The Digital Mailbox is part of Australia Post’s $2 billion dollar investment plan to digitise their current operations and it will allow all Australians to securely receive and pay bills, as well as store important documents and communications.

Australia Post’s managing director and CEO, Ahmed Fahour, says he hopes the Digital Mailbox will become as essential to everyday life as regular mail is. But the big question is, do Australians want it?

Just as the traditional letterbox has been a vital part of people’s communications for the past 200 years, we think the Australia Post Digital Mailbox will become an integral part of everyday life.

The digital mail revolution 

Essentially the Digital Mailbox is a letterbox hosted in the cloud that allows users to read and print mail, pay bills, set reminders and store important documents like tax records or copies of your passport. It can be accessed anytime, anywhere, on any device, making it particularly useful for people who are often moving or travelling.

Fahour said the Mailbox is a vital upgrade to Australia’s communications infrastructure and a digital manifestation of Australia Post’s original purpose. 

Australia Post has a proud track record of being the trusted intermediary that connect businesses and consumers and the Digital Mailbox extends that relationships into the digital world. 

It is easily accessed with one password, from any internet enabled device, 24/7, from anywhere in the world. But most importantly, Australians can trust their information is safe, stored securely in an Australian based cloud, provided by Telstra. 

So far Westpac, AMP and Telstra have come on as partners for the Digital Mailbox and Westpac has confirmed that it will use the Mailbox as a way to communicate and transact with customers. 

The competition

The idea of the Digital Mailbox may be new to some, but another organisation called Computershare offers a very similar service. The two are actually so similar, that Australia Post took Computershare to court to try to prevent it from using the name Digital Post Australia. They lost, turning it into a battle of first-to-market speed.

Currently, Computershare offers their digital mailbox service to the United States and has launched a limited release here in Australia, which could pose a potential threat to Australia Post.  

The risks

The idea of hosting all of your important details online is appealing, but what about security issues? Only last week did a computer glitch expose the names and locations of thousands of Australians who had been sent parcels, forcing Australia Post to shut down its electronic parcel tracking service. And, this was only a fortnight after the mail service was made to suspend its “click & send” service that is used for online shopping after the names and addresses of customers were exposed through manipulations of the website URL. 

Granted, traditional mail is no more susceptible to security breaches – snail-mail can be intercepted by anyone during its delivery cycle – therefore, in such a security conscious world, will Australians see the idea of the Digital Mailbox, that encourages you to upload copies of important documents like tax receipts and passport scans, too risky?

Roger Montgomery from ABC1′s Inside Business doesn’t seem to think so, exclaiming “sign me up” when discussing the idea of Computershare’s Digital Post. 

If they can get this right, if they can bank level security, if they can tie it in with a text message to tell me I have a bill to pay, and I just press a button, and if they can tie it in with BPay or whoever else, well they’re going to be bigger than Webjet, bigger than realestate.com.au, bigger than Carsales. 

Not everyone buys a house, not everyone buys a car, but everyone has to pay bills.

A necessary upgrade – or is it?

For businesses, the Digital Mailbox offers a way to connect with customers in a secure, digital way. But some people are wondering if this is a solution to a non-existent problem. 

For now the Digital Mailbox will not replace having a physical letterbox or PO box because not all of your mail will, or can, reach you via the internet. It’s not expected to be an environment for personal communications or deliveries: It is simply a way to view and deal with more service-driven functions, such as bills. 

It is clear that Australia Post needed to look to the future to make sure the services they were offering were relevant and digitised. But given that the services do not offer much more than existing services, such as BPay and POSTbillpay, it seems only time will tell whether this is a technology-driven function that the Australian public truly wants. 

The first part of this article is available here