With a history rooted in the door-to-door delivery of ‘snail mail’, it’s easy to see why some pundits have predicted a finite existence for postal corporations. However, it’s not a view shared by Gerard Power, Canada Post’s VP and general counsel. In a recent presentation to the Senate’s Subcommittee on Communications, Power maintained that the crown-owned corporation is a logical player in a new economy where privacy and trust are becoming sacrosanct with consumers. Below is an edited excerpt from his Sept. 25 speech. A link to the full presentation can be found on our web site. Why is Canada Post here? We have been participating in electronic markets since their outset. From the 1970s onward, the telegraph services in Canada used Canada Post for delivery of telegraphs. Bicycles went away and Canada Post was used as a delivery system. CNCP Telecommunications put printers into our postal services. Messages would be printed in the post office and then delivered by a letter carrier. When electronic mail began with the invoice service of Bell Canada, Canada Post, along with Bell, offered Envoy Post, so that a message from an Envoy user could be printed at one of our offices and delivered through that physical mail system. Those services have disappeared as society has moved forward, but so has Canada Post moved forward in offering new services in an electronic domain. A barrier to e-commerce is trust. We need to know with whom we are doing business. As someone who uses the Internet frequently for making purchases, I want to know with whom I am dealing. If I am doing business with an established retailer, it gives me a certain degree of trust in placing an order. Our consumers are looking for a degree of security that can be provided without going to retinal scans or fingerprint recognition. Scanning someone’s eyeball might be considered intrusive. However, providing for a PIN number, as one does to access a banking site, in combination with a password, is a level of security that our customers have found to be satisfactory in signing up for the EPOST web site, for example. There, we send two separate physical mailings. One gives customers their user ID; the other one sends their pin number or password. Someone who happens to crack into the mailbox may get one, but given that they are sent out on different days, that person is unlikely to get both. Again, that enhances trust and security. Canada Post participated with the Canadian Marketing Association in the development of a Canadian Standards Association standard for privacy. That standard has been effectively codified by Bill C-6 and establishes a baseline for the protection of consumer information, not only in Internet commerce, but also in commerce generally. The universality challenge The problem is that as we offer more of our services electronically, we risk limiting the access of certain Canadians. Rather than marginalizing those Canadians, using the post office retail network is one mechanism to ensure that Canadians who do not otherwise have a connection are able to connect. Many of our post offices today have connections through the Internet, in order to provide us with retail point-of-sale information. Knowing how many stamps we have sold in a given post office is important because we need to know if we should send more stamps. That kind of exchange capability, that kind of backbone, can be used and expanded upon to provide a host of services, such as the kiosk experiment that we have ongoing right now. That would provide for access to government information relating to individuals. Thus privacy access requests might be automated and the access provided through such a kiosk. Canada Post has been a trusted intermediary in providing government services and a host of interconnections for over 100 years. We feel that our background in maintaining the security of information and providing consistent infrastructure – that is, a Canadian-identified infrastructure – has benefits in enhancing the trust that Canadians may have in doing business electronically.