Gradual decline of traditional postal system
Email, SMS, Facebook
killing the Post Office
By Chidi Emmanuel
KUWAIT: Strolling around the central Post Office in Maliya Kuwait City, the casual observer would be shocked at the steady decline of what was, only a few years ago, a busy office bustling with activity. In recent years, the domestic postal service has watched its core business of delivering mail erode as many now prefer to use email services, text messages, courier services, etc.
So, is the internet killing off the Post Office services? I asked a staff member at the general Post Office in Kuwait. “Yes I think so” he replied. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he explained, “We no longer get large amounts of mails like we used to before. Things have changed dramatically. People are now buying stamps for other official things – not mainly to post letters.” The Kuwait Times interviewed a number of expatriates on the issue, with most of the interviewees revealing that they had neither posted nor received any letter via the Post Office since 2005.
“The last time I sent a mail letter to my parents was in October 2003,” said Indian expatriate Kamal Kumar. “I think the postal system is becoming obsolete. We now have email, Facebook, SMS etc. Moreover, communication through these medium are faster and cheaper.” Echoing Kamal’s views, Ali Hadi, a computer engineer, also blamed the slow pace at which the traditional postal system works as the cause its woes. “Post a letter today and see how many days - if not months - it will take to reach its final destination. It takes a long time and people are fed up with that, so they either use email or courier services like DHL, UPS, Aramex etc for hard copies.”
Kamal’s and Hadi’s views of the postal system were shared across the spectrum. It is no understatement to say that the increasing use of the internet, mobile and smart phones and other hi-tech devices is pushing traditional postal services to the brink. While the developments in modern communication technology offer many benefits for users, they have led to the Kuwait postal service being the biggest loser domestically, and it’s certainly not an isolated case. According to a recent report, postal services globally have been losing money at a phenomenal rate, amounting to $7 billion this year alone, with hundreds of post offices worldwide facing closure as a result. The problem is a simple one: many people have got used to using the newer, far faster correspondence system of email.
Postal systems worldwide are facing huge challenges from the widespread use of email and other Internet services that offer instantaneous communication. The list of postal systems’ woes is long and topped by the growth of social networking sites, which are replacing mail at an unanticipated rate, thus further eroding the traditional postal systems.
With or without the Internet, however, all nations need a way to deliver physical items and some hard copies domestically and globally. Some Western countries have tackled similar post offices problems with creative and successful partial privatizations, adopting numerous measures to rescue their postal systems. The latest US plans to rescue the Postal Service would allow the agency to end Saturday mail delivery and sell non-postal products. “Kuwait’s government should look for a way to modernize the system and reduce the [time taken for] currently sluggish catalogue deliveries,” suggested Silva Rodriguez, an Indian teacher.