TECH TALK: India Post: Ideas for Tomorrow: A Presentation

Recently, I was invited to make a presentation to India Post (the Department of Post), as part of a conference co-sponsored by the World Bank and the Invest Indian Economic Forum on India Post 2010. The focus was on new opportunities for India Post in the coming years. Consider some of the amazing facts about India Post: 154,000 post offices (of which 116,00 are in rural areas), 600,000 employees (making it the third largest employer in the country after the defence forces and the railways), 16 billion mail items handled annually, 110 million savings accounts, USD 44 billion in deposits in the Post Office Savings Bank. Among the ideas of the services that India Post could offer in the future (some of these are already happening): payments system functions, e-governance functions, front-end for the financial sector, information dissemination and front-end for e-commerce.

Here is the presentation I made to India Post. I focused more on the how what does it take for us to make these ideas a reality. The key underlying theme of my presentation: India Post as a utility, an e-Business utility. India Post should use its ubiquitous presence across the country to build an even deeper relationship with Indians. The trust that everyone has in India Post can be leveraged to bring about the computing revolution that India truly needs.

The four technology building blocks I identified which could make a big difference and help build India Post 2.0 were: Low-cost Computers, Open-Source Software, WiFi and Tech 7-11s. Low-cost (or low configuration) computers using Linux and other open-source software could create a mass market computing infrastructure. WiFi could extend this to the neighbourhood, making the incremental cost of a computer (connected to the TV as a monitor) under Rs 5,000 (USD 100). In essence, a part of the post office would become like a Tech 7-11, open from 7 am to 11 pm, and serving as an essential element in peoples daily lives, just like the 7-11s which dot many Asian cities.

As I prepared for the presentation, it occurred to me that rather than just making a conventional presentation on technology and leaving it at that, it would help if I could think about some scenarios on how technology could make a difference in the lives of people, especially those in rural areas. Along with some of my colleagues in the office, I put together a note for India Post on how peoples lives could be changed using existing technologies. This weeks Tech Talk is about this peek into a Tomorrow in New India, centred around the next generation post office.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.