Startup initiatives from Down Under may offer inspiration to the failing US Postal Service

Earlier this week, the US Postal Service reported another dismal quarter of financial results.

It’s the latest in a string of bad news for a national service that has been in slow decline since private carriers began emerging to challenge its dominance in the marketplace, and email rendered the written letter all but obsolete.

According to a report from ABC News the Postal Service last week reported a loss of $2.1 billion for the quarter, compared to a $1.6 billion loss in the year ago period.

And while the package delivery business is surging (thanks to Amazon), it’s not enough to offset the decline in letter mail, according to statistics.

The response to this continuing and precipitous decline has been to appeal to government to raise rates, which may only serve to drive customers further out of reach for the ailing mail delivery service.

What it could do, instead, is look to innovation as a way to boost its flagging bottom line… and one place it could find inspiration is in the national postal service operating thousands of miles to the south, in Australia.

For the past few years, the Australian postal service has made a concerted effort to digitize and modernize its operations and the services it provides.

In 2015, the Australia Post announced an initial AUS$20 million initiative to invest in eCommerce businesses and begin working with a university accelerator program in Melbourne to help those businesses thrive.

The idea, was to boost e-commerce among small and medium-sized businesses across the country as a way to gin up revenue. ¬†At roughly AUS$6.6 billion in revenue in 2016, the nation’s postal service is a fraction of the size of the USPS, which had $16.6 billion in revenue coming in the third quarter of 2017 alone.

But there are still lessons that can be learned from Australia Post’s fledgling attempts at modernization.

Beyond the investment fund, the Australia Post is also working to establish itself as the gateway to Australia’s experiments with digital identification.

In May, the Post said it was partnering with Australia’s Federal Government to develop better gateways to government digital services through its branches and websites.

Working alongside Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency the Australia Post to integrate its own identity technology (the Australia Post HAS identity technology) with the nation’s own digital identity framework.

The idea there is to develop a proof of concept to help government agencies improve how they provide access to services online and offline.

That’s a model that the USPS could look to replicate. If it became a central hub for digital identity, the post office could regain some of its lost relevance. Research out of Australia revealed that the process could reduce up to $11 billion in costs per year, according to a statement from Australia Post chief executive Ahmed Fahour.

“We envisage an identity solution, like Digital iD, could unlock significant benefits for everyday Australians doing business with government,” Fahour said.

Finally, the Postal service in Australia also encourages entrepreneurship with a startup competition of its own. Open to any small business owner throughout Australia, the pitch competition is a way to engage with small businesses across the continent — er, country.

Broadcast annually (and running tonight/early this morning in the U.S.) the competition supports a range of businesses and can link them with co-working spaces, mentors, and logistical support to encourage their success.

The program’s also wildly popular in the country, and draws a huge viewing audience to watch the pitch competition (we’ll be streaming it when it goes live).