Tech Evangelists To Meet in DC to Figure Out the Future of the Postal Service

And debate whether it even has a future at all

Postal Vision

via Airship-Research-Lab

By the year 2020, when we're all using ubiquitous organic touchscreens, augmented reality social networks, and ultra-powerful computers to communicate, will we still be using the mail? A group of technology evangelists and postal advocates will gather this summer to talk about that, and what the U.S. Postal Service can do to make sure the answer is yes.

The PostalVision 2020 conference will highlight how social networks and electronic communications continue to reshape the role of mail. Participants include Vint Cerf, Google's "chief Internet evangelist," and Jeff Jarvis, a blogger and journalism educator who has asked whether the Postal Service is even necessary anymore. Plenty of postal advocates will also be on hand, including members of a panel who have suggested post offices start selling gift cards and other retail items.

The goal is to discuss how snail mail might be saved, through dramatic structural changes or methods like privatization.

The USPS is on track to lose about $7 billion during the current fiscal year, the Washington Post reports. With that hemorrhaging unlikely to stop anytime soon, it's unlikely any investors would want to buy it.

John Callan, a mailing industry consultant who is organizing the meeting, told the Washington Post that the USPS is already working to address its current problems, but outsiders might have some useful ideas for its long-term future.

The meeting will also review what foreign postal services are doing — like forgoing stamps for digital codes sent via text, and scanning all mail into PDFs for digital delivery.

Eventually, postal services may be more useful for a much broader purpose than delivering coupons and J. Crew catalogs. The mail's unparalleled ability to reach everyone, everywhere could be useful for a host of services — delivering drugs in case of a disease outbreak or bioterrorism, for instance. Or monitoring air quality and traffic in neighborhoods. Or playing a role in the delivery and maintenance of nationwide broadband services ... the list goes on. For those reasons, at least, it could be well worth saving.