Digital mailbox providers jostle for govt business

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Digital mailbox providers jostle for govt business

Look to Coalition for mandated electronic comms.

Australia Post and Digital Post are battling to connect their digital mailbox services to the Federal Government's myGov online services portal, with both claiming high levels of interest.

Australia Post claimed the incoming government had recognised its potential as a place for citizens to receive mandated electronic communications.

Speaking at the CA Technologies Expo in Melbourne last week, Australia Post Digital MailBox head of technology Peter McTaggart said pilots were now underway with the Department of Human Services and the Australian Taxation Office, though Post still only had three service providers live on its platform.

In May, Post said it would be “a wonderful thing” if the incoming Coalition government mandated the service.

It will face stiff competition from rival Digital Post, which is also hoping to gain a slice of government business.

“We’ve been reasonably involved with all levels of government,” Digital Post general manager Simon Hughes told iTnews. “The interest level is very high within government.”

Hughes said it was unlikely the government would help trigger a monopoly in the digital mailbox sector, but it would more likely initially forward mail from the myGov website into more than one digital mailbox provider.

“The government always has to be careful about being a kingmaker. The preference of the government will always be to let the market make a decision and if it turns out to be a natural monopoly they will probably still go to tender for probity reasons.”

Both Australia Post and Digital Post are yet to sign on a significant number of service providers to deliver bills or other communications via a digital postbox, though both claim to be close to signing many more on to their respective services.

Australia Post’s digital mailbox currently only has three service providers connected to its MailBox - AMP, Yarra Valley Water and Post’s own services.

Digital Post counts two Queensland utilities on its client list, but it has also connected nearly 1000 listed entities thanks to its relationship with majority shareholder Computershare.

Hughes said the slow take-up rate was due to conversations being escalated to senior executives which were in turn becoming part of a larger discussion about the organisations’ entire digital strategy.

“Up until 12 months a go a lot of organisations were playing a wait and see.”

Race for privacy

McTaggart used his presentation at last week’s CA event to highlight the closed network status of the Digital MailBox service, which is hosted in Telstra’s private cloud.

“We know that in this digital space customers want to receive mail without spam and without people scanning their mail to try and work out their behaviours," he said.

“The Digital MailBox is a spam free environment, it’s a closed network at the moment which puts the user in control of what they receive and who they receive it from.”

McTaggart said Post chose a private cloud to ensure “security, privacy and data sovereignty”.

‘We think that’s really important. All of the data’s onshore, remains onshore and doesn’t traverse international networks.”

Hughes agreed privacy was a consideration for users of digital mailboxes, with concerns likely to become heightened as more and more communications are stored.

He said Digital Post had recently signed on Rackspace in addition to its 30 dedicated servers and several terabytes of data storage in two Macquarie Telecom data centres in Sydney.

“We’re using a disaster recovery arrangement between the two. We’ve got comfort these guys are set up in different locations. If one goes down the other is more than likely to be up.”

The data will however remain hosted on dedicated infrastructure with additional security inside the data centre.

“Because of the level of personal information that’s served in there we need to be able to point to a physical box and potentially unplug it.”

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