UPU’s Digital Transformation and Innovation Group outlines key priorities for 2023

Members of the Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) Digital Transformation and Innovation Group (DTIG) have outlined their key priorities for 2023, including plans for the WSIS Forum 2023, the first-ever Postal Data Hackathon, and the work to define Crypto and NFT stamps.

The group, which held an important meeting last month to discuss its activities for the year ahead, is responsible for developing and implementing the UPU’s Digital Strategy, which aims to promote the use of digital technologies and innovative solutions in the postal sector.

DTIG prepares industry policies, recommendations, regulations, and technical assistance, as well as hosting training and innovation events and advocating for a sustainable digital future for the Post. “DTIG is helping to ensure that the postal sector can adapt and thrive in the rapidly changing digital landscape,” said Hon Chew Lee, DTIG’s co-chair.

In its role to support postal digital transformation, DTIG works on four key pillars – research and development (R&D), capacity building, innovation and collaboration, and technical assistance. For R&D, DTIG identifies the new technologies, solutions, and trends that can be applied to the postal sector, and facilitates its adoption by the postal network.

As part of this, during its last meeting DTIG held a roundtable on the role the postal sector can play in the digital identity ecosystem, with participation from Posts and experts from around the world. “The participants mentioned that there are a number of unique opportunities that Posts offer to support government goals in digital inclusion and universal access to digital ID-enabled services,” explains Lee. “Enabling trusted postal services in the digital world is key.”

Based on the key outcomes from the discussion, the group will draft a position paper to inform policy makers and assist posts to be prepared to support the SDG goal 16.9 to enable legal identity for all by 2030.

DTIG is also drafting a postal sector input to the consultation on the Global Digital Compact – a UN initiative with the aim of developing shared principles for an open, free, and secure digital future for all. “We are currently consolidating submissions from more than 60 countries on the benefits the postal sector can bring to a common digital agenda,” explains Lee. “The input is due to be submitted in June this year.”

During last month’s meeting DTIG also began work on collecting up-to-date statistics on postal digital services worldwide to prepare the fourth edition of the UPU flagship report, “The digital economy and digital postal activities – a global panorama”. This publication is aimed at providing a better understanding of the patterns of countries’ digital postal capability to inform policy makers, regulators and postal operators.

In the area of innovation, DTIG is working on creating a set of definitions for “Crypto and NFT stamps,” Lee notes, “to give support to the development of this interesting innovation in philately.” The group will work to validate this before it is officially submitted for adoption as a UPU recommendation by the Postal Operations Council this year.

Also this year, DTIG is preparing the first UPU hosted Postal Data Hackathon, which will take place in Berne on 23-24 June. “The USA offered additional support to this exciting new innovation initiative and joined the list of partners including La Poste France, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Eurora, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL),” Lee adds.

Another key priority for 2023 for DTIG is to further advance technical assistance projects. These include the contributions to digitalization activities being undertaken under the e-trade-for-all initiative in Kenya, the Solomon Islands, Mauritania, Tunisia, Malawi, and Jordan.

“Several UN e-trade capability assessments are also being carried out in Peru, Algeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Timor-Leste, and Zimbabwe in 2023,” Lee adds. “During our recent meeting all members were called on to support this work and assist, through the UPU, the countries to implement recommendations from the assessments and action plans.”

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