Digital Economy Innovation

UPU’s First Postal Data Hackathon

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) is set to hold its first-ever Postal Data Hackathon in Berne, Switzerland. UPU’s First Postal Data Hackathon will take place on 23 and 24 June 2023. It intends to bring together stakeholders together from across the postal industry, including postal operators, regulators, and technology providers. The aim is to collaborate and co-create innovative solutions to enhance the efficiency of the international postal network.

Expected Outcomes

The Postal Data Hackathon will provide a platform for participants to leverage data and emerging technologies to address key challenges facing the postal industry. The UPU’s First Postal Data Hackathon seeks to foster innovation, collaboration, and co-creation of solutions to enhance the efficiency of the international postal network. Furthermore, through this event, the UPU hopes to identify and showcase new ideas, innovative products, and services that can improve the postal industry’s performance and competitiveness.

Postal Data Collection and Management in the Past

Postal operators have traditionally relied on manual processes for data collection and management. However, in recent years, it has become clear that data-driven decision-making is essential to improve the performance of postal services. Interestingly, many postal operators, especially in advanced nations, have implemented sophisticated data collection and management systems that enable them to monitor and analyze key performance metrics. However, globally, the value of postal data still remains largely untapped. It is still primarily used for operational purposes. The focus is on tracking and delivery of mail and parcels. It is not for strategic purposes, such as data analysis and innovation.

UPU’s First Postal Data Hackathon: Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities

The postal industry faces numerous challenges, including declining volumes of mail, increasing competition from digital technologies, and changing consumer preferences. The industry must change to remain competitive. Postal operators must innovate and collaborate to develop new solutions that meet the changing needs of their customers. UPU’s First Postal Data Hackathon offers an opportunity for stakeholders to come together to tackle these challenges and identify new opportunities and innovations for growth.

Organizing a global event like the Postal Data Hackathon, however presents several challenges, including logistical issues, ensuring stakeholder engagement, and managing expectations. Careful planning and collaboration with all stakeholders is required. To ensure the success of the Postal Data Hackathon, the UPU should engage with stakeholders from across the global postal industry not just in the advanced nations. It should build partnerships with other organizations. Furthermore, the UPU should leverage its existing networks to build awareness and generate interest in the event. As a stakeholder in Africa, my impression is that the level of awareness here is low.

Fostering Innovation and Collaboration in Africa

Events and initiatives that foster innovation, collaboration, and co-creation of solutions are important to Africa. Enhancing the efficiency of the international postal network is particularly relevant to Africa. UPU’s First Postal Data Hackathon should interest Africa. The postal industry in Africa faces numerous challenges, including a lack of infrastructure, inadequate funding, and limited access to technology. However, Africa can overcome these challenges and improve the efficiency of postal services across the continent by leveraging science, technology, and innovation. Even then, Africa must overcome numerous barriers to leverage science, technology and innovation and foster innovation and collaboration. These barriers include a lack of political will, limited funding, and a shortage of skilled personnel. Additionally, a major limitation is the lack of awareness and understanding of the potential of science, technology, and innovation to improve the postal industry’s performance.

Africa must be Strategic and Coordinated about Science, Technology, and Innovation

African governments and stakeholders must develop and implement meaningful science, technology, and innovation policies and strategies to foster innovation and collaboration on the continent. It is crucial to focus on problem-solving, rather than just hosting events and following the latest trends. Additionally, these policies can also help to build capacity, provide funding, create jobs, and support the growth of the postal industry in Africa. The UPU’s Postal Data Hackathon offers unique benefits to Africa.

Call to Get Involved: UPU’s First Postal Data Hackathon

The UPU’s Postal Data Hackathon presents an exciting opportunity for stakeholders from across the postal industry to come together and collaborate on innovative solutions to enhance the efficiency of the international postal network. The Hackathon wants to bring people together who can actively tackle challenges, not only hackers, “techies”, developers, or people with extensive technical expertise. Certain solutions require not only technology, but also new processes and practices.

Interested parties are invited to participate. I call on stakeholders in Africa in particular. Stakeholders can participate in the Postal Data Hackathon in three ways: as a challenge owner, a hacker, and/or a mentor. Register or submit your postal challenges by 12 May 2023.

Author: Jide Awe

Science, Technology and Innovation policy advisor.

Find him on Twitter @jidaw

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