African postal service providers should not shy away from embracing information and communication technology (ICT) as it plays a major role in shifting market and customer needs, Tanzania's Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Prof. Peter M. Msolla, said Monday, marking the Pan African Posts Day.

'ICT is expected to improve the quality and efficiency of service provided. It will also provide a platform for the development of other e-services,' Msolla remarked ahead of the opening of a two-day conference of African ministers responsible fo r communications at Arusha, northern Tanzania.
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The conference coincided with the inauguration of Tanzania's national addressing and postcodes, a project pioneering the implementation of a street-type addressing system with postcodes and the creation of a national address database.

Msolla said the system involves naming and identification of streets and numbering of all houses in accordance with new addressing standards.

Under the same system, Tanzania will be divided into postcode areas and a five-digit postcode system will be used for identifying areas. Postcodes will also be allocated to specific post office establishment and major customers.

Calling for the cooperation of all Tanzanians in developing the system, the minister said: 'Enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of universal postal services in the country is of concern to the government. Movement of letters, packets, parcels and finan cial services form part of the daily lives of people across the country, contine n t and the world.

'Postal services therefore have a critical role to play in our collective efforts to accelerate development ⦠and hence we need to continue to harness the po tential of postal services as an instrument of development,' he said.

The African Posts Day was observed under the theme: 'The Post, a veritable means to bridge the digital gap'.  Meanwhile, the Pan African Postal Union (PAPU) celebrated the day in line with the organisation's new vision, mission and strategic objectives, said PAPU Secretary General Rodaqh A. Masaviru.

"Our primary objective is to have an efficient postal network in Africa that effectively interlinks with the rest of the world and guarantees a wide range of qu a lity ICT-based products and services to meet and even exceed customer expectations," said the c hief of the Arusha-based specialised agency of the African Union.

"A truly integrated information society can only be a reality if the rural and urban, as well as the information-rich and information-poor communities are connected through modern communication infrastructure," said Masaviru, noting that the

21st century was increasingly being defined by phenomenal growth in the ICT sector, driven by the 'Internet explosion' that has created new ways of doing business.

According to a UN study in 2008, Internet users were five times less in Africa than in North America -- 51 million in Africa compared to 248 million -- whereas the African continent is three times more populated (955 million) than North America (338 million).

In Africa, more than half of the Internet users are in the Northern subregion and in South Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa only 3 percent of the population are connected to the Internet.

"The digital gap negates the building of a fully integrated, harmonious and equitable information society [in Africa]," said Masaviru, who urged stakeholders in the communication industry to take measures to mitigate the effect of this phenomenon.

At world level, the Post has about 660,000 post offices. In Africa, the post net work has 30,300 post offices widely spread in urban and rural areas.

Member countries of PAPU have been called upon to support the e-Post Africa project, so that it could successfully embrace digital integration on the continent.
Source: Afrique en ligne