The move to unfamiliar technological turf will save time and money for millions of postal customers, largely those who are involved with bulk mail, officials say. It is another example of the government's use of technology to process applications, including ones for passports, driver's licenses, and Social Security forms.
It also is a coup for the Postal Service, whose revenues are under pressure as more people turn to electronic communications like faxes and email, as opposed to what's called snail mail. "The Postal Service is pressing forward to bring new services to its customers and improved efficiency to its operations," said Robert Reisner, vice president of strategic planning for the Postal Service.
The mail service is also gearing up its own efforts to provide email. However, its main concern is making the electronic postings secure.
For decades, customers who used bulk mail services were required to fill out and submit hard-copy forms. If errors were found, the process had to be started all over again.
Now, however, Web-based forms for such services can be submitted electronically, allowing postal clerks to schedule the acceptance of mail and payments automatically.
A beta test of the Java-based postage statement application will take place in early November with select business customers, the Postal Service said.
Ray Moore, Sun's market development manager for electronic commerce, called the development an "irreversible trend."