Japan Post soon to connect with seniors virtually

Why Japan Post is the poster child for struggling postal services

04 MAY 2015

NEW BLOG: Japan Post Group is breaking new ground far beyond mail delivery by tapping into its key asset – its ability to cover the “last mile” to virtually every citizen.

It recently announced it is leveraging its nationwide infrastructure of 24,000 post offices and workforce of 400,000 to expand its innovative in-person monitoring initiative for the elderly from the physical to the virtual world.

The group, which was privatised in 2009 and also offers banking and insurance services, has existing financial relationships with nearly all of Japan’s 115 million adults.

The country is undergoing a historic generational shift that is causing an imbalance in its labour force and putting strain on extended families. It has 33 million senior citizens, who account for 25 per cent of the population. That percentage is forecast to expand to 40 per cent over the next 40 years. Nearly 180,000 people between the ages of 15 and 29 provide care for a family member.

At the same time, the nation faces severe depopulation and younger people are abandoning small towns and villages. The population is forecast to plunge from 127 million to 90 million in 50 years. This would reduce the country’s workforce from 65 million to 46 million, which means that to keep output at the current level workers would have to do the job of 1.3 people, said Shigeki Suzuki, director general of the Global ICT Strategy Bureau.

Japan Post is using its vast network of mail carriers to check on elderly customers and keep families updated about their well-being. It is now teaming up with IBM and Apple to give senior customers iPads and custom apps from IBM.

Its Watch Over service, which is offered for a nominal monthly fee, will begin as a pilot project in the second half of the year and aims to reach four million to five million customers in Japan by 2020.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said: “The potential we see here is one example of the potential of mobile-led transformation anywhere in the world where issues of an aging population exist.”

In addition to built-in apps on the iPad, including FaceTime and iCloud Photo Sharing, the cloud-based service will feature custom IBM apps such as alerts about medications, exercise and diet, along with direct access to community activities and services such as grocery shopping.

With more and more countries facing challenges caring for their aging populations, the initiative certainly has the potential for global impact.

Kudos to the company for not only devising a practical and hopefully economical way to serve its seniors, but also for the recently state-run agency moving beyond its traditional service mandate and trying to reinvent itself to create new revenue streams.

With mail delivery decimated by email and digital documentation, government postal services around the world should take notice.

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.


Joseph Waring

Joseph Waring joins Mobile World Live as the Asia editor for its new Asia channel. Before joining the GSMA, Joseph was group editor for Telecom Asia for more than ten years. In addition to writing features, news and blogs, he...

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