UPU – postal flows reflect socioeconomic activity

The quality of a country’s wellbeing can be shown through a big data analysis of its postal networks according to research by the Universal Postal Union that has been published this week.

The research looked at global flows of 14 million postal items in 187 countries between 2010-14 and found that postal activity has been on the rise since 2010, and that this could well be linked to the strong growth of e-commerce. Postal flows therefore could well be an indicator of socioeconomic activity. These flows of post also reinforce other indicators of such activity.

The number crunching of postal flows also found that many nations have repeated interactions with specific others, giving clusters of activity. At its simplest this would include the EU within which many millions of e-commerce transactions are taking place and where the European Commission is looking at tackling barriers cross border deliveries. These flows reinforced currently monitored data such as GDP – there will be more postal flows in a region where there is higher GDP for example.

According to the UPU, “The use of big data for development is a burgeoning area of research that could help countries measure and monitor progress to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, big data can have limitations in coverage, particularly in countries where digital penetration and use of social media is low. This is where the contribution of UPU data from the global physical postal network can play a critical role.”

UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein welcomed the results of the study, “The unparalleled reach of the global postal network’s unique data footprint in the e-commerce era paves one way in which UPU member countries can make a critical contribution to helping the world achieve the SDGs.”

José Ansón, Postal Economist at the UPU, added, “In the digital era, greater granularity and frequency of analysis and monitoring of SDGs can, paradoxically, be achieved though global physical networks data,

“The postal network is the world’s largest physical network and its data a source of untapped potential, which, when tapped, can provide important insights into the state of nations.”

The full study on “The International Postal Network and Other Global Flows As Proxies for National Wellbeing” is published by PLOS ONE: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0155976