Bpost, the national post office company, has agreed to start providing computer assistance in post offices, according to Petra De Sutter (Groen), minister for government enterprises.
As time goes on, more and more services are moving online, and the post office is no exception. Under the new agreement, 65 of the country’s 650 post offices will become ‘digihubs,’ where people can come for help who are having difficulties with the transition.
“These offices will offer digital support, for example to compile a file, to object to a fine, to request a subscription for public transport, or to access a digital application from the government, such as My Pension or Tax-on-Web,” De Sutter said.
If the two-and-a-half year pilot project is a success, it can be extended to other post offices.
Bpost already provides certain banking facilities via its own Bpostbank, such as payments and bank transfers. It will now investigate whether it might be possible to fold in service from other, commercial, banks.
The agreement also includes a commitment to maintain at least 350 cash machines in the network – that is just over one in every two post offices on average – and at least one in every commune where no other machine is available. Belgium has a total of 581 communes in the three regions.
Local authorities, meanwhile, will be able to request the installation of cash machines in local post offices, but at their own cost.
“Forty percent of the Belgian population is digitally vulnerable,” De Sutter said – a definition that covers people who have no digital skills, those who have no equipment or only a cheap smartphone, and those who still encounter difficulties, including the elderly. “If we want to avoid people being left behind, those human and physical contact points are essential.”