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Australian 'Electronic Pigeon Hole' Could Replace Gov't Snail Mail

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the arrives-through-a-series-of-tubes dept.

Australia 116

angry tapir writes "Australia's federal Opposition will look to create a national government-funded 'electronic pigeon hole' for all Australians in an effort to cut the costs of 'snail mail' communication, if they are returned to power at the next election. According to Opposition communications minister Malcolm Turnbull, the pigeon hole would effectively act as a life-long single source of storage for communications between each citizen and government. The service would be free for Australians in exchange for their agreeing to no longer receive paper-based communications from government agencies and other related organizations."

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"Pigeon Hole" (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115640)

Wow, is that Australian for "web mail"? My opinion of their marketing skills just took a hit. "Hey everybody, have a pigeon hole!"

Re:"Turnbull" (1)

essayservices (2242884) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115830)

That would require, I don't know, some kind of National Broad Band scheme to reache every Australian.

Re:"Pigeon Hole" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115910)

No, it's a term that has nothing to do with email. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigeon-hole_messagebox

Re:"Pigeon Hole" (1)

Greger47 (516305) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116322)

Oh great, so anyone can walk up to my electronic pigeonhole and grab my social security check?

They really need to work on their analogies...

greger

Re:"Pigeon Hole" (1)

__Paul__ (1570) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116680)

No, it's the (conservative) Liberal party's term for webmail. They're a bunch of technophobic, clueless fuckwits, and Turnbull is the only one among them with any brain cells whatsoever.

Re:"Pigeon Hole" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37116778)

Especially since they pissed Costello off enough to leave. Mind you I'm not seeing a huge amount of intelligence going on with labor either (seriously god damn) they were only in one term and they almost got kicked back out.

Re:"Pigeon Hole" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37116806)

Ahahahahahaha you have no clue do you? Must be a greens voter.

Re:"Pigeon Hole" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37117058)

Ahh this must be that "respectful dialogue" the left is always talking about wanting.

No (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#37118568)

They only have so many pigeon holes (n) which is less than the population (m), which leads to some being shared. This was just the principle of it.

Re:"Pigeon Hole" (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#37119312)

No since "web mail" would imply you could use it to send and receive email to an from arbitrary email addresses.

Whereas this would be purely for communication with the government. It would function just like a bog standard office pigeon hole in that respect, so why not name it as such?

And the information will be sent out (1)

H0D_G (894033) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115650)

Over our super fast national broadband network. OH WAIT, WRONG PARTY

Re:And the information will be sent out (1)

bug1 (96678) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115728)

We dont need a fast national broadband network if we have all those pigeons.

This is what RFC1149 was designed for.

Re:And the information will be sent out (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#37118246)

Guess which one I'll see first. Maybe I should move to a marginal electorate.

you have got to be joking! (1)

pbjones (315127) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115656)

None of the main players in Govt have any gasp of the issues, legal and otherwise, associated with the internet. The opposition leader doesn't believe that fibre networks can be upgraded to run at 1Gbps or faster.

Re:you have got to be joking! (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115680)

He's still using a dial-up modem.

Or possibly he's using RFC 6214.

Re:you have got to be joking! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115710)

Have you seen how the government stuffs up everything they touch. A private company could get 1Gbps of faster, our government will be lucky to get it faster than our current ADSL. If only the government would get rid of telstra's control and let some of the private companies like AMNET and IInet install their own fibre.

Re:you have got to be joking! (1)

daktari (1983452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115742)

our government will be lucky to get it faster than our current ADSL

Care to elaborate? Why would that be the case?

Re:you have got to be joking! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115820)

OK a little exaggeration but our government puts so many regulations and restrictions and outdated devices in most things they do that is will start well below it's potential and won't reach it's potential till it gets privatised. our internet was slow and clogged before things were deregulated but it is still held back by outdated hardware. It has taken years to get this far with companies like IInet and Amnet asking to install their networks only to be shut down by telstra. the only reason telstra added ADSL2 exchanged in was because IINet and various companies like them started installing their own so telstra has to compete. And then add this stupid internet filter onto of a POTENTIALLY fast internet and it adds one more thing to slow things down let alone remove freedom of information and speech... But then what was I thinking, you need to be a free country to have freedom of speech.
      When you have a prime minister that can't speak without lying and an opposition who isn't much better what else would you expect from Canberra.

Re:you have got to be joking! (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115942)

our government puts so many regulations and restrictions and outdated devices in most things they do that is will start well below it's potential and won't reach it's potential till it gets privatised.

Why theorise, it's not like you can't see the plans already?
http://www.internode.on.net/residential/fibre_to_the_home/nbn_plans/ [on.net]

Looks like current top offering will be 100/40, and that the initial limitation will be down to the end-user router. Hint; professional grade routers 'aint cheap.

"High - 100/40 Mbps - which means that the theoretical peak download speed is 100 Megabits per second, and the theoretical peak upload speed is 40 Megabits per second.This is a professional grade service, and you'll need a professional grade router to get the full benefit from it."

http://www.internode.on.net/residential/fibre_to_the_home/nbn_plans/performance/ [on.net]

Re:you have got to be joking! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37116542)

Isn't 100Mbps peak what lte advanced is supposed to do?

Re:you have got to be joking! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115764)

I don't know... Private companies sound better, but privatizing means you have to deal with a company who has zero accountability to you, versus the government where eventually they will listen to the people.

Best of all worlds would be a well written contract with heavy fines with a private party if it gets breached that builds the infrastructure while the government owns it.

Re:you have got to be joking! (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115858)

Private can work fine providing there is sufficient competition. This isn't always the case. Internet access, like other utilities, is a natural monopoly - once one company gets established in a region, it's just not possible for anyone else to compete with them there.

Re:you have got to be joking! (2)

jeffrey.endres (1630883) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116048)

Private can work fine providing there is sufficient competition.

Absolutely. Often forgotten when people cry out for laissez faire economies.

Internet access, like other utilities, is a natural monopoly

Almost. Not internet access but fixed line telecommunications. It isn't quite a natural monopoly, but so damn close as not to matter much. Internet access is further up the chain, which is the brilliance of the NBN in my opinion. They allow the competitive environment for IPTV, internet access, and anything else involving high speed and reliable telecoms.

Back on topic, I like Turnbull's idea. Of course this isn't that revolutionary and was part of the justification for the NBN, cost savings for government services. Standardisation of the communications would be fantastic. Perhaps with secure email from certified organisations as the system in Denmark mentioned by irp below. Although, I can't see how you could get spam unless it is just a standard email address which makes the whole thing pointless.

Re:you have got to be joking! (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#37119794)

It's not that different for wireless. You still have the huge expense of spectrum (A block of prime spectrum can go for billions of dollars-equivilent, easily), and if you are to avoid contention problems the cost of installing a great number of cell base stations. It's not a good business plan when someone else is already there.

Re:you have got to be joking! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115888)

Government who listens. What government is that. Our government hasn't listed for years and Miss Gillard is only taking advantage of that at the moment imposing 2 new taxes that the public have opposed and which she promises at the last to not introduce.

>>>Best of all worlds would be a well written contract with heavy fines with a private party if it gets breached that builds the infrastructure while the government owns it.

Ummm... that is what telstra has at the moment and they have breached it numerous time with no repercussions. If I had to choose between one of the lesser evils, a self focused corporation of a self focused government the corporation would win every time. I trust Microsoft to keep it's promises before I would trust our government.

Re:you have got to be joking! (1)

rust627 (1072296) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116006)

"........... versus the government where eventually they will listen to the people."

Citation needed

The only people that governments listen too are the ones who line the politicians pockets, or help pay for the next election campaign

Inform yourself first please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115990)

You are aware that Amcom owned the IP1 fiber optic network right? Telstra bought it 5-6 years ago now. I know this because I was the one who, with Marconi, pulled out the equipment for refurbishment before reinstalling it again. Amcom also have many fiber rings around the Perth metropolitan area as another example.

With other companies, there is nothing except their choice to determine whether they run their own fiber should they choose to do so.

Re:you have got to be joking! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115714)

He can slow his car down by sticking his head out the window though...

as lon as (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115718)

...in exchange for their agreeing to no longer receive paper-based communications from government agencies and other related organizations."

as long as they tie the delivery of e-services up good and tight so that it mus be always available to every citizen, where the words always and every are clearly defined to do any lawyer schmuck in the ass if he tries to remove those services with no replacement and leave Australians up shit creek,

Re:as lon as (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116068)

...in exchange for their agreeing to no longer receive paper-based communications from government agencies and other related organizations."

as long as they tie the delivery of e-services up good and tight so that it mus be always available to every citizen,

In regards with tight, one word... LulSec.
(they showed it is possible. How long until this "pigeon hole" will be cracked?)

Re:as lon as (3, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116498)

as long as they tie the delivery of e-services up good and tight so that it mus be always available to every citizen, where the words always and every are clearly defined to do any lawyer schmuck in the ass if he tries to remove those services with no replacement and leave Australians up shit creek,

No, even that's bad. The whole concept of an e-service pigeonhole is bad. Here's why:

With paper based communication, the onus of delivery is on the government. If they want to talk to you, then they have to make a reasonable effort to contact you (via registered mail, etc.).

With a pigeonhole, (electronic or otherwise), the onus is reversed. Now if they want to talk to you, they just send something to the pigeonhole whenever. It's up to you to make an effort to read what's in your pigeonhole regularly, to keep up to date on their intentions.

To give just one example, say you are being billed. If they send you mail and you don't pay, you could claim that you didn't receive the bill. If you're on holiday, and they send you registered mail, then there might not be anyone at the house to accept it.

Now suppose you have a pigeonhole. They send the bill there, and expect you to find it. Whatever you do, even if you're on holiday, you've received it and it's your fault if you didn't read it in time.

Re:as lon as (2)

grrrl (110084) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116626)

The onus is already on you to have to check your mail regularly, and checking something electronically is a lot easier.

The government sending snail mail does not usually help you - if you change address (up to *you* to change your address in 10000 different places), go on holiday (up to you to have someone physically check for you), get your mail stolen (up to you to pay for a PO box). I've never received registered mail from the government (a good thing I guess) but I've had plenty of notices (eg failure to vote while overseas) and important documents (drivers license) sent out in the regular mail. In fact my DL was sent to my old postal address because they didn't check the back of the form where you make your postal address change.

Re:as lon as (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116622)

You can buy a smartphone for $80 now, how hard would it be to set the pigeon hole account as a no data cost service (like how some Telco's provide free Facebook); They made us without digital TV's spend about that on a set top box so they can turn off the analogue signal. When the cost of communicating with the public drops to practically nothing a lot of things will become possible and could even feed information back to the government (surveys, public opinion, votes).

Broadband (1)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115780)

If Australia can actually pull off building its national broadband megaproject then I'll be impressed enough with them to think they can do anything.

Re:Broadband (1)

kiddygrinder (605598) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115860)

if these guys get in at the next election the whole project is pretty much gonna get shut down.

Interesting idea (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115784)

It's a special-purpose mail system, much like a corporate system. Content stays around forever, and it's only for sending to and from units of the Government.

The real issue is winding down the postal system. Postal systems worldwide are sending fewer letters each year.

Re:Interesting idea (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116018)

The real issue is winding down the postal system. Postal systems worldwide are sending fewer letters each year.

I think Anonymous (the LulSec branch) may be tempted to disagree with the "real issue".
Wanna bet on the outcome in the context in which (TFA):

Citizens would likely be given a name and date of birth as an account name for the service to be hosted on the country's Australia.gov.au domain.

?

Re:Interesting idea (1)

HJED (1304957) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116514)

Um, you want the government to send tax information and other communications anonymously? The government already has this info and they already use it for this purpose all that is being proposed is a change of medium.

Re:Interesting idea (3, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116652)

Changing the medium also changes responsibility. The postal service is a push system, a pigeon hole is a pull system. With the post, it's the sender's responsibility to make the communication occur, with a pigeonhole it's the receiver's responsibility to make the communication occur. And that will induce all sorts of legal changes over time, because the two modes are just not equivalent. Changing the medium in this case tips the power balance in favour of the government.

Re:Interesting idea (1)

zaphirplane (1457931) | more than 3 years ago | (#37118916)

I don't follow, they are both sender "push" in that someone sends you something, they are both "recipient" pull in that the recipient needs to open their physical or electronic mailbox and read the contents.

Re:Interesting idea (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 3 years ago | (#37118976)

Wow. You are a paranoid freak.

Do you sit next to your mailbox and wait for the postal carrier each and every single day? I check my physical mailbox once a day, but I check my email several times an hour (slow work days).

I fail to see how the government gets any more power with electronic delivery. They can already claim to have mailed you something even if they haven't, and I've never received registered mail from anyone, much less from a government entity.

Re:Interesting idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37119728)

In the US, anyway, it's still your responsibility to get your mail.

You FIail It?! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115798)

sanctions,p aNd

That was late... (3, Interesting)

irp (260932) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115864)

We've had this in Denmark for 5+ years. E-boks.dk - except it is not only government mail, but all official mail. My bank, insurance - even my salary slip from my company. Also I can upload my own scanned documents into the repository, where it will stay forever.

I haven't received anything important in my mailbox for YEARS. I only check and empty it once every second week (only spam).

The system is secured by the national "Nem-ID" (Easy-ID) system, which is a combination of a password and a one-time pad. Also used by my bank (and all other danish banks. I have an old account in another bank. Same login work for both).

It took a while to get it all running smoothly, but it is really nice now it works. Added advantage is that electronic thefts (stolen login details etc.) from banks dropped to almost 0 nationwide since it was introduced.

Re:That was late... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115970)

One time pad? How do you exchange the keys?

Re:That was late... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37116012)

They send them in the mail.

Re:That was late... (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116134)

I am assuming that it is a set of one-time passwords not a one-time pad. Can a Dane correct me?

Re:That was late... (1)

jeffrey.endres (1630883) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116370)

Not a Dane but found this. About NemID [nemid.nu] It is a code card. Which like you, I assume is a one-time password where the server requests a specific code from a table on the card.

Re:That was late... (1)

CyberDragon777 (1573387) | more than 3 years ago | (#37117592)

Not a Dane either, but according to this [posterous.com] it is a real one-time pad with 148 codes. When they are used up a new card is snail-mailed. Apparently the card will be replaced by a hardware authenticator eventually.

Re:That was late... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37117260)

Same thing in Finland, I don't even remember when it was created. It's a terrible thing to live in these Northern European Communist Marxist Socialist countries... ;)

Re:That was late... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37120186)

You forget that these Northern European Communist Marxist Socialist countries only have about 5 million people each and most of them can speak the national language. Australia has 23 million people so slightly more difficult. Also, we don't trust the government and we don't like being known by a number.

Well it's about time (1)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115872)

I've been hoping for that around here for ten years. There isn't a single piece of letter mail that I need delivered in paper. I'll happily take an electronic format, and print it myself as needed. It'd be a lot easier for my post office to scan it than to deliver it. And certainly to send electronic documents in the first place where possible. Webmail, pop mail, my e-mail, or their e-mail, I couldn't care less. I just hate the idea of paying for a service at a government level that's really no longer required.

Well done. We here will start by copying the cool Australian monetary notes, and then we'll move on to the post office advancements. Thanks for both.

Re:Well it's about time (1)

pnevin (168332) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116412)

We here will start by copying the cool Australian monetary notes

Don't forget the bribes [abc.net.au] .

Pigeon cloaca (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115880)

What inside that? Is it from the government?

Limit cases (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115892)

What for the cases in which:
a. no reliable access to Internet or not owning a computer - the outback is huge
b. persons that don't know how to operate a computer (even if they know very well how to break a horse).

Re:Limit cases (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116080)

That's why it's opt-in.

Re:Limit cases (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116320)

That's why it's opt-in.

So, what if one opts-in and 2-3 years later wants to relocate in the outback?

Re:Limit cases (1)

HJED (1304957) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116530)

The NBN and related projects are supposed fix that problem (I think it's 99% or 95% fibre coverage and the rest by satellite). However if Turnbull's party get in whilst Abbott is still in charge of them, it probably won't happen.

Re:Limit cases (1)

admiralranga (2007120) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116532)

Outback still has internet, slow and expensive yes but internet still

Re:Limit cases (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#37117072)

Outback still has internet, slow and expensive yes but internet still

Let me guess: it will be my duty, as a responsible citizen, to throw in some money and get myself a slow but expensive internet connection? If the govt wants to get my post online, then its responsibility to get me proper internet.
After paying the taxes, I don't understand why it should be me to pay extra... or is it the liberal party on the idea that the govt is a corporation, to externalize the costs as much as possible and get a higher profit?

Re:Limit cases (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 3 years ago | (#37118992)

I suppose that the idea of being able to opt-out never occurred to you. It's much easier to bash a government plan you have scant details of, just because you think it's cool to be anti-establishment.

Re:Limit cases (1)

zaphirplane (1457931) | more than 3 years ago | (#37118940)

or are injured and can no longer read or decide to spend a year in solitary meditation or the PC breaks down .... come on you raised a point and it got answered, move on

Re:Limit cases (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37117280)

That's why it's opt-in.

Quotation needed - TFA doesn't mention it explicitly.

Re:Limit cases (1)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | more than 3 years ago | (#37117510)

I think this is supposed to supplement standard mail. The electronic system would reduce a huge amount of load that is presently on the standard mail system deliveries all kinds of bills every day. Rural post offices probably wouldn't change a lot, but city post offices would find themselves with a hugely-decreased load and thusly save a lot of money (money that can help keep rural post offices open).

Re:Limit cases (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 3 years ago | (#37119024)

Assuming that the Australian Post doesn't operate much differently than the USPO, I'd say you have it exactly backwards. The USPO loses billions every year because they have no mail to deliver, not because they have too much of it. It's not as if the Post Office has a base income from which mail delivery costs must be paid. If there's no mail, there's no income.

Banned from computer use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37115896)

Isn't it possible to be banned from computer use?

Re:Banned from computer use (1)

azbot (544794) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115976)

Nope, Internet access is deemed a basic human right. However, the article doesn't mention if you can opt back out again. It's possible that subscription can be reversed.

Re:Banned from computer use (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#37118306)

Heck, if the opt-out allows you to set a mailing address then this will be good for the non-users as well. A simple, single change of address mechanism.

This idea has good points, but proof/pudding. (1)

azbot (544794) | more than 3 years ago | (#37115956)

I like the idea, but what I think this means, what is meant and what will be delivered are probably quite disparate.

National ID again? (1)

enoz (1181117) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116004)

So the coalition wants to give an electronic "pigeon hole" to every citizen which will allow communication from "government agencies and other related organizations". This sounds to me like a reboot of the National Identity [efa.org.au] system that the same government tried to create in 2006.

Re:National ID again? (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116144)

Exactly where my mind went. It may save money on the government printing and mail budget (I doubt it) but it smells of a trojan horse for a national ID number for all to abuse.

Re:National ID again? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116966)

australia doesn't have a string identifier per citizen yet then(soc sec number or whatever, something assigned at birth to separate you as you)?

around here(finland..) a system like this, electronic storage of the documents and multi office access, would be useful - for making it easier to prove what the local soc sec/unemployment/tax people communicated, to make it easier to get the legally entitled benefits. and this would help people who for some reason or another lose their paper communications, they could just walk into a soc security office and have their shit sorted out - now in most countries which have social security systems it's not so simple, plenty of bureaucracy before anything happens (come to think of it, pakistan should have used this for their flood victim regions which are in the shit now, no accountability for any benefits/help that westerns pay for - now the aid gets stuck in the bureaus of the regions which were not hit by the floods).

Re:National ID again? (1)

throbber (72924) | more than 3 years ago | (#37117114)

australia doesn't have a string identifier per citizen yet then(soc sec number or whatever, something assigned at birth to separate you as you)?

Australia has a Tax File Number which you apply for when you start work -- or rather start paying tax. TFN is supposed to be confidential between you and the Tax Office, though in practice any organisation that has some effect on your taxable income will ask for it. Not having/providing a TFN means you'll be paying the highest tax rate.

There were plans to create the Australia Card [wikipedia.org] , back in the day, but it didn't get passed by the Senate and hence the TFN was born

In Denmark we have a system like that. (0)

recjhl (840587) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116016)

Look at http://www.e-boks.dk/ [e-boks.dk] . Click on english at the bottom. Here we can receive most letters from local and government authorities, and form a lot of private companies, banks, insurance, phone bills. And if you want you can put your own private documents there, for a fee.

Re:In Denmark we have a system like that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37116538)

+1 on this.

Having all those official documents in one, digital place is a boon. Before e-boks I had to store all those papers somewhere; problem was, at the time, that I didn't know what half of them were for, or which ones that were important, so they usually got scattered in several places or binned. That practice has cost me a couple of unneeded trips to the local tax-office, and god knows how much worry about "do I have the papers I need?".

"Pigeon-hole" sounds a bit dumb though, but if turns into something like e-boks, then that dumbness will become endearing.

Legal Danger, Will Robinson! (1)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116038)

For those who read this and think "Gee, wouldn't it be nice if we did this in the US", I've heard that getting official communications and financial statements in electronic form can really fuck you over. Perhaps someone can enlighten us as to exactly how (or inform me that I'm completely wrong).

From what I recall hearing, though, when you get a credit card statement or a bank disclosure or a tax bill in hard copy via US mail it's a legal document; when you get a pdf of the same thing sent to your gmail it's in many ways just a pile of ones and zeros. IANAL so I don't understand exactly how, but I've heard there are many legal advantages to not only preferring but demanding hard copy of everything important, because if anything goes wrong you can't protect yourself as well (or sometimes at all) with electronic documentation. Not because it says any less the paper copy, obviously, but because the law is so antiquated that for many important purposes it can't be considered valid documentation by any judge or auditor who truly follows said law.

So it wouldn't be just technical challenges to overcome if we made a national Important Official Email system, we'd also have to drag the US Code from way back there in 1998 (for the most technically literate portions) up into 2011 and beyond.

Re:Legal Danger, Will Robinson! (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116116)

I think the main issue is proving that you received something. If a registered letter is sent to a house and somebody must sign for it, or a representative of the court shows up at your house to hand you notice, then there is proof that it was delivered. For things like the shady photo-radar rackets (in the USA), they just mail you a notification asking you to pay & admit guilt via normal mail, and there's no actual evidence that you were ever notified.

With this pigeon-hole system, it means that there's no way to dodge receipt of official notices as is possible with street addresses, unless you stop checking it completely.

Re:Legal Danger, Will Robinson! (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116396)

At which point you receive a threatening letter stating that not checking your inbox at least once every is a crime punishable by fine...

Re:Legal Danger, Will Robinson! (1)

nzac (1822298) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116146)

This is not email over postage this is government keeping the communications on their server and letting you access it. As long as you trust your government not to mess with it has the advantages that everything is verifiable (i would expect to a greater level than postage letters) and if you lose or damage your printed off hard copy its still there.

I think the best reason to receive by mail is that you don't have to sign anything to say its your responsibility to make sure you read it and having a paper copy is not dependent on you having your computer with you. For the money involved in tax i don't think paper copies are that valid 6 months later.

in many ways just a pile of ones and zeros

in the same way its just coloured dots on a page

Re:Legal Danger, Will Robinson! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37116304)

"As long as you trust your government not to mess with it"

Fatal flaw #1 right there

Fatal assumption #2 - only the intended recipient will ever access the mailbox.
                                                      #3- that a government is capable of securing it's servers long term ?

I'd give it a year tops before "someone" starts selling access to the stuff stored and I'd be amazed if it wasn't hacked within a month.

Re:Legal Danger, Will Robinson! (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37118930)

Those problems have been solved. You can implement a system that lets the sender know you have opened an email. In many ways it can be better then a signed letter.

I think the USPS should start an official email system where they act as the middle man for trust account and a email escrow company.

Just what I need (1)

rust627 (1072296) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116042)

Another source of spam, I mean political advertising , I mean public education campaigns.

And the problem is you will have to trawl through it all to find the little things that you need to know, I mean if this is for ALL government communications, then that will include things like parking fines, speeding fines, rates notices, all notices to and from the tax office, and you will have no excuse for not knowing about it.

Re:Just what I need (1)

zildgulf (1116981) | more than 3 years ago | (#37118460)

Good grief! I hope we Americans don't adopt this! The last thing I want is Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin (who is working very hard in her cross country campaign to NOT run for President) to totally spam my inbox with their insane electronic diarrhea during their 2011-2012 campaign.

No cut-offs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37116372)

If they did this, then nobody would be allowed to restrict access, which would then make it impossible for the MAFIAA to get people cut off from the internet.

Implemented right, this could work very well (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116386)

ONE inbox with all official government documents ever sent. If the government had a competent infrastructure to support it (with quintuply redundant backups etc etc) this could work extremely well.

Furthermore, they could make this the official delivery mechanism for official documents, court orders, subpoenas, etc. No more shit lost in the mail.

The primary problems :
  1. Privacy. A computer hacker who did breach the system could conceivably copy the entire database and expose the private files of millions of people.
  2. Security. Information in these documents could be used by someone to steal money or entire identities.

The problems are not unsolvable. Both come down to identity. There has to be an unbreakable mechanism for both encrypting the documents and for verifying identity. The technology to do both exists. It's called one time pad. Dedicated microcontrollers attached to gigabytes of flash memory would be distributed in pairs, sharing a unique hardware generated pad file. One unit of the pair would exist in a vault in a government data center, the other in the possession of the citizen.

To add documents to the stash, a key held on the microcontroller would be used to encrypt the files. To access the files, the user must verify identity by a communication exchange between the one time pad in the government vault and the card the user carries. The files would then be streamed through the micro-controller in the vault which would do the decrypting and on to the user.
For redudancy, the government would actually need 3 instances of the microcontroller located in separate vaults.

This way, no plaintext version of the file would ever exist after it is stored in the electronic 'cubby hole'.

Centrelink Online (1)

enter to exit (1049190) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116440)

We already have something similar - it's that online centrelink stuff.

The only difference is that we'll all get email addresses - which will in all likelyhood contracted out to gmail/outlook.com.

I wonder what the email domain will be...

A use for the Australian Internet Fiter? (1)

Dr Black Adder (1764714) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116534)

Hopefully the controversial (and I think stupid) Australian Internet Filter http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/06/24/052258/Australian-ISPs-To-Start-Filtering-the-Internet [slashdot.org] can do something for the people of Australia by black-banning this website which will no doubt be a source of many mass spam attacks on the Australian public at large... :-)

And Finally (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37116836)

the government will be able to read all that mail. No more pesky envelopes or laws to stop them. NO THANKS.

Re:And Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37117894)

the government will be able to read all that mail. No more pesky envelopes or laws to stop them. NO THANKS.

Its for communication between the government and a citizen. I am not sure about you, but I see the government reading any communication I send TO THEM as a not such a bad thing. If I was worried about them reading it I probably would not send it to them. I am pretty sure there is no law stopping them from reading snail mail addressed to them as well.

Come on people! Its even in the summary you didn't even have to click on the article to read it!

Re:And Finally (2)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#37118326)

The government reading the things they send you. That would be an improvement.

Re:And Finally (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#37119500)

No way!!!!

The government being able to read the things they send to you and you send to them. The horror!

I much prefer a system in which they just guess what you sent them, and instntly forget everything they have ever told you before. Actually that is how the DMV seems to work here in NJ...

priorities (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 3 years ago | (#37117008)

gosh they wouldn't want to even consider putting that money into something like health or education would they? the idea would warrant merit if it could actually save the government money, but look at the past record of government in managing contracts. they suck balls. there will always be snail mail from government whether they do this pigeon hole thing or not; it will merely create two systems that must be maintained (and paid for with taxes). get the national broadband thing going on time and on budget, at very least to prove that government agencies are capable of managing a project. regardless of which party is in power the real work wont change hands anyway. if they really want to reduce the amount of taxpayer money wasted on paper, try eliminating election advertising.

Microsoft PigeonHole (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 3 years ago | (#37117018)

Will the pigeon hole software only run on Windows like the failed etax program? Does that mean that any Australian who uses Linux or Mac will lose their citizenship?

Re:Microsoft PigeonHole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37117128)

I'm all in favour of Mac users losing citizenship.

It's a really good idea (1)

aglider (2435074) | more than 3 years ago | (#37117204)

As long as
1. the Aussies will have pushed the broadband (even mobile will do) to every single family,
2. the Aussies will have pushed at least a PC to every single family,
3. each family will get enough e-literacy,
4. there will be no centralized ass^H^H^Hpigeon hole.

Quite simple for the 6th largest country [wikipedia.org] with only the 233rd population density [wikipedia.org] !
Good luck!

Re:It's a really good idea (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#37119476)

It's opt-in so why would any of that be necessary?

It's an attempt for the government to reduce some costs, and costs would be rescued with less than 100% opt-in.

And of course there is that whole national broadband network thing they keep arguing about to election time.

Electronic Carrier Pigeons? (1)

zildgulf (1116981) | more than 3 years ago | (#37118404)

Electronic Pigeon holes? Does that mean Australia will be using Electronic Carrier Pigeons? If so how fast can these Electronic Carrier Pigeons fly? Will they be like Borg Pigeons with laser eyes and integrated GPS tracking?

Old hat. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37120008)

I have this already from the "Department of Human Services" AKA Child support. They poke me with an email saying I have new unread letters. I log onto there site, and hey presto there they are! Hey Malcolm, it's been going on four years!

Does it come with a ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37120352)

Spam Filter ;-) ?

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