The Internet boom has raised questions regarding the viability of a familiar figure in traditional society - the postman. Postal officials in Rabat think the postman's job is not doomed to vanish under a flood of e-mails. Well, at least not in the short run.
"The penetration rate of Internet to Moroccan households is still very low, therefore the use of e-mails is still nascent and does not represent any danger for the traditional postman," said Abdallah Hamri, an officer at a Rabat post office.
Ahmed Raji, another post officer, claimed "Most Moroccans do not own computers and they are non-existent in rural areas, so the postman remains the inevitable means of communication between separated members of the family." Raji said most Moroccans, especially youngsters, surf the web for entertainment, to chat and visit specific sites rather than for correspondence. "Few Moroccans use e-mails to communicate."
Hamri stresses that the traditional mail has a human contact that the electronic mail will never offer. "The customers come to the post office, talk to the postmen and even develop friendship," he said. Raji argued that the postman plays the role of ambassador. "When he arrives, he creates a kind of conviviality that the computer does not offer."
According to the Rabat post office, some 85 percent of Moroccans still use the ordinary mail, while Moroccan administrations use it 90 percent.
In the eyes of the Moroccan administrations, e-mails are not valid for official correspondence and mail, especially official, has to bear the signature of the sender. "There are certain documents, like contracts, diplomas, that only the postman can deliver and not the Internet," said Hamri, who also adds that parcels and other objects simply cannot go electronic.
For all these reasons, Moroccan postmen rejoice at the feeling that the end of their "noble" job is not near in sight. "We will continue to be serve our society," said Raji, who proudly added that the post office contributes to the development of several economic sectors, like tourism through stamps and post cards.
The postmen believe that the threat to their profession comes rather from another communication channel — the phone. Morocco has a telecommunications density of five fixed telephone lines for each 100 inhabitants and an estimated 500,000 GSM mobile phone subscribers.
“The fanatics of e-mail are very few in Morocco, but the phone users are dramatically increasing in number," Hamri said. "I noticed that Moroccans like to phone more than to write letters," he said, adding that the mobile phone, which is widely used, has encouraged this trend.
However, despite their optimism, the Moroccan postmen say that their administration has to adapt its structures, because the electronic revolution is inevitable and it will sweep all sectors.
Hamri insisted that the Post Office has to modernize its structures and ensure the training of its people to be able to keep pace with electronic progress. "Otherwise, the mail service will be swept away," he said. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )