The United Nations postal agency has welcomed the recent decision by senior officials from the Arab region to use its software to set up an electronic fund transfer network, making it easier for migrant workers and others living abroad to make rapid fund transfers to their home countries at modest cost.
"Easy access to money transfers at affordable rates addresses a key need for millions of people, especially migrant workers, and the postal sector has the capacity to respond to this need," said Edouard Dayan, Director General of the Universal Postal Union (UPU).
The decision to set up the network was taken at a conference that was held in Hammamet, Tunisia, from 4 to 6 July, which the Arab ministers had convened to discuss the role of the postal sector in narrowing the digital divide.
The ministers had called upon the UPU to work closely with the Arab countries to put in place the necessary connections to link them to its International Financial System (IFS), a suite of applications which facilitates electronic fund transfers between public postal operators and even with certain banks. Currently, some 30 postal administrations both in industrialized and developing countries use IFS software.
The project with Arab nations will take some time to implement, owing to the specific systems in use in the various countries, but it should be up and running in 2006.
"This is an important decision, because a regional project of this kind will enable the UPU to continue building, in conjunction with its member countries, a worldwide postal network whose financial dimension reinforces its physical and electronic dimensions, lending the postal sector added legitimacy as a natural element of the information society," Mr. Dayan said.
Algeria, Djibouti, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Tunisia already use the UPU's IFS system for electronic fund exchanges, but the network has yet to be rolled out to the rest of the Arab world.