01 August 1997

OFFICIAL IF YOU LIVE IN SWEDEN, that is. The Swedish postal service is about to provide all 9 million nationals over the age of six with their own free e-mail address. According to Sweden Post project manager Stephan Jonsson, the service, known as @post, is a matter of Hobson's choice: 'We realised some time ago that if we did not take action within the next 18-24 months Sweden Post would be doomed. There will be no post in eight to ten years from now.'

Although provision of an e-mail address is free, a small 'microstamp' charge will be levied on all messages. Techno-Luddites and those who just don't want to use electronic media can still receive messages, which will be printed-out and delivered to home or office. Swedes will also be able to access the e-mail service from public kiosks as well as their own PCs.

Other countries, including Britain, are said to be interested in the scheme although the UK Post Office refuses to comment [hardly surprising in view of the present delicate state of industrial relations]. But Jonsson believes the Royal Mail's reported concern about the concomitant job losses is irrelevant: 'If they don't do this now, they will lose all the jobs', he predicts.