Italy's post office invests $1.3 billion to refurbish branches
ROME (Reuters) - Italy's post office Poste Italiane plans to invest 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) of mostly public money to renovate 7,000 outlets across the country, aiming to help older people in small towns who are struggling to access public services online.
Poste said it would tap a fund financed by the Italian state for 800 million euros and add half that amount of its own money to refurbish thousands of post offices, with a particular focus on towns with less than 5,000 people.
Under the terms of the plan, the renovated post offices will provide less digitally savvy customers with machines to access online services within branches, with staff assistance.
"The message we are sending with this initiative is that we want to unite Italy," Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said while presenting Poste's Polis project on Monday.
"One Italy, with the same rights and the same services for everyone," she said, adding Italy's 7,900 towns were the country's backbone and it was important to fight their loss of population.
Italy's ageing population has been struggling to embrace the technological push of its notoriously inefficient public administration, which has introduced a digital identity system using a username and password for people to access its services.
The revamped post offices would include 4,000 stations for people to obtain documents such as ID cards and passports, or access the land registry.
All the near 7,000 restructured offices would have an ATM machine, Poste said, adding it also planned to install 500 lockers for 24-hour delivery of parcels, 5,000 charging stations for electric vehicles, and 1,000 solar panel systems.
The project, under which Poste has already renovated 40 offices with plans for 1,500 by the end of the year, will also create outdoor spaces and co-working areas.
($1 = 0.9192 euros)
(Reporting by Valentina Za in Milan and Alvise Armellini in Rome; Editing by Gavin Jones and Jan Harvey)