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Monday, November 2, 1998 Published at 11:02 GMT


Computer bytes postmistress

New technology reaches Britain's sub-post offices

An 82-year-old village postmistress says she may have to close the shop she's been running for more than half a century because she cannot get the hang of new technology.

Postmistress White: "I cannot do it"
Hilda White, whose family has run the sub-post office in the village of Saxthorpe in Norfolk for 83 years, has tried and failed to get the hang of a new touchscreen computer.

She's been on a one-day training course. But Mrs. White - who took over the sub-post office from her father in 1942 - says she was unable to learn how to use the new technology.

Villagers say she has run the post office most efficiently but now the Post Office has decided to train all staff to use the new system.

BBC Correspondent Peter Hunt looks at the working 'New Old'
Mrs. White told BBC Radio's Today programme that her daughters said that if the prospect of using the computer worried her so much, she should give up the job.

And she said bosses told her she would have to leave anyway if she could not modernise her sub-post office.

"I shall carry on until my three months is finished," she said.

The Managing Director of Post Office Counters, Stewart Sweetman, told the same programme: "For us to survive as a business and for all the post offices to survive, we have to move with the times."

Stewart Sweetman: "Personalised training for Hilda"
However, he did acknowledge that Mrs. White was a "special case" and that she would be provided with personalised training as would any other member of staff who had trouble getting to grips with the new system.

"We will design a system which we believe is the best way for her learn," he said.

But he insisted that there would be no exceptions to policy of modernising more than 19,000 post offices across the country.

"We have to move away from the paper based systems that we've survived on because otherwise we do not have a future," he said.

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