National Address Gazetteer (Eng,Wal&Sco)

Status: 
ODUG developing business case
Notes: 

This data request has been included in the work ODUG is undertaking on a National Address Dataset. For further information, please see http://data.gov.uk/blog/national-address-dataset-benefits

Data request description: 
A single, real-time national address file for free use by all businesses to improve operational efficiencies, customer experience, etc.
Reason: 
The data is available but the licensing terms are too restrictive
Suggested use: 
Business Use
Benefits overview: 
Having this data will drive operational efficiencies, many of which will have a direct impact on customer experience and therefore enhance our our ability to continue putting the customer at the heart of everything we do.

Comments

Hmm ... more junk mail?

"Putting the customer at the heart of everything we do"?  That sounds like something out of the Dummies' Guide to Mission Statements and immediately gets me wondering what it is really about. 

I'd be interested to know how better availability of this data would improve the service that I get from British Gas.  My fear is that the direct impact on customer experience would be the negative one of a bigger mountain of junk mail on the doormat.

There are issues around address lists, and in particular the bringing together of the Royal Mail and local authority-generated lists.  I understand that this was done for the 2011 Census but there was concern that it would have to be discarded again post-Census because of the various licensing issues.  I'd be very interested to learn what has in fact happened.  So I'm by no means opposed to the spirit of this sort of initiative, but there migth be downsides to making it universally available.

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Junk mail and use of NAG by utility companies

Concerns about an increase in junk mail are a common theme when open data release of address data is discussed. However I think those concerns are rather a red herring when it comes to open data release of NAG specifically.

Preparation of mailing lists is actually one of the business uses for which the current commercial costs of address data are not prohibitive. Any business that just wants to send out junk mail can already fulfull their address data requirements by licensing the Royal Mail's PAF product for £75 per annum.

Increases in junk mail are more likely to be driven by wider availability of personal names and interest data that can be used to target mail shots to specific subsets of potential customers. The National Address Gazetteer does not contain any such personal data, so open data release of NAG (or AddressBase) by itself is unlikely to have a significant impact on the amount of junk mail we receive.

It would be helpful if British Gas explained further how open data release of NAG would benefit its operation and customers. However it's not difficult to think of examples for potential wider use of NAG by utility companies.

NAG includes geographic coordinates for each address and a unique standard address identifier (the UPRN) that can be used to link address data to other public information (e.g. planning applications). Making that data open would enable its use in a wider range of data sets, including commercial data maintained internally by businesses.

So for example an utility company could add the NAG URPN and coordinates data to its mapping of energy infrastructure, or use it to better analyse energy use by customers, without accumulating licensing costs that would inevitably feed through into our energy bills. 

-- Owen Boswarva, 27/10/2012

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Support for open data release of NAG

A national address data set is arguably the leading example of core reference data with potential to deliver broad economic benefits, if released on open data terms. This is one of several requests to unlock the National Address Gazetteer.

It's good to have as many requests as possible from different sectors. However if this is an "official" request from British Gas, I think it needs a bit more effort. I would urge British Gas to provide the ODUG with some concrete examples of how their operation and customers might benefit from greater availability of address data. (The ODUG has said it will accept information in confidence, if there are concerns about commercial sensitivity.)

There is an automatic tendency to be sceptical when big businesses like British Gas call for open data release of public data, because we assume they must have deep enough pockets to pay for the data. However it's worth noting that a corporate licence for Ordnance Survey's AddressBase (the productised version of NAG) starts at £129,950 + VAT per year. That's a rather eye-watering investment even for a utility company, and like most input costs it inevitably has to be passed on to the consumer. 

There is a fuller argument for open data release of NAG in this letter to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude from the Demographics User Group. The DUG represents 15 large UK companies that make extensive use of address data (including a couple of energy utilities).

-- Owen Boswarva, 27/10/2012

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