The Government is ploughing money into an open data project to rival Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF) which aims to be the “single authoritative open address database” within five years.
The scheme – being run through openaddressesuk.org – launched this week and already holds around one million addresses. It has been wholly financed from the Cabinet Office’s tech release fund and will be free to use.
Open Addresses UK said it was now inviting individuals and organisations to submit address details – excluding information that could be used to identify individuals – to help build an up to date file to be used without restrictions.
Company director Jeni Tennison, who also serves as technical director of the Open Data Institute (ODI) – said that the main difference for the new database compared to other existing paid services provided by Ordnance Survey and the Royal Mail would be to create an open data tool open for anyone to use.
“There are existing address files in the UK but they tend to charge a fee, require a licence or are incomplete,” said a company statement. “Open Addresses UK’s fundamental commitment is to produce a free, open list that will allow people to focus on using the data, rather than having to think about whether they can afford to do it, or are allowed to do what they want with it.”
With the database largely made up of information supplied by Companies House at present, Tennison said the main ambition for Open Addresses UK is to build a resource that is sufficiently accurate to be used by individuals, organisations and even public sector authorities to verify details.
“What we really hope is that within that timeframe, and preferably much sooner, there is a single, authoritative and open address database in the UK. We hope that that database is maintained in an efficient way – we think the most efficient way is through collaboration,” she said.
It will have to tough job replicating Royal Mail’s PAF database, however. Currently Royal Mail’s 65,000 posties capture thousands of address changes every day and the company offers daily, monthly and quarterly updates for the file, which contains more than 24 million separate address details.
Analysts Deloitte recently assessed the value of this information to consumers, businesses and the public sector at £1.8bn a year. It is also worth £26m in annual revenues for Royal Mail.
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