In a recent article in Database Marketing, James Lawson discussed the ongoing debate of whether address data should be free. Back in November 2012, The Open Data User Group (ODUG) presented a paper that suggested an Open National Address Dataset (ONAD), built from three sources: Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF), Geoplace’s National Address Gazetteer (NAG) and OS’s AddressBase Plus. All three files would be made available under the Open Government Licence as free data, just like OS Code-Point Open.
As we all know, the Royal Mail’s PAF database is the most widely adopted reference file for UK addresses. It has been since its inception and I believe will remain so for many years to come, free or not. In the more recent years we’ve had various rumours and promises of alternative and complimentary solutions from the LLPG & NLPG, Address Layer 2 to the more recent NAG and subsequent AddressBase offerings but they’ve all had their challenges. As with any accurate or usable database it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to compile and somebody needs to take this burden on. I agree with the current concept that any small to low volume usage (as delivered by the Royal Mail’s postcode finder solution) should be free but the argument of savings and the implied benefits for public bodies is currently being debated for the recently released AddressBase solution. The questions of industry benefit really comes from the high volume corporate users and wider DM industry. The impact to pre-sortation requirements, which the Royal Mail enforce on their direct business clients as well as the rules they impose on the wholesale Down Stream Access partners, would no doubt be part of any discussion. Whilst it would be Holy Grail to ensure all addresses entering the Royal Mail’s network were perfectly addressed, I think any serious conversation on the topic will always be deferred while a potential sale of the Royal Mail is in the wings.