Addressing Monopoly

Last week the long awaited announcements on a National Addressing Gazetteer called GeoPlace arrived from Ordnance Survey, the Local Government Group (I thought it was Association), National Land and Property Gazetteer, Department for Communities and Local Government, Intelligent Addressing and Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in alphabet soup language that’s a NAG (yes really NAG) called GP from OS, LGG, NLPG, DCLG, IA & DEFRA! Note the absence of Royal Mail from the announcements

We have been waiting a long time to see a resolution of the Address Wars between OS, NLPG/IA and RM (Royal Mail) and rumours had been all over the place as to what the outcome would be.

Thanks to unloveablesteve

It seems almost unarguable that there should be a single definitive address gazetteer for use in the public and private sectors and much of the debate in the Free Our Data campaign has been about the chaotic internal market within the public sector for address data with OS, LG and RM all claiming intellectual property in an address. In the FAQ issued with the various press releases reference is made to the CLG consultation:

The Ordnance Survey consultation run by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in December 2009 highlighted the recommendations of the Power of Information Taskforce and the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee to create a freely-available single definitive address and postcode database for the UK (my italics). It sought views on the proposal for a single national address register and 43% of respondents provided comments, the large majority supporting the proposal.
The creation of GeoPlace, in response to this strong market demand, will:

  1. replace the need for two public bodies to produce two similar products, leading to direct public cost savings arising from the de-duplication of work;
  2. create a product that meets the needs of Government – central and local;
  3. lead to the more efficient transfer of address data within Government. This will, in turn, lead to improved decision-making and delivery of public services;
  4. and provide the private sector with a single source of national spatial address information.

As Bob Barr suggests in his letter to the Shareholder Executive GeoPlace will not create the freely available address database that the CLG consultation envisaged (at least not for the private and third sectors or for developers using government open data) and the silence of RM suggests that their exploitation of the PAF may continue.

It is puzzling that Local Government and OS still want to create a commercial market for private sector usage of address data, it just doesn’t chime with the principals and aspirations of all that has been achieved with open data in the last year. It is also surprising that this government is willing to create another state monopoly. That said, there must be costs of maintaining the NAG and government probably needs to defray them somehow. Bob Barr has long advocated a small charge for every change to the address database, perhaps that is an alternative to charging business and the third sector for address data.

A while back an “enterprise license” for AddressPoint was close to £100k, I am not sure what  price levels are being proposed for the NAG. It will be interesting to see what OFT says about this newly formed monopoly. What controls, if any, will be imposed on pricing?

When we play Monopoly at home there are often some interesting tactical alliances amongst the family, usually someone ends up complaining that it isn’t fair. I wonder whether this will be an addressing version of our family Monopoly games?

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