UPU Addressing Conference Overview: We have put this industry on the map.



GADA is very proud to have been involved in the recent two-day Addressing Conference developed by the staff of the Address Group and UPU members. First, there were over 200 registrants at the event, which is a powerful message about the need for the exploration of this subject. The response was so significant that the event was moved from its originally-scheduled 60 seat room.

In addition, the audience was (our guess) somewhere close to half private sector and half postal personnel.  It was a who’s who of the data and geodata industries, from Esri to what3words to Melissa Data to the World Bank, and many more, including some postal and non-postal experts who opened our eyes to the power of tapping into local governmental and non-governmental data.  As a result, the audience stayed in place for two full days and showered the speakers with pertinent and perceptive questions.  And GADA is now on the map as a major player in what many are saying is the acknowledgement of an actual “address industry”, which of course we’ve known about for a mere 30 or so years.

We will provide synopses of the speachs both here and through the newsletter.  Regretably, the speakers were limited to at most 8 slides each, which unfortunately results in a less detailed “record” of the speeches.  Nevever theless they will be a available on the UPU website, we’ll make use of them ourselves,  and we will advise when they are available.

GADA Panel

We are extremely proud of the four presentations of the participants in the discussion of the topic assigned us: estimating the economic value of an address infrastructure.  In our introduction we observed that addresses have value, but how much value and to whom?  And what kinds of value? When we try to answer this question, how do we start? Do we mean each address individually, or in a group? What group?  Street, town, country? What are addresses used for? In fact, while they are used as delivery points, they probably have a far greater value as a proof of identity which  empowers people to realize a society’s benefits – such as opening a bank account, sending your children to school.  Or, being distinguished from someone else with the identical name in a company or government file.  And of course for planning were to put water pipes and elementary schools and emergency services and street crosswalks.  Who spends money on addresses, and why?  Who makes money with addresses, and how?  How much economic and social benefit is realized in each of those instances?

Morten Lind is a living proof that address systems need NOT be the responsibility of the postal system.  He is a business manager of the Danish Address Program, which is a sub-program of the Danish Government’s Basic Data Program. In Denmark the addressing data is not the responsibility of the postal system.    In fact, that postal systems seem tasked with that responsibility more often than not, is an accident of history, probably arising during the industrialization and urbanization of the 19th and early 20th centuries and the concomitant spread of universal education and migrations of millions of people. Morten will show us how much value can be unlocked and discovered when address data is “unleashed” from an exclusive postal fate, giving us an entirely new perspective on what can be done with this data and who can produce value with it.   And, he brings into the discussion the concept that addresses are most “profitable” when viewed as a networked public utility, made available to the world, AT NO CHARGE!  .

Jeffrey Colvin of the USPS OIG introduced us to the econometric study done by this office a few years ago.  They did not ask about the value of the address per se, but of the postal code system, which is called ZIP Code, or Zone Improvement Code.  And postal code allocation is often the first “addressing” postal systems install. And they do it for perfectly acceptable selfish reasons: to make their mail sorting and delivery more efficient, thus saving money.   Street addressing follows.  But, the economic value of the postal codes ALONE are worth the investment, for value is created in all manner of businesses and government services, as Jeffrey demonstrated with the data.

Barley Laing is the CEO of Melissa Data UK, an expansion of the original company, based in California. Barley has a long career dealing with data of many sorts, and senior executive positions with web services company World Address.  He has also held executive management positions with BT, ADC Telecommunications, Shell and Xerox. Barley gave us an introduction to the broader subject that includes the address, which the business world refers to as “data hygiene”, a fairly complex undertaking that drives the creation of enormous value.  From the questions I received from many of the postal personnel in the audience, it was clear that the world does not know about this aspect of our industry.  We need to tell the story.

Our last speaker was Christophe Erregeerts  who  is in charge of the partnership relations within Bisnode Belgium, a well-known Belgian data hygiene company. Building on Barley’s presentation, Christophe described to us the Bisnode solution for data hygiene in a broader context of economic development and corporate practices. Again, that companies like Bisnet exist to service data issues of famous major corporations and that these latter would spend such sums to manage customer files with special attention to addresses was a surprise to many attendees.

Lastly, we acknowledge the incredible work by the UPU’s Patricia Vivas who basically by herself made this event happen.  With a long and deep experience and knowledge of the subject and this community, she oversaw the organization and recruiting of the speakers, the program and the subjects  reviewed, the logistics of the event, the marketing of the event, and its staging. In short, she made this landmark event happen with a deep commitment to the subject.

Stay tuned as we send further coverage of this event and new developments at the UPU, the center of the international postal community.  We have just finished some fascinating meetings around Big Data which will report on soon.

Charles Prescott

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