PAF decision “flies in the face” of government commitments

Thu Apr 18, 2013
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By Emma Thwaites

Reports that the Government will leave the Postcode Address File (PAF) in the ownership of the Royal Mail has been criticised by the ODI. Ministers plan to sell off the Royal Mail later this year and it’s feared that the PAF will remain closed or prohibitively expensive to businesses and individuals wanting to create products and services from open data.

Before news of the decision, the government held a consultation on the future of the PAF. At the time, the ODI’s Technical Director, Jeni Tennison blogged that:

“PAF is a core piece of the UK’s information infrastructure. Whether in private hands or publicly owned, we believe it should be released as open data. We support the Open Data User Group’s call for an open single National Address Dataset. These datasets aren’t just useful for online retail, but their availability as open data could form the basis of sustainable value-added services and competitive “infomediary” businesses”.

Today it’s been reported that theRoyal Mail will retain control of the PAF during its privatisation. Commenting on the news, ODI CEOGavin Starks said:

“In December, Francis Maude asked me to hold Goverment to account on its commitment to Open Data. This decision on PAF flies in the face of the UK’s commitments.Releasing core country data assets such as this is a basic requirement. We have provided measured and quantifed responses to the Government arguing the case for PAF as Open Data.

The Government’s investment in the ODI was based in part on helping stimulate UK growth via startups that we are helping. This makes that task all the more difficult.”

Blogging on this site ODI Chair, Nigel Shadbolt said:

“The Postcode Address File is part of the UK’s national information infrastructure and it should be made available as Open Data. All the evidence is that this will drive widespread public and private value creation and growth.”

Quoted in today’s Telegraph, ODI President, Sir Tim Berners Lee said:

“Of course it is disappointing that the Address File has not been madepublic. A blow to the efficiency of UK businesses large and small.But we have hope. The decision has been made to leave the file in thecare of the Royal Mail. The Royal Mail may well decide to do the rightthing and make it available as open data.This will allow the UK to participate in the explosion oflocation-based and mobile services happening around the world.”

Read Nigel Shadbolt’s blog

Read the full article in today’s Telegraph