On October 27th, the White House released The Open Government Partnership – Third Open Government National Action Plan for the United States of America. The ‘pearl’ between the covers of this plan is item 4 on page 3. Its innocuous title – Launch a Process to Create a Consolidated Public Listing of Every Address in the United States – belies the importance of the following paragraph which states:
“Although address information for residential and commercial properties is collected across the United States by all levels of government and industry, it isn’t currently compiled in an open, easily accessible format. Additionally, much of the information collected at the Federal level is prohibited from public release due to various privacy laws. This non-private address information can be crucial to first responders and emergency service providers and can also be useful to innovators who might use it to build tools or launch services to improve communities. The Department of Transportation will begin coordinating across the public and private sector; connecting agencies, industry and innovators to gain consensus on an open standard for public address information; pursuing open data strategies for sharing certain address information — excluding names and other private information; and exploring uses of this information that drive innovation and inform the public.”
For over a decade, creating a national address point database has been at the top of NSGIC’s advocacy agenda. Chris Diller, President of the National States Geographic Information Council, stated “Address data are duplicated more often than any other type of data produced by government agencies, and the duplication happens at every level of government. We are hopeful that this Federal initiative will result in a coordinated effort to support state and local government addressing authorities in the compilation and maintenance of a National Address Database that provides open access to current and complete authoritative address data for every structure and landmark in the United States.”
In its February 2015 report on Geospatial Data, the U. S. Office of Management and Budget, brought its focus on the problems associated with creating a national address point database through the following recommendations.
TO CONGRESS: To increase coordination between various levels of government and reduce duplication of effort, resources, and costs associated with collecting and maintaining accurate address data, Congress should consider assessing the impact of the disclosure restrictions …[and]… consider revising those statutes to authorize the limited release of addresses, without any personally identifiable information… Such a change, if deemed appropriate, could potentially result in significant savings across federal, state, and local governments.
TO THE FEDERAL GEOGRAPHIC DATA COMMITTEE: Create an address data theme with associated subcommittees and working groups to assist in furthering a national address database.
The authors of this OMB report visited five states across the nation to learn how they were using address data and coordinating the development of consistent address point data with their respective local governments that are responsible for assigning addresses. Local governments also have the most demanding requirements for accurate data to support 9-1-1 services that ensure police, fire and ambulance services get to the right location as quickly as possible – on a daily basis and during major disasters.
Nearly every aspect of government services depends on address data, and an authoritative national database will consistently improve the delivery of services in the public and private sectors. Imagine using your car’s GPS system to accurately navigate to a precise address and not just arriving in the approximate area. Accurate address data coupled with high quality transportation data can significantly reduce repair and fuel expenses for fleet managers. Other important improvements to service delivery can be found in NSGIC’s flyer title A National Address Point Database Will Improve Government Services.
For a detailed review of the issues associated with building a national address point database, refer to the NSGIC advocacy document Address Points for the Nation, Contrasting the functions of Address Points and Parcel Maps. For more information supporting NSGIC’s promotion of free access to open data, refer to the Danish government study The Value of Danish Address Data citing a potential 31:1 direct financial benefit from the sharing of national address data.
About half of the states indicate they are ready to effectively coordinate the development of a consistent national address database with their local governments, NSGIC believes a well-coordinated Federal effort would encourage the remaining states to establish similar programs. If you would like more information about a particular state’s program, you can access a 2013 summary of individual state programs here, or a summary of all states here. You can also directly contact NSGIC’s State Representatives.
The National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) is an organization committed to effective and efficient government through the prudent adoption and use of geospatial information and technologies. NSGIC’s members are interested in the coordination of state spatial data infrastructures. They represent state Geographic Information Officers (GIO’s), state agency GIS leads, leaders of the statewide coordination councils, federal agencies, tribal government, local government, the private sector, academia and other professional organizations. The NSGIC membership is a diverse group that includes nationally and internationally recognized experts in geospatial technologies, geospatial data creation and management, and information technology policy.
[Source: NSGIC press release]