Postcodes, or Eircodes, are on the way and it's now expected that they will be launched at some stage during the summer rather than the previously expected spring launch date.
Although there has been some initial criticism of the new Eircode design, their impending launch is good news and should herald a new era of data access and spatial analysis capabilities in Ireland. This will be of great benefit to both the public and private sector in understanding how the country works. Every residential address point (2.2 million) will receive a unique eircode, based on a routing key and a unique identifier, and will finally move us away from the issue of non-unique addresses (estimated at approx 35%). Retro fitting the new Eircodes to legacy administrative databases will be a difficult job but once done and integrated with newly captured data will provide Ireland with a much better understanding of how Ireland operates - from regional to local level. For instance, live register (unemployment), child benefit and rent supplement local level analysis should now become common place and provide timely and frequent monitoring capabilities for researchers and policy makers.
A big question still remains though. How much will Eircodes cost and will any data be available in an open environment?
With the growing enthusiasm for open data in Ireland, being actively pushed by DPER, there is considerable interest in the Eircode pricing model and if there will be a 'free and open' element to it. A certain level of free and open access, such as an Eircode to Small Area/Electoral Division look-up file, would be fantastic and enable the development of lots of new datasets. Postcode access in Northern Ireland (CPD) and GB (Code Point) is practically free and already allows lots to be done in an open environment. While we knew Eircodes would come with a cost it now seems that there will be no free or open element to this at all. It's a real shame and a bit of a missed opportunity considering the progress that has been made in the open data and open government area in recent years.
Last week Eircode provided details on the actual pricing schedule for the first time. Full details are available in this document: Licencing and Pricing Information. In summary, there are two main datasets being made available - the Eircode Address File (ECAF) contains the postal address and the eircode and then the more detailed Eircode Address Database (ECAD) includes postal address, eircode, coordinates and the complete address. For the ECAD, either eircode providers (those using Eircodes as part of their business - geocoding, selling end user licences etc) or direct end users, users must pay an annual data access fee and then an additional fee on a Per User and Per Transaction basis. A couple of examples are provided:
- A Direct End User purchases 60 users; the first 10 users will be charged at €180 per user, the next 40 users at €150 per user, and the remaining 10 users at €120 per user, returning a fee of €9,000 to Eircode.
- A Direct End User uses 20,000 transactions a year; they will be charged the first 100 at €0.050, the next 900 at €0.045, 9,000 at €0.040, and the remaining 10,000 at €0.035 returning a fee of €755 to Eircode.
Eircode also have information for those who are intending to act as Eircode providers. They will be actively supporting an Eircode technical accreditation - basically a technical test to measure capability and accuracy of address matching for potential Eircode providers. This comes at a cost of €2,500. Success will allow providers to use the Eircode accredited mark.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months both in terms of the actual launch of Eircodes and the take up of the ECAD and ECAF. Let's hope there is a successful take up within the public sector and we finally get a handle on the enormous potential of unlocking the spatial element within our administrative datasets.
If you want more information on Eircodes or access to a sample dataset you should contact firstname.lastname@example.org