Postcode Blues

Get ready for change in postal delivery in mid-2015 in Ireland!! How can a country live without a postal code system, you ask? The US didn’t have a nationwide program until the early 1960s and change is a hard thing to achieve in government.

Ireland is the last of the OECD countries to get a nationwide postcode system, and you’d think Eircom (the new government agency to oversee the system) would reference the history of other countries to come up with something that recognizes organisational/cultural heritage, advances in technology, and transparency/openness/collaboration across government agencies and industry. But strangely, Eire took its own path…

Specifically, the code will have three characters designating a ‘route code’ area’ and a random series of four characters that designate the deliverable address. Sounds simple, but for those who ponder the program, much head-scratching ensued…

Ireland has a non-standard address problem tied to the past. With an increasing population, this becomes cumbersome and inefficiencies become more pronounced. This means there could be three, four or more ways to address a letter, and all are correct. Contrast this with address validation to avoid GIGO. This means you might as well leave off the address entirely, using only name and postcode.

Other criticisms have to do with interoperability with government and industry. The random four digit string introduces unnecessary complexities with logistics in government and industry–because there is nothing human-readable about it, the string cannot be used to determine an adjacent property. This makes it virtually impossible to perform efficient parcel delivery and a big reason FedEx. UPS et al have voiced their concerns and say they won’t use it. Emergency services are frustrated that they can’t use Eircode as it will only be helpful for mail delivery. This claim seems a bit much given the agency’s mandate.

For business marketing, firmographic and related areas, it would be nice if Eircode is spatially aligned with the Irish Central Statistics Office.

Finally, Eircode plans to charge fees to parties that wish to license the database. WHY? What is the strange government obsession with cost-recovery? The near history of the OS in the UK, Royal Mail and Canada Post surely provide sufficient examples that fees are more trouble than they are worth. With less than a year before release, details of this fee structure have not been made available.

Not a very auspicious start, but hoping for the best!

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