Significant obstacles must be overcome if the new national postcode system, scheduled to be introduced by early 2011, is to be rolled out smoothly, according to a report published today by the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
The report examines the steps taken to date, proposes how best to establish a postcode system in Ireland and offers solutions to help address the concerns which have been expressed by many organisations and individuals in advance of the new scheme.
Liz McManus TD, the report’s author and Committee member said;
“Ireland is the only country in the EU that does not have postcodes and the opportunity arises for us, with proper planning and preparation to have the best postcode system.
“At a time of severe economic recession and high unemployment it is important that the postcodes project offers measurable benefits and is delivered at a reasonable cost.
“It is also important that we use the best available technology. In our view as Ireland is the last country in the EU to adopt postcodes we should aim to be the best in terms of delivery.
In that context, we recommend that the option of a postcode system should be based on a unique identifier system1 in view of its range of benefits using the best, most up to date technology.
“We do not believe that a system based on clusters of 40-50 properties as proposed by the Government is appropriate for the current and future needs of the smart economy.
“There are also issues relating to Data Protection which we believe can and should be addressed and if necessary, legislation introduced.
“A unique identifier system provides for a speedy response by emergency services, provides greater efficiency and interaction with GPS technologies and does not require change in names of townlands, etc, has low maintenance costs, supports spatial planning and the delivery of health services in particular.
“As part of our work, we consulted organisations and businesses on a sample basis.
“Worryingly, we have found that the public is generally unaware of the planned changes and many organisations, particularly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), have not given proper consideration to their implications. We must ensure that the public, businesses and the State sector are fully informed and consulted.
“We recommend that:
• A proper “roadmap” outlining precisely how postcodes will operate be published by September 2010. This should fully prepare the public, business and State bodies for the changes.
• If a short lead-in time is envisaged an incentive based scheme be introduced to encourage the use of postcodes. This could include free postage for a month for households who opt to use postcodes.
As part of its consultation, the Committee consulted with organisations including the Health Service Executive and the National Centre for Geocomputation.
Liz McManus TD said;
“We feel that the conclusions and recommendations made in our report will go a long way to assisting this process and ensure that Ireland’s postcode system will represent an excellent investment and help develop a modern, progressive, digital economy.
“As an invitation for tenders is likely to be made in the coming months there is only limited time to ensure that we get it right and that all remaining problems are ironed out.”
The report will be presented to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD for his consideration.
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Notes to the Editor
1. A unique identifier system is a method which will identify each individual property. It incorporates developing technologies such as internet mapping, google maps and iphones.
Full list of conclusions and recommendations:
1. The system of postcodes must be made appropriate to meet the current and future needs of the Smart Economy.
2. To prepare the public, the business and statutory sectors for the change it is recommended that a roadmap of implementation by published by September 2010 and a facility for consultation provided to take into account concerns as they arise.
3. The option of a postcode system based on a unique identifier system should be taken up in view of its range of benefits using the best, most up to date technology.
4. Rigorous cost analysis to be done on both postcode options.
5. The structure of postcodes could be subject to an open competition to attract young scientists or university interest, but this should only be considered if there is no undue delay as a result.
6. It is recommended that the Data Protection Commissioner be requested to consider afresh his advice already set out in 2006. It may be that, in light of new technologies, a different approach is possible.
7. Legal opinion should also be sought to assess the implications of the advice of the Data Protection Commissioner before any final decision on the project is made and, if necessary, new legislation should be considered by the government.
8. An early consultation process to be developed to engage with as wide a range of organizations as possible, with a view to assessing the obstacles and opportunities of postcode implementation, to result in a promotion strategy that can be reviewed in line with progress on a yearly basis.
9. The setting of a lengthy lead-in time to facilitate the changeover without undue costs for organizations, particularly for those for whom the change means changes of databases, stationery, advertising etc., OR alternatively the setting of a shorter lead-in time with inbuilt financial supports for those organizations which will experience a financial burden in the short–term.
10. The drawing up of an incentive scheme targeting groups and individuals who can be encouraged to use postcodes by way of reward. For example, free postage for a month for householders who use postcodes would provide dual benefits of using postcodes and boosting postal services at a time when they are under pressure.
11. That the familiar and well used form of addresses is retained – i.e. townland, county, Dublin area number – to help an easy changeover and to pre-empt unnecessary disputes about area names or numbers.
12. A clear policy should be developed in relation to the acquisition of the postcodes system in terms of costs, taking into account the different uses to which postcodes will be put, and a decision made as to whether any exemptions should be made within such a scheme.
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