Matt Hancock praises local government geodata custodians for 'improving lives' at annual spatial and address data conference
Matt Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, praised the work of local government address data specialists in his keynote presentation at yesterday’s annual Geoplace conference. ‘Everything Happens Somewhere; A Single View of Place'.
The event, held in London, brought together professionals in the field of public sector location data, including staff at councils with statutory responsibility for naming and numbering properties and building and maintaining a local register of address and street information, such as Local Land and Property Gazeteer (LLPG) custodians.
Hancock described address data as “the bedrock of our nation’s infrastructure and modern digital economy” and praised the work of the professionals who create and maintain the data. In response to adelegate requesting that the minister emphasise the importance of their work in central government, he said he promised to be their “champion.”
“Address and street and street naming and numbering officers’ work isn’t understood by those higher up,” the delegate said, drawing applause. “Our work is important – it’s not a Noddy job.”
Hancock responded: “I totally understand where you’re coming from and pledge to be your champion. My job is to explain what you do at ground level. Data is only as good as the accuracy that goes into it. I will champion your cause.
“You, in this room, ensure we have access to this data. I want to pay tribute to people such as LLPG custodians who are an invaluable part of the process of maintaining and improving this data.
"Every day you work to ensure address data is of high quality and properly recorded. You’re doing something important in your area, but you’re also part of a broader mission to improve the lives of the citizens we serve.”
Hancock, who has worked in his family’s business that develops software to find addresses, highlighted three elements of addressing data that would be vital in tackling future challenges and opportunities: precision (“for the millions of people who tried in rural areas to use a postcode on a satnav and ended up in a field”); ensuring high quality address data (“the anchor of the digital economy”); and openness.
On openness, he said: “I believe if we make things open we make things better". He highlighted that the UK government is ranked 10th most open by the Worldwide Web Foundation and that, according to the Open Data Institute, opening up data can contribute 0.5% to the economy every year.
Hancock also expressed an interest in working with local government on an open address register following the announcement that government will provide up to £5 million to develop such options in the recent spending review.
“We’re working across government to explore options for an open address register," he said. "We want to work with you and hear your thoughts to make it happen. We’re at the stage of taking what you do to the next level and we’ve got to make sure we get it right."
One delegate asked how councils could continue to provide good quality address data on reduced budgets, as staff “struggle to get this work done.”
Hancock replied: “It’s important we get the funding to do it. The value generated from an address database and potentially through openness shows how important it is that we get this right. Its quality relies on you to make sure we have the integrity of data in first place."
He also praised Geoplace - a joint venture between the Local Government Associationa and Ordnance Survey - for its work in creating and maintaining large spatial address datasets including the National Address Gazeteer, and described the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) as a key means of improving adress data. He said it was the “jewel at the heart of the addressing system” and that it would be "difficult to imagine integrated public services without it”.