Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Proposed Postcodes: Statements
Eamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)
I am very pleased to be here for statements on what I believe to be a very important part of the modern infrastructure needed in our country. This proposal for a postcode goes back to the working group on postcodes which published a proposal in 2005. It recommended the introduction of postcodes on the basis that we needed an efficient system for our postal sector that would improve national competitiveness and assist in the provision of public and private sector services.
A second report was carried out in July 2006 by the National Postcode Project Board which again recommended the most appropriate postcode system for Ireland, one that would deal with the cost and benefits and implications of the postal code. The board, which comprised representatives of the Government and public and private sector organisations, identified many postal and non-postal benefits of introducing codes. A third report carried out by external consultants was commissioned on foot of a Government decision to do further analysis and quantify the wider benefits of the postal system.
The National Postcode Project Board recommended an alpha-numeric, publicly available and accessible postcode model. The country would be divided into approximately 200 post towns. Within each post town there would be groups of approximately 40 to 50 properties. The postcode would have the structure ABC 123 in its numeric code, the first three characters representing the post town, the second three representing the group of properties in which the particular building is located.
The benefits of a postcode lie in a number of different sectors. First, it will be of significant benefit in the delivery of postal services and it would be expected that we should look for such benefits. Ireland is the only country in the European Union which does not have a postcode. Although I believe An Post has done some very good work recently in improving the efficiency and quality of service delivery, we will be able to see further efficiency gains and improvements in the quality of the postal service through the application of this postcode model.
People may be concerned that the application of the postal address code would have particular implications for people in their addresses. I do not believe it will. The type of postcode we propose will allow for existing Dublin postal district codes to be incorporated within the new postcode. There has been much correspondence with regard to Irish language issues but there is nothing to prevent a person from using a form of address in either of the official languages of the State, as we develop the postal code.
I see it, therefore, as of really significant benefit for the postal service and the provision of a postal service which, because of evolving European Union directives in this regard, involves not only An Post but a range of different operators. It will be of equal benefit to all operators working in the area. More crucially, I see postcodes having wider benefit. It is the provision of a facility by which, as well as providing a postal code, we will be able to devise a locational code for the country. Real and evolving benefits will emerge in the management of spatial data and emergency services in this country and the development or provision of a range of different infrastructural services. For example, if one were sending a driver to repair a particular lamp in a postal area, or if there were a breakdown in a particular electricity network or in any of the evolving infrastructural networks, having a common locational code of which everybody is aware that can be used to direct people to a particular point in the country, will provide real benefit from the postcode system we are developing.
One of the tasks we have undertaken is to consider what are the monetised benefits. Reports indicate we can expect approximately €22 million in benefit to the economy. An example of where that will come from, in Government business alone, is in the likes of service providers such as the Revenue Commissioners. Obviously, they have a very large postal requirement and must send cheques and demands. In that business, the benefit to them of the application of a postcode system is €3.6 million per annum, given the reduction in misdirected mailing and the proven efficiency in sending distributed mail.
There is a cost. We estimate the initial cost involved in establishing the system and implementing it could be approximately €15 million. The ongoing annual maintenance cost might be approximately €2.5 million, which will be met by the revenues generated by the postcode manager charging for the value-added products and services that the system will deliver. This is a crucial investment as part of our wider digital Internet economy, where people will increasingly access products and services through the Internet and will need a speedy, clear and simple system of locating the delivery of such services. This offers our postal system considerable opportunities, particularly An Post's distribution system. The local post office can be turned into one's local department store and access, notably for people in rural communities, can be improved through this new Internet shopping technology. The postcode is a crucial component in making the system work.
I commend the proposal to the House. My Department is working with An Post and various other private and public parties to set out the best way of tendering for the provision of this postcode service. Completing the task and introducing the system will take us a number of months. It has taken a long time and this is not an example of Government working at its fastest or most effective. Since the starting date of almost four or five years ago, however, we have stepped up and the Government has made a commitment via its decision to introduce the postcode. This will be of widespread benefit to people working in the postal sector, consumers requiring postal services and the development of new location code services that can help us to run the country more efficiently and effectively.