Seanad debates

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Proposed Postcodes: Statements

 

5:00 pm

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South, Green Party)

To answer Senator Brady's question, my officials and I will go through the various questions he raised in his contribution and reply to him directly on those. There will be ongoing consultation. There has been a good deal of consultation. The original postcodes body investigating this had representation from a range of different interests and therefore as we progress, we will continue that strategy of talking to people.

We should recognise that while this new system will involve a change in working practices in certain locations, it will be of benefit particularly to the workers in postal companies because it allows us to get a much more efficient and effective service. In a time when we are starting to see postal services contract in terms of volumes, we need to turn that around and start developing new businesses and new business services. The ability that postcodes deliver to create new business opportunities will create the economic and the employment opportunities for people in the postal sector.

Regarding Senator O'Reilly's question, in the examination that was done of a variety of different options, cognisance was taken of the Data Protection Commissioner's views on this issue. There was a concern that if we have a code which brings one right down to a specific readily identifiable address, data protection issues might arise. We must manage and protect people's freedom from intrusive mail or inappropriate identification systems that could arise in a postal service with specifics such as XY co-ordinates which give a location down to a specific house.

The benefit of the postal code system being developed, as I understand it, is that the simple, alphanumeric, six-digit number will give one a postal code down to ten or 20 houses, depending on whether it is a country or an urban area, but there will be sufficient additional fields within the data system established to work such a code that an additional digit can give one much more specific locational details. That will allow one apply that locational code in a similar way to the advantages one would get from a GPS XY co-ordinate code. The code we are devising has the dual benefits of a postal code which does not infringe in a public way on people's right to privacy but which can be developed further to have those locational code characteristics that one gets off a GPS. That is the reason I am supportive of it because I believe it does both tasks.

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