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More Global Addresses Mean More Global Customers

Date: October, 2014 --

Surely there is a price on an address. We know what lists cost to rent. So isn’t that a value? Well, yes it is a value, but it’s not a constant. For example, that value will differ dramatically depending on who is looking at it for prospecting purposes. A name and address in a wealthy suburb would have vastly different values for McDonald’s versus for Cartier.

This question was recently discussed by a panel of experts at one of the preeminent annual postal industry exhibitions and conferences, PostExpo 2014 in Stockholm, Sweden. Speakers range from postal CEOs and senior execs, international postal equipment company executives and global consultants, to non-profit advocates like the Global Address Data Association.                

This latter’s Executive Director, Charles Prescott, started a session on  the importance of  addresses in a digital world by noting that he had examined the financial records of a half dozen European posts and none of them listed address data as an asset. “Don’t address systems have a value?”, he asked.   

Indeed they do. Addresses, it seems, are a “public good”, like a public park or streets. Your use can’t be prevented and the resource is not “used up”.  These kinds of goods generally are not bought and sold, although sometimes fees for their use are imposed, such as entry fees to some US State parks. As “value”, what address systems have is the power to help users save money, and to make money, lots of money. 

Prescott gave brief synopses of several recent studies. The USPS concluded that the Zip Code had saved it $16 billion in operating expenses over 10 years. It calculated that consumers, government agencies and non-profits had realized over $30 billion in benefits during that time. Add in benefits to catalogers, real estate agents, express companies, trucking companies and a myriad of others, and the total amount earned or saved is over $90 billion. And that is just the Zip Code system, not the address file.  

In the UK, a survey of users of the postal address file (which has over 20 million entries) concluded there was an annual benefit to government and business of $2.5 billion per year. In Denmark, the address file agency (which is outside the post) required 1,000 licensees to report their direct earnings from their (free) use of the file. It came to €10 million in 2010 alone. It costs the government €200,000 to maintain the file. Pretty good ROI.

Prescott concluded by noting that address systems are critical for economic development. In fact, as a counterweight, the country of Costa Rica recently concluded that it loses $750 million of economic benefit each year due to the lack of a street address system. 

Following on that same theme of development, Alex Pigot of the non-profit company Addressing the Unaddressed disclosed that in the last year his organization had provided geocode addresses(using the “Go-Code” system they had developed)  to over 2,000 homes in the area called Chetla in Kolkata, India.  Chetla is an enormous slum area, said by some development authorities to be the largest in the world.  At the same time, many of the residents are long-term residents with fairly solid homes. But it is truly a poor community which receives few public services. 

Three dramatic developments have resulted from the allocation of Go-code addresses.  

First, residents were now able to open bank accounts because they could provide an “address” for their residence, something required by almost all banks world-wide under “know your customer” laws. 

Second, the post office agreed to begin deliveries in the slums to the buildings with addresses.  Residents could now receive mail in their homes from government agencies, schools, businesses, and relatives and friends, something we in America have enjoyed since the 19th century. 

Third, there were other substantial economic benefits.  Residents could now also open on-line banking accounts. This in turn enables them to order goods on-line or by mobile and have them delivered directly to their homes, thus entering the eCommerce economy.

Lastly, Mr. Brian Mwansa of the Zambia Information and Communications Authority introduced us to the incredible growth, and future possibilities, in mobile commerce in Zambia and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, a continent where nearly 25% of the adult population has a mobile financial account. Nearly 70% of Kenyan adults use mobile money and in Zambia, mobile subscribers are increasingly being offered free services. For example, Airtel subscribers can access a number of free sites such as Facebook, Google and others. Moreover, the availability of goods and services online is mushrooming at a phenomenal rate.  

This will mean eCommerce packages needing delivery will also mushroom. But Africa, including Zambia, has an address deficit. Only 21% of the population of Africa gets home delivery, while 49% rely on post boxes and 29.7% have no postal access at all. Also note that the 49% relying on the post box have to pay for it, and it is probably a very non-private “group box”.  

For Africa to realize its eCommerce potential, it must solve the postal address file deficit. As a very critical step in that direction, Zambia has taken a leadership role in supporting the Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) programs for development, including the coming landmark October 2015 Addressing Conference on address development, which will gather experts from around the globe to discuss, and solve, address system development challenges.

This conference has, in a sense, already started.  The UPU has put out a call for papers from anyone wishing to participate. They have set 5 scenarios of development challenges and invited the public to provide solutions in providing addresses therein.  A blue-ribbon panel of experts will judge the entries and the winners will receive transportation and lodging at UPU expense.  There will be important developments for data hygiene companies and other address industry providers.

Here at Data Services, Inc. we look forward to bringing you more news of this exciting UPU project. It will undoubtedly result in more global address availability. From more addresses will follow more value and wealth, as we have seen above, and thus more business for you, our customers. For your current African and additional international contact address data, we are ready, as always, to keep them as clean and current as possible with our benchmark international data quality and related global data-driven marketing solutions.