Postcodes, PAF and Pseudonymisation

Filed under: Assets,Innovation — lenand @ 7:56 am
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Toby Stephens provided the headline in his blog on Computer Weekly.  His scheme for personalising postcodes could have traction – although £33m per annum income might be ambitious and may not include the admin costs.

As he says:

“PAF is already a tightly-regulated product, with strict controls imposed on Royal Mail’s access fees. Postcodes were originally introduced by Royal Mail to facilitate automated sorting of deliveries, back in the days before computers were available to support that process. They’re now used for a whole host of purposes, from insurance and credit rating, through to navigation and lotteries.”

Quarkside adds that Postcodes only give a postman’s walk, and additional information from the address is needed to find the right letter box. Postcodes are not Unique Identifiers for properties.  Properties are uniquely identified by a Local Government controlled Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN).  Personalising this 12 digit code is potentially more practical.  The UPRN is presumably free, open data.  The Royal Mail could use it to minimise final local delivery errors via their own data processing systems.

As an aside, it is Local Authorities that are the official registrar of addresses – not the Royal Mail or Post Office.  It is part of the UK taxation system and includes properties that do not receive any post.  Try sending a letter to an electricity transformer.  To get a bit more income, perhaps Local Authorities should start charging the privatised Royal Mail for the copyright of property addresses!


Secure money saver

How many confidential or official documents must be sent by the post? Bank statements, payslips, licence renewals, invoices,… Why can’t they be sent electronically? The over-riding reason is to guarantee a real address.

The “Private and Confidential” sticker is irrelevant once it has been delivered to the household, but the sender has done as much as they can – or have they? Shouldn’t the recipient have the choice of asking for such documents being sent to a secure, encrypted, email inbox?

The benefits to the recipient are:

  • Password, or token, protection to keep mails private and confidential.
  • Correspondence filed electronically
  • Readable from any location
  • Fewer paper cuts

The benefits to the sender, often public sector organisations, are far greater:

  • Reduced postal charges; 12 payslips a year must cost at least £2. That’s £2000 if you have a thousand pension payments to make.
  • Guaranteed delivery; there’s an audit trail to see if a document has been delivered and opened.
  • Interception free delivery and fewer non-delivery complaints to manage.
  • Ability to implement closed invoicing and payment processes with minimal intervention from administrators.

So here is a business proposition for the Local Authorities  (LAs) or the Post Office. Offer citizens a free, secure, encrypted, email inbox on a GCloud service. Offer any public or private sector organisation a secure, encrypted, traceable, email service at a sustainable annual fee. Some citizens may also wish to subscribe to a secure Web-based outbox for replying to secure inbox messages, or even to initiate communications.

The key to success is to link a secure email address with a property and a person.   Local Authorities have knowledge of the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) and at least one person responsible for paying Council Tax. They could minimise the risk of fraud by sanity checking the number of secure email accounts at each property.  LAs must lead on this innovation. There’s lots of work to do on the detail, but the good thing is that there’s an Agile solution because the basic facilities are available out of the box. Quarkside is trialling them now.

At some time in the future, this service could stimulate interest from the Electoral Registration Transformation Programme (ERTP, IVR and EIR are among the abbreviations). You read it here first.

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