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United States

Public Listing of Every Address in the US (US0056)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: The Department of Transportation

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Open Data

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Although address information for residential and commercial properties is collected across the United States by all levels of government and industry, it isn't currently compiled in an open, easily accessible format. Additionally, much of the information collected at the Federal level is prohibited from public release due to various privacy laws. This non-private address information can be crucial to first responders and emergency service providers and can also be useful to innovators who might use it to build tools or launch services to improve communities. The Department of Transportation will begin coordinating across the public and private sector; connecting agencies, industry and innovators to gain consensus on an open standard for public address information; pursuing open data strategies for sharing certain address information — excluding names and other private information; and exploring uses of this information that drive innovation and inform the public.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 4. Public Listing of Every Address

Commitment Text:

Launch a Process to Create a Consolidated Public Listing of Every Address in the United States

Although address information for residential and commercial properties is collected across the United States by all levels of government and industry, it isn't currently compiled in an open, easily accessible format. Additionally, much of the information collected at the Federal level is prohibited from public release due to various privacy laws. This non-private address information can be crucial to first responders and emergency service providers and can also be useful to innovators who might use it to build tools or launch services to improve communities. The Department of Transportation will begin coordinating across the public and private sector; connecting agencies, industry and innovators to gain consensus on an open standard for public address information; pursuing open data strategies for sharing certain address information — excluding names and other private information; and exploring uses of this information that drive innovation and inform the public.

Responsible Institutions: Department of Transportation (DOT), Census Bureau in the Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Supporting Institutions: State and county government leaders

Start Date: Not Specified End Date: Not Specified

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to begin developing a public national address database that includes every address in the United States. This database would improve a range of government services—most notably, first responder services—that rely on accurate geospatial and address data. The specific actions envisioned under this commitment included establishing a consensus on an open format for public address information. It also involved exploring strategies for openly sharing this information and exploring ways to leverage this information to drive innovation and to better inform the public.

Status

Midterm: Limited

The government had made limited progress on this commitment at the midterm. By June 2016, the government was in the process of completing a National Address Database pilot. The pilot involved the collection of address data spanning 10 states and four counties and cities.[1] The goal of the pilot was to produce minimum data content guidelines and a related data scheme for public address data.[2] While the government published initial guidelines and a data scheme in March 2016,[3] the government had not published an anticipated report summarizing the pilot’s findings by the midterm.

End of Term: Substantial

The Department of Transportation published a findings report for the National Address Database (NAD) pilot in September 2016.[4] The findings report identifies three types of data elements that comprise the minimum content needed to identify an address. These include the address itself, the geographic location of the address, and metadata about the address.[5] The findings report also outlines a proposed scheme for incorporating address information into the NAD.[6]

The report is less concrete regarding strategies for openly sharing NAD data, due to variation in jurisdictional control over address information (for example, control at the state versus county level). As noted in the report, “This will likely be a larger issue as the NAD moves from a pilot phase into a fuller roll-out. It should be expected that some states/counties/tribal agencies will have data sharing policies that may not allow public sharing.”[7] Moreover, among the roughly 30 US states with active address programs, only 60 percent (i.e., 18 states) make that data available on a public web-mapping service. This speaks to the challenge the Department of Transportation will likely face in moving NAD beyond the pilot phase.[8]

In light of the progress on minimum content guidance and the NAD address scheme described in the findings report, the IRM researcher has assessed that this commitment is substantially complete. The IRM researcher also notes that further progress remains to be made on designing strategies for sharing NAD data.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did Not Change

According to the findings report, the Department of Transportation “has made a commitment to stand-up a cloud-based environment to house the pilot NAD database created through this project as well as make continued efforts to find additional data contributors.”[9] Nevertheless, at the end of term, the official government website for the National Address Database (NAD) continues to indicate that “an initial version of the NAD will be released in early 2017.” The NAD minimum content guidance and address schema are publicly available. However, progress made on this commitment has not opened government regarding access to information. No address information collected from the pilot has been made available at the national level.

Therefore, address data publicly available at the end of term is no different than the data available at the beginning of the evaluation period. There has been no positive deviation from the status quo. Moreover, funding for the NAD pilot and its subsequent expansion has been exhausted as of October 2016. At the end of term, the IRM researcher could not locate more recent information concerning the NAD pilot’s funding status and any subsequent expansion plans.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not yet published its fourth national action plan. There exists a relative lack of clarity about the benefits of the National Address Database (NAD) for audiences beyond the first-responder community. This suggests that, before proceeding with implementation, the government should devote additional attention to raising awareness of the database’s potential impact as described in the commitment text.

Ian Dees, the founder of OpenAddresses, offered some potential guidance in this regard. (OpenAddresses is a civil society organization that engages in similar open mapping work.) Dees stated that “the justification for NAD has traditionally focused on the public use for emergency responders, but it's important to note that dozens of other important use-cases exist for such a dataset. One such important use-case is to increase economic activity by providing important data to build geocoders . . . software that converts a human-understandable address into a geographic location on the Earth.” This has clear applications for GPS technology, among others.[10]

On a longer-term basis, strong intragovernmental partnerships will be essential. According to the findings report, “A key challenge will be in maintaining longer term State-Local coordination and partnerships so that the statewide aggregations can remain updated. In addition, these partnerships may need to go beyond simply exchanging data and involved providing technical assistance to locals, especially the smaller less technically enabled communities. This will be essential for long-term maintenance and update of both statewide data and the NAD.”[11] The government did not consult OpenAddresses in the process of drafting this commitment. OpenAddresses has collected address data covering 80 percent of the US population. Thus, its work in this area suggests that the government may benefit from collaborating more directly with civil society organizations already engaged in the collection of open address data in the United States.


[1] “National Address Database,” US Department of Transportation, https://www.transportation.gov/NAD, consulted 2 October 2017.

[2] “National Address Database (NAD) Minimum Content Standard,” US Department of Transportation, 11 March 2016, https://www.transportation.gov/gis/national-address-database/national-address-database-nad-minimum-content-standard, consulted 2 October 2017. See also, “Geodatabase Template,” US Department of Transportation, https://www.transportation.gov/gis/national-address-database/geodatabase-template, consulted 2 October 2017.

[3] See preceding references.

[4] US Department of Transportation, National Address Database Pilot Project Findings Report, 20 September 2016, https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/3%20NAD%20Pilot%..., consulted 9 September 2017.

[5] Ibid., 12.

[6] Ibid., 13.

[7] Ibid, 28.

[8] Ibid., 29. See also Jake Williams, “GIS Leaders Push National Address Database Program Forward Without Funding,” StateScoop, 26 October 2016, http://statescoop.com/after-national-address-database-pilot-gis-leaders-push-forward-without-funding, consulted 9 September 2017.

[9] Ibid., 32.

[10] Written comments provided to the IRM researcher, 28 October 2017.

[11] US Department of Transportation, National Address Database Pilot Project Findings Report, 20 September 2016, 30, https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/3%20NAD%20Pilot%20Project%20Final%20Report.pdf, consulted 9 September 2017.


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