Something is Rocking in the State of Denmark

As reported by James Lawson on Database Marketing in the article, ‘Should address data be free?’, an open data revolution is gathering pace in the UK.

Free and open data

As the article highlighted, The Kingdom of Denmark has very good experiences with free and open address data.  The basic public sector data in the country has been widely available and without a price tag since 2002. This move has proven to be a win-win situation for both the public and private sector.

This success has been followed up by making even more basic public sector data free, as of now Danish property reference data and the company registry is free and open. The price tag for citizen data now resembles more of a handling fee.

The system

Availability of external reference data for managing party and location master data has always been relatively good in Denmark, as there is a long tradition for public registries keeping track on what’s going on, not at least helped by a desire to have a smooth tax collection system.

Public registries for addresses, companies and citizens are tightly connected as every address has distinct code (a KVH or KVHX code), every company and its branches has an all-purpose registration number  attached to an address code and every citizen has an all-purpose national identification number (called personnummer or CPR-nummer) attached to the address code of the place of living.

When a Dane relocates he/she is obliged to change his address in the citizen registry (called CPR). That change is cascaded to practically all public bodies, financial services holding an account for him/her as well as other interested private enterprises that may have a subscription for that service too.

Comparing systems

For a foreigner, looking at a name and address of a Danish company or individual might not look as structured as everywhere else.  If you come from the half of the world where house numbers are put in front of the street name, it might seem strange to discover it’s the other way round here in Denmark.

But behind the scenes most public bodies and many enterprises within financial services, utility, telecom and other sectors handle address, company and person data by storing reference codes and national ID’s.

So while the postal code system in Denmark is much less granular compared to the postal code system in the United Kingdom, there are other means of utilizing public sector basic data in order to improve data quality and affected prosperity for the society as a whole.

The differences mean that you can’t of course take the positive experiences from Denmark and expect exactly the same outcome for free address data in the United Kingdom. My bet, based on having worked with data quality issues in both countries, is that the United Kingdom will see even better results.