France has created a national database of geo-referenced addresses involving public administrations, authorities and civil society. Citizens, businesses and local authorities can access, edit and enrich the BAN database of 25 million geo-coded addresses.
The National Address Database (BAN) aims to create a national repository to centralise geo-referenced addresses in French territory by combining the existing institutional databases of La Poste, IGN and DGFiP. Its ambition is to bring together existing databases and to rely on citizens’ input to improve the quality of information, ensure data consistency, and provide continuous, qualified and comprehensive updates.
This national database centralises 25 million addresses listed in France that are associated with geographic coordinates. In BAN, each item of conventional data (classic postal information) is now coupled with geospatial data (latitude, longitude, etc.). BAN will also incorporate the 300,000 new addresses created annually in France. The database does not include personally-identifiable data.
“The provision of BAN is now a key cartographic reference for the economy, society and all public services”, said SGMAP (Secrétariat général pour la modernisation de l’action publique), the French General Secretariat for the modernisation of public action, on its web portal. It represents “an essential resource for a range of services, including emergency services, and many economic activities”, adds Etalab, the government agency in charge of open data in France.
BAN is the first large-scale government project in France to take civil society into account in a way that is comparable to the approach adopted by OpenStreetMap France and BANO, for example. Businesses, citizens, municipalities and local communities, and the SDIS (the fire and rescue service) contribute and collaborate through a dedicated portal (adresse.data.gouv.fr).
A one-shop stop
adresse.data.gouv.fr is the front door for contributors to BAN. This “one-stop shop” will enable IGN, La Poste and DGFiP to carry out their work by offering a way not only to download the data, but also to amend, edit and enrich it. In its 2011 report, AFIGEO recommended the establishment of a single point of entry as the best and most cost-effective method of sharing information.
The portal also provides tools to help people use the addresses. A geo-encoder (open source) turns literal addresses into geographic data, while another tool – an inverse geo-coder – translates geographic data into literal addresses.
Finally, adresse.data.gouv.fr provides a tool called Guichet Adresse Mairie that allows municipalities to manage their roads, create new roads, geotag and name them, and add house numbers. As noted above, the municipalities are the primary source of address data in France.
According to the FAQ on the portal, APIs make it possible to provide the data under the ODbL licence.
The national database of geo-localised addresses is presented as being essential to emergency services such as ambulances, fire brigades and the police (the Gendarmerie) who rely on being able to find locations accurately in cities, on highways, and in rural areas.
A central and reliable address database also enables governments and businesses to optimise their operations and increase efficiency. This includes the creation of “Smart Cities”.
A multi-actor environment
In France, several entities have built their own address databases to meet their internal needs:
- Municipalities, who are the leading players in the address domain and the only authorities empowered to create new addresses;
- La Poste, the national postal service, through its National Address Service (SNA);
- DGFiP (Direction générale des finances publiques), the government department in charge of public finance in France;
- IGN (Institut national de l’information géographique et forestière), the national institute for geographical information;
- SDIS (Service départemental d’incendie et de secours), the 100 or so fire and emergency services operated by the individual départements of France;
- INSEE (L’Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques), the national institute for statistics and economic studies.
A national framework as a basis
At the beginning of the 2000s, the French state mandated IGN to create the geo-localized address layer of a national framework (Référentiel à grande échelle – RGE) that aims to create a geographical data reference infrastructure. This led to cooperation between IGN, DGFiP and La Poste, all of which initially operated separate address databases. The project is known as the Base Adresse National (BAN).
In 2013, 14 million addresses were held in common, according to the ‘Adresse’ working group of AFIGEO, a French association working on the development of geographic information. This was qualified as “ an unsatisfactory situation” by AFIGEO. An AFIGEO report published in 2011 said: “La Poste and IGN update their data independently of each other, at different rates, and then compare them, which risks highlighting issues concerning the synchronisation of the two databases. In addition, both organisations recover information from the same source (local authorities), which then follows different channels with different frequencies. This mess, this dispersion of resources, could be avoided if the information on the names and numbering of roads were directly incorporated into a single repository: the work would be done only once (speed, timeliness, uniqueness) by local authorities (a single player) and jointly controlled by the two national organisations.”
In 2014, the non-profit organisation OpenStreetMap France decided to create an alternative project: BANO (Base d’adresses nationale ouverte). The objective is to create an open repository of geo-coded addresses for the country. Worldwide, the OpenStreetMap association is based on a collaborative model of contributions. Data are free and available under an ODbL licence.
Published in 2007, the European Directive INSPIRE aims to promote a common and interoperable geographical information infrastructure for all Member States. Geo-referencing is a key element.
Description of target users and groups
URL : adresse.data.gouv.fr
Domain : Modernisation / Online Services / eParticipation / Geographical Information
Start Date : 2000s
Target Users : Administrative / Business (self-employed) / Business (Industry) / Business (SME) / Citizen / Civil Society / Intermediaries / Other
Scope : National
Status : Operational
Language : French
Technology choice: Open source software
This collaborative project involves large French administrations, local authorities, the State, public institutions, public services and civil society. The inclusion of civil society and the concept of citizen participation are major pillars of open government as defined by the Open Government Partnership (OGP). But some effort is still needed to find a trade-off among the stakeholders.
Dual licensing: a solution to combine certified and non-certified data
Several difficulties were encountered during the establishment of BAN, said IGN Director Pascal Berteaud during the launch of the database. On one hand, he said, it was necessary to hold discussions with OpenStreetMap, which created its own database and wanted to develop a crowdsourcing approach. “On the other side, IGN could control the collaboration between different government institutions”.
Several issues were identified. The first of these, a technical point, was to make “two very different worlds” talk to each other, Berteaud said. The second was to interweave a multitude of data from different sources to achieve completeness and certification. “We must verify the data,” Berteaud explained. “We solved this by including certified data (from public institutions) and uncertified data (from crowdsourcing) in the national database.”
A third issue was the need to deal with different business models: “a classic business model (that of the IGN and La Poste, for example) and a voluntary model (OpenStreetMap) – paid on one hand, free on the other”, Berteaud said. Dual licensing has helped to meet this challenge, he explained: “An open and free model with the obligation to contribute back, and a paid one, with the possibility of not sharing access to validated data.” So, in practice, users will have free access to data in BAN if they share their own work under the same terms. If they do not enter into this contributory arrangement they will have to pay a licence fee.
La Poste and IGN continue to sell licences for their certified data, which are regularly updated. They make sure the information is qualified and protected, says IGN.
The creation of BAN and the portal should also help to enrich the database and improve access to relevant and accurate data. “If La Poste is responsible for the quality of the addresses, the institution will benefit from contributions made by all stakeholders,” said Catherine Daneyrole of La Poste. “The contributions bring information we cannot collect. This overall enrichment is important and contributes to the modernisation of public action.” The result is “a good balance between openness, collective wealth and the protection of personal data,” she said.
BAN data will be used by La Poste and IGN and included in their commercial products. BANO OpenStreetMap will also benefit from additions and modifications to BAN.