by Thierry Jean
The Impact of Technology on Censuses (Mobile Phones)
With the advent of technology, censuses are now conducted by enumerators equipped with mobile phones that allow capturing the latitude and longitude of each visited household.
The Relevance of Address Databases
This advancement enables Statistical Institutes to build incredibly relevant address databases, especially in regions where cadastral organization faces challenges, as is the case in Latin America.
The Economic Potential of Address Databases; a Notable ROI
We believe that the quality of an address database can significantly influence a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), potentially increasing it by half a percentage point in Latin America. Although there are no formal studies supporting this claim, logistics operators and transportation owners intuitively recognize that a precise and well-located address database could result in a 5% higher operational efficiency. Given that logistics represents 10% to 15% of the GDP in South American countries, we conclude that a quality address database can impact the GDP by 0.5 percentage points! The return on investment (ROI) of a quality address database is enormous, talking about billions in return for a few hundred thousand invested.
Challenges in Public Availability
Despite considerable investment in censuses, these valuable address databases, created during the census, often remain unavailable to the public due to statistical secrecy laws. However, it is crucial to contemplate the nature of geolocated address information – simple door numbers, street names, and geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude). These data are inherently public and can be obtained by anyone visiting the location.
The Crucial Role of Accurate Addresses
Beyond logistics, accurately mapped quality addresses play crucial roles in multiple sectors such as public services, social assistance, registries, policing, firefighting, and ambulances, positively impacting people’s lives, saving resources, and avoiding rework.
The Civic Duty of Statistical Institutes
Statistical Institutes have the mission of managing significant budgets for conducting censuses. By recognizing the strategic relevance of address data, these institutions play a fundamental role in advancing transparency and promoting initiatives that benefit society as a whole. Involved public servants should be proactive and draw inspiration from examples set by countries like Uruguay, Brazil, and Colombia. In these countries, the publication of data did not depend on changes in legislation but on the simple understanding that address data is inherently public and can be considered as a database supporting the census, but not the result of the survey conducted with people. Elements that could identify the informant or characterize households according to their occupancy status are not disclosed. We recommend that involved public servants rely on access to information laws that have generally been enacted in the last fifteen years. Considering the spirit of access to information laws, what would still be the justification for not publishing address databases?
The AddressForAll Institute and Its Mission
The AddressForAll Institute has been advocating for this idea since its creation in 2020 to establish and maintain an open and collaborative address database in Latin America. It has encountered the following situations on the continent:
In 2013, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) began releasing its addresses collected in 2010, the result of an internal decision among its professionals after concluding that the disclosure of this data does not violate statistical secrecy laws. The addresses data from the 2017 agricultural census were published, and it is expected that the data collected in the 2022 census will be published.
In Uruguay, in 2017, a group was formed by SDI, INE, the Energy Company, and the Postal Services Company to implement a single, open address database for the country. It was the subject of presidential decree n. 160/022, on May 23, 2022 (5 years later). The decree can be found at this link: [link].
Discussions were held with professionals from the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) from November 2021 until a meeting with the former president Juan Daniel Oviedo in June 2022. In August, there was a meeting of the Statistical Reserve Committee that decided on the publication of the data. We did not have access to the minutes of this committee meeting. Finally, the address database was published on September 22, 2022. DANE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the AddressForAll Institute for the improvement of the address database on June 13, 2023.
Discussions were held with professionals from the Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), in which, after internal meetings, they decided to publish the data, which will be available after the publication of the December 2022 Census data, according to a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the AddressForAll Institute on January 3, 2023.
INEGI already has the culture of publishing its addresses and provides addresses by municipality on its website.
Other countries in LATAM
In Peru, Paraguay, and Chile, we have had constructive meetings with the teams, and we hope that the publication of the data will be possible.
In Argentina, INDEC has address information, but we have not yet convinced the teams of the importance of publishing address data.
The movement for the opening of address data is gaining momentum, and the AddressForAll Institute continues to work hard to generalize this practice. It is crucial that professionals in Statistical Institutes understand that the disclosure of this data does not compromise statistical secrecy. The decision to publish such information does not need to be guided by new legislation, but by the reinterpretation by professionals of the institutes regarding statistical secrecy laws. Understanding that address data is inherently public and plays a fundamental role in the progress of countries is of utmost importance.
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