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Summary: Digital Address Code proposed by Department of Posts

In its proposal, the DoP suggests how to go about assigning a code to every address in a country as large and diverse as India.

“Aadhaar is the digital identity platform that has facilitated online authentication of identity. A similar system for address authentication would simplify business processes,” said a draft approach paper to create a Digital Address Code, published on the website of the Department of Posts (DoP) on October 19.

In the approach paper, the DoP has suggested allocating permanent 12-digit codes linked to precise geospatial coordinates of all addresses in the country. Government bodies and businesses can use the codes to verify addresses and deliver services to users, the draft paper says. The DoP is accepting suggestions on the paper until November 20.

Why do we need a Digital Address Code?

The DoP has outlined several reasons why a Digital Address Code (DAC) will be useful for both businesses and public authorities:

  • E-commerce: For online deliveries, a digital address identity can replace the descriptive address, giving businesses a precise idea of where to deliver.  Such a code will also prevent the use of fake addresses for e-commerce frauds.
  • Address verification: Such a code can be used as a signature for address authentication, ‘similar to biometrics in respect of identity’, the approach paper said.
  • Government bodies: The approach paper outlined a few areas in which the DAC could be useful for public bodies:
    1. Property Taxation
    2. Emergency response
    3. Disaster Management
    4. Election Management
    5. Census Operations
    6. Grievance Redressal

What would be the attributes of a Digital Address Code?

  • Geospatial coordinates: The DAC would be linked to geospatial coordinates representing the entrance or gate of an address.
  • Uniqueness: Each individual dwelling unit or office will have a unique DAC. Different apartments in the same building, for example, will be allotted unique DACs.
  • Permanence: The DAC allotted to an address will be permanent. If the address is split into multiple addresses, each of the new addresses will get a new DAC.
  • Directionality: The paper suggests that the DAC have a sense of directionality and intuitiveness like any address.
  • Exceptions: For ‘sensitive establishments’, DAC may not be issued or may be linked to the coordinates of a neighbourhood or city instead of a precise location.

How will the Digital Address Codes be designed?

Assigning a Digital Address Code to every address in a country as large and diverse as India presents several challenges. Here is how the DoP has suggested going about it:

  • Format: The DAC will be a numeric code with 12 digits to easily accommodate approximately 100 crore addresses.
  • Representation: To make the DAC intuitive, the DoP proposed representing territorial jurisdictions in the number via the digits 0 to 9. The alternative, which would be to allocate the first two digits to the state code like in pin codes, was rejected for two reasons:
    1. Two digits would elongate the DAC, which is avoidable
    2. Creation of new states would require changing DACs, which violates the permanence principle
  • Rest of the digits: When allocating digits, the approach paper outlines two options:
    1. Allocate random numbers, which wouldn’t inherently offer any directionality
    2. Allocate numbers according to a ‘geospatial workflow’, which allocates numbers based on population density
  • Neighbourhoods: Such a geospatial workflow should be able to identify approximately 300 addresses in close proximity as a neighbourhood. Four digits in the DAC will be allocated to represent the neighbourhood.

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