Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A New Postal Code! Really??

tags: postal codes

Afghanistan has a new postal code. It is 4 digits and is placed below the locality in the address block.  I was surprised.  I was surprised when Iraq acquired a new code in 2004.  Neither of these codes is used with regularity.  That the codes are not used may be less surprising than their existence. Both the design and implementation of a postal code are expensive.  Both involve participation – and cooperation – from a variety of parties in government and civil society.

Ask Saudi Arabia or Costa Rica, both of which implemented excellent new systems in the past few years.  Ask Trinidad and Tobago, which plans on having a postal code in place during the first half of this year.  Ask Jamaica where the implementation of postal codes was suspended.  Ask Ireland which recently ended another initiative to create a postal code system.

Modern postal codes meet needs larger than the delivery of mail. Those that work well for societies and governments need thoughtful design.  A balance must be achieved between privacy and geolocation, between traditional forms of addresses and those that can be processed by automated equipment.  Ideally, the postal code lets emergency services know where to go, as well as the postal workers.  They allow the tax authorities and utilities (electric, telephone, etc.) to locate businesses and residences.  They help other delivery services and visitors find an address more easily.

Other countries have said that they are planning to institute a postal code.  Mauritius went back to the design phase after a test code didn’t meet all the requirements.  Peru is said to be working on designing a code, as is Macau.  Dominica, Eritrea, Cameroon, and El Salvador may also be on that list.  

I look forward to seeing what new systems these and other countries develop that meet the needs and requirements of their unique societies.  After all, every society is unique and its addressing reflects that uniqueness.