How can civil service reformers capitalise on UPRNs and USRNs?

Written by GeoPlace on 30 July 2020 in Sponsored Article
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The civil service is undergoing necessary change. GeoPlace argues that change should be underpinned by verified insight – which is why it is important for teams to prepare well for greater use of UPRNs and USRNs. 


The Government Digital Service is taking the reins once again, just over two years after the responsibility for central data management was transferred to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Following on from the excellent work of the Geospatial Commission, Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRN) and Unique Street Reference Numbers (USRN) must now be used as the standard identifiers for location data, right across the public sector. And – this week – we have seen an invitation going out to civil servants, asking them to air their frustrations about the ways in which government still works.

Unique change is needed

Looking to our future as a nation, there’s an emphasis in central government on finding unique, and preferably innovative, changes that can underpin our move forward as an independent trading nation. Locally, this means being in a position to capitalise on opportunity, in whatever form that takes.

In the round, civil servants are ideally placed at all levels to propose such changes. Civil servants have the experience and feel the impact first; they’re in the perfect place to explore the initiatives – to do the groundwork – that will have the most positive impact on people’s lives. That kind of change, a philosophy-backed move towards ‘simply delivering better’, requires commitment and insight. Fortunately, civil servants themselves are committed to embracing new technologies and improving our working culture; there are a number of tools to hand that have benefited from an enduring commitment already; and the insights available from those tools have an almost incalculable value. In particular, we are referring to UPRNs and to USRNs. However, for change to be effective – teams must be ready.

As chief operating officer of the civil service, Alex Chisholm said recently: “If we improve the way we work, we can make the best possible difference for citizens across the country and that is why we choose to be civil servants.” In Our Civil Service: shaping our future together, he supports the need not just for modernisation, but also for making meaningful change by understanding a complete picture of what works and what doesn’t – accumulating verified data, collecting a diverse range of views.

We believe that every part of the civil service will benefit from the improved data sharing and integration that’s possible when UPRNs and USRNs are integrated effectively. The most pressing question is not, ‘what will we be able to achieve?’ but, rather, ‘how will our teams get up to speed, to ensure we’re deriving maximum value from the data we have – insights and analysis that can deliver exceptional results?’ Change will happen, but to capitalise on change, teams need to understand the tools they’re being asked to use.

In short, if GIS (Geospatial Information System) teams are embedding UPRNs as ‘drivers’ for existing systems, then savings will be guaranteed. Behind the scenes, datasets will evolve to be more authoritative by default – the veracity of information used by central and local government will improve instantly. For risk management; resource deployment; land and property planning; health and social matters; justice reform; trade and industry at all levels … the integration of thee location-based identifiers will make decision-making quicker, easier, and easier to visualise and understand (also an important factor, when rolling out policy changes countrywide).

Many of the teams who’ll need to use those location-enhanced datasets, however, might not be close to GIS specialists. Or familiar with geospatial analytics and ‘data wrangling’ or data matching – so how can they be assured of deriving value?

Helping organisations, authorities, and businesses

GeoPlace’s team is offering advice on ways to maximise the opportunities presented by open access to UPRNs and USRNs. For 20 years, the team of data experts has been handling UPRNs and USRNs on a daily basis – helping teams at all levels of local and central government to capitalise on the ‘power of place’.

As a result, GeoPlace is the UK’s foremost location data advisory, offering guidance on embedding the UPRN or USRN, as well as:

  • Data acquisition, assurance, and validation
  • Data linking and translation, sharing and publishing
  • Data quality improvement, analysis and analytics
  • Implementing legislation and policy as part of data strategy, and more 

For more information about UPRNs and USRNs, and how these unique identifiers can make significant improvements to multiple aspects of peoples’ lives, visit:


Richard Duffield is Head of Customer Insights at GeoPlace

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