Mesh Blocks, AddressCoder@ABS and the G-NAF... laying new foundations
It is often the case that the combination of simple technologies produces large gains in functionality, and this can lead to tremendous change. Mesh Blocks, AddressCoder@ABS and the Geocoded National Address File (G-NAF) are three new technologies that will, over the next few years, change how statistics are collected, maintained and published by the ABS. But more importantly, they will make these statistics far more useful.
The G-NAF is an authoritative and well maintained list of Australian addresses published by the Public Service Mapping Agency (PSMA). It includes an accurate location for most addresses and this allows the population of small areas to be estimated. This is crucial for the initial design of Mesh Blocks. This locational information also allows statistics associated with address information to be coded to a Mesh Block using a new ABS web service called AddressCoder@ABS.
The AddressCoder@ABS web service will be freely provided by the ABS through the National Data Network (NDN). It will allow users to geocode addresses to Mesh Blocks, Collector Districts and Statistical Local Areas. Members of the NDN will be able to use this service to code both a single address, or many thousands of addresses. An information paper describing AddressCoder@ABS is due to released by the end of 2006.
For the 2006 census, and beyond, the ABS has developed a new micro level geographical unit, the Mesh Block. It is hoped that Mesh Blocks will allow many of the statistics produced by the ABS to be published for new sets of areas that are more relevant to users and more meaningful for analysis. Because of their small size (between 30 and 60 dwellings in residential areas), Mesh Blocks will enable the ready comparison of statistics between geographical areas by aggregating the data from mesh blocks to build commonly used geographic regions, such as Australia Post post codes, Local Government Areas or even historical boundaries.
Previously, a group of 200 to 300 dwellings, called a Collection District, has been the smallest level of geographic detail produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census and Surveys. Because of their size and design, Collection Districts cannot support the flexible mapping to larger geographic regions that can be obtained by using Mesh Blocks as a base.
To protect privacy of individual information, only very basic Census data will be released at the Mesh Block level. Aggregates of Mesh Blocks can however contain a very rich and detailed range of statistical information mapped very accurately to user specified regions.
Census 2006, on 8 August this year, will be the first to use G-NAF, AddressCoder@ABS and Mesh Blocks, enabling users to access data that best fits the political, administrative or physical geography required.