Dean Capobianco and our digital National Address File

James Riley
Editorial Director

The geocoded national address file – known as the G-NAF – is little-known in the mainstream community but nonetheless a critical national data asset that enables services ranging from risk management in the insurance industry to the efficient delivery of pizza.

The G-NAF is the ultimate single source of truth for addresses in Australia. It maps properties across all states and territories. It is a foundational layer for the geolocation data that drives large parts of the economy.

This national data asset is managed and serviced by Geoscape Australia, a commercial location intelligence company owned collectively by the governments of Australia – federal, state and territories.

The Geoscape Australia chief executive is former Olympian Dean Capobianco, who in his post athletics career in the years since the late 90s has been immersed in digital technology and managing digital transformations across a variety of businesses and industries.

In this episode of the Commercial Disco, Dean Capobianco talks about geolocation data in a way that will make you sit up a little straighter and open your eyes a little wider.

Dean Capobianco first came to public prominence as a 200-metre sprinter, Australia’s best. He represented the country at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

His transition from sport to business came through News Corporation and what would become News Digital Media, and along the way included stints at Yahoo!, NineMSN, CareerOne and Acxiom. He has been CEO at Geoscape Australia for about three years.

At Geoscape, Mr Capobianco has built a digital transformation engine that he says can drive better and more efficient services across the economy, whether those services are delivered by the public sector – state or federal – or through private sector customers.

“Geoscape Australia is a location intelligence company, and we focus on data and data outcomes,”Mr Capobianco says. We are considered the source of truth for national geolocation information and insights for both government and industry.

“And really, at Geoscape we view our business as a critical data asset that supports and enables the Australian economy.”

The focus on creating products on top of that foundational layer of geocoded address data. Part of that focus has been to lift the profile of the data-sets that Geoscape maintains, and to encourage engagement from potential customers that can build value-added services on top of that foundation.

Geoscape Australia chief executive Dean Capobianco

A short history lesson he tells is that the organisation has been around for 25 years. It was originally the Public Sector Mapping Agency (PSMA), set up to bring together all of the land administration data of the states and territories to build a national asset.

“There was this real need to stitch a lot of information together to develop a national data footprint, effectively Both government and industry really required sort of consistent, reliable national data set to support their own initiatives.

That is what has been created. The G-NAF dataset is freely available, used by governments and the business community, from corporations to startups.

This is a commercial operation, owned by government shareholders. It is expected to be profitable, in which the shareholders have allowed the organisation to push the profits back into the development of the data products.

The value of the G-NAF data-set – and others that have been built with that – is best described through emergency services.

“One of the examples that really helps explain what we do is in emergency services, it’s a great example of how the information is used,” Mr Capobianco said.

“And so in the case of natural disasters, which we’ve seen a lot of over recent years – floods and fires – the Geoscape data helps responders to understand more about the impacts on the areas that are affected, so that they can make timely decisions,” he said.

“They need to understand which properties are impacted by these natural disasters. They need to know what the street address of that property is, they need to know information about a property to help them manage disaster recovery efforts – such as where is the position of that building on a certain property so that they can get access to it to support people and evacuate people.”

Outside of the governments themselves, the biggest users of these datasets are insurance companies and financial institutions. Insurance companies use the address data to price premiums, to better understand areas affected by natural disasters.

But the data is central to government service and relief operations, also, tracking social services and emergency in a way that could not have been contemplated in the past.

It’s clearly a strange transition from elite sport to business, and there are plenty of lessons learned. Dean Capobianco became attached to the fast-moving digital world very soon after leaving athletics and says there have been plenty of lessons learned.

He has led a transformation of Geoscape – mercifully renamed from PSMA – to make its base products more available to a wider community of users.

This is a great interview. There is a lot for smaller Australian companies and startups to understand about the datasets that are available. There is huge opportunity here. This is the base layer of any digital twin.

The Commercial Disco podcast is produced in partnership with the national science agency, CSIRO.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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