what3words is a global addressing system. It has divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one a unique 3 word address. what3words provides a precise and incredibly simple way to talk about location. And it means everyone and everywhere now has an address.

 

Hundreds of thousands of people in South Africa live in informal settlements which lack reliable addressing. This inability to define a location – of homes, businesses and properties – means people are essentially invisible to the system.

They struggle to access basic utilities, amenities or receive medical care. In particular, pregnant women who experience difficulties during labour are unable to get help, as midwives can’t find them, and many die in childbirth.

With poor addressing playing such a critical role in the success of their projects, ‘Gateway Health’ had no choice but to find a viable alternative. And ‘what3words’ has proved the perfect solution.

‘what3words’ is a global addressing system. It has divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one a unique 3 word address. It provides a precise and incredibly simple way to talk about location. And it means everyone and everywhere now has an address.

With a focus on health and human rights, The Gateway Health Institute are committed to making a positive impact on the lives of those in hard to reach and vulnerable populations.

The Gateway Health Institute is a leading NGO in South Africa, providing healthcare and community services to disadvantaged areas. They run programs to deliver medicine, supply emergency transport for women in labour, and identify hot spots for human rights abuses.

Gateway has begun piloting the use of 3 word addresses in KwaNdengezi, a poor informal settlement on the outskirts of Durban. A key part of the project is training unemployed young people who live in the settlement to search for a 3 word address via the free what3words app, and provide it to residents.

Following this simple training, they take what they have learned out to the homes in the settlement. Here, they help residents locate and record the unique 3 word address of their own property, with both a paper copy and, optionally, a digital registration in a database. The database uses USSD technology – an easy to use technology that works on any kind of mobile phone and does not require internet. It enables even more rapid response when requesting emergency services or reporting service delivery failures.

what3words app 2

Even if residents do not have a smartphone, they can simply refer to this address – which never changes – when they need to communicate their location. They are also advised to keep a copy of their unique 3 word address in a safe place. Many expectant mothers, for example, choose to keep it in a bible – a place that’s not only easy to access in an emergency but also one they’ll never lose.

Once a home has a 3 word address, its residents can share the location accurately and reliably. Medical services can identify where pregnant women live and provide them with essential pre-natal care. Should any complications occur during labour, ambulance crews also know exactly where to go, to provide life-saving assistance.

In addition to addressing homes in the settlement, Gateway Health is also leading a project to identify the 3 word addresses of critical community assets – including local government centers, medical facilities and clean water pumps.

Once complete, it will help to build a detailed community map, so that residents, businesses and organisations can continue to use 3 word addresses to greatly improve their standard of living.

“For those living in informal settlements and rural areas, ‘location’ presents the biggest challenge in providing health services and products”, said Dr. Coenie Louw, Founder of Gateway Health. “In these areas demand is high but delivery is poor. what3words changes all that. By providing every property with a unique address, residents now have a simple and reliable way to identify their home.”

Together, Gateway Health and what3words are providing reliable addresses for people in need. Gateway intends to provide every person living in an informal settlement in Durban with a 3 word address, and to then scale the project to a national level and beyond.


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Sources: what3words

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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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