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"During the first two days of the project what3words has already helped hundreds of township residents find their address and register for medical services"


London, March 2nd, 2017, 0:01 GMT – what3words, the multi-award winning location reference system, has collaborated with South African non-governmental organisation (NGO) Gateway Health Institute, to get some 54,000 residents of an impoverished informal settlement, on the map. Following partnerships with national postal services in Djibouti and Côte d'Ivoire, as well as pan-African ecommerce company Afrimarket, what3words is making inroads to help Africa build an addressing infrastructure that meets the needs of all its people.

With a mobile address printing machine and a team of local field workers, what3words and Gateway Health Institute addressed hundreds of homes in KwaNdengezi, a township on the outskirts of Durban, over the first two days. The project gives residents access to medical services such as ambulances and medicine, and has provided them with a medical record for the first time.

Almost half (45%) of the 18.7 million adults in South Africa live in townships or informal settlements. Worldwide this figure reaches one billion, with the total expected to triple by 2050[1]. Homes in these informal settlements have no formal addresses, leaving those who live there invisible to the system. Residents can’t order goods or receive deliveries, and they struggle to access basic utilities, amenities and medical care. In KwaNdengezi Ambulances can take almost a full day to reach the person in need. Medical experts often must track down community leaders to ask for directions, or rely on long and often inaccurate descriptive addresses. Pregnant women who experience difficulties during labour are unable to get help and many die in childbirth.

Gateway Health Institute provides healthcare and community services in disadvantaged areas across South Africa. They run programs to deliver medicine, supply emergency transport for women in labour, and identify hot spots for human rights abuses. However, many of these programs struggle due to the lack of reliable addressing.

what3words is a location reference system based on a global grid of 57 trillion 3mx3m squares. Each square has been pre-assigned a fixed and unique 3-word address. Easier to communicate than GPS, more accurate than street addressing and more immediate than any other geo-coding or addressing project, it is a universal and human-friendly system. The entire map can easily be downloaded onto a smartphone thanks to its 10MB file. It works offline without a data connection, ensuring it can be used everywhere.