by AKANI CHAUKE
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE United Nations (UN) estimates that 75 percent of countries in the world have a poorly maintained addressing system or none at all.
South Africa is among the countries facing this issue, with large parts of the country still lacking spatial planning.
It is worse for South Africans living in rural areas or informal settlements, particularly when it comes to emergencies.
Accordingly, Vodacom has become the first telecommunications operator globally to zero-rate the lifesaving addressing technology, what3words, for its more than 43 million subscribers across the Southern African country.
What3words opened its Johannesburg office in 2017, with a focus on humanitarian, logistics, automobility and travel industries. Co-founded in London in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, it is hailed as the simplest way to talk about location.
After months of successful piloting, Gauteng Emergency Medical Services, Western Cape Emergency Medical Services and Sea Rescue South Africa are among agencies that have adopted the technology.
What3words has been used to locate over 1300 callers since early March.
Sheldrick said What3words had seen significant adoption by emergency services around the world, including South Africa and the United Kingdom.
“In South Africa, vast open landscapes, and informal settlements both suffer from lack of addressing, which makes it hard to find people in trouble,” the co-founder and chief executive officer said.
Dr Shaheem De Vries, Medical Director of Western Cape Emergency Medical Services, welcomed the zero-rating of the what3words site.
He said this would be beneficial to informal settlement residents or those left stranded in remote parts of South Africa, where the anxiety and uncertainty that could accompany a call to the emergency services might prove unbearable.
“A consistent issue we noticed during piloting, was that some communities were reluctant to access the what3words site because of concerns over the cost of data,” De Vries said.
Jorge Mendes, Vodacom Consumer Business Unit Chief Officer, said such services played a vital role in society.
“Through the use of innovative and life-saving technology, we can assist the most vulnerable citizens in their greatest times of need,” Mendes said.
– CAJ News