Vodacom has become the first telco globally to zero-rate the lifesaving addressing technology, what3words, for its more than 43 million subscribers across South Africa.[Tweet “@Vodacom has become the first telco globally to zero-rate the lifesaving addressing technology, @what3words, for its more than 43 million subscribers across #SouthAfrica.”]
The UN estimates that 75% of countries in the world have a poorly maintained addressing system – or none at all. This is an issue that South Africa knows well, with large parts of the country still lacking spatial planning. This might be an inconvenience when you are expecting a delivery, but it is a far graver issue for locals living in rural areas or informal settlements when it comes to emergencies.
Without an address – or in the event of calling from an unaddressed area – explaining to emergency services where to find you can be extremely difficult. Callers are often only able to provide vague descriptions or references to landmarks, which means emergency services waste critical time and resources trying to locate the person in need of help.
Now, after months of successful piloting, the likes of Gauteng Emergency Medical Services, Western Cape Emergency Medical Services and even Sea Rescue South Africa are using the technology. The what3words has been used to locate over 1300 callers since early March this year.
The what3words technology, available as an app or online map, has divided the world into a grid of 3m squares, giving each square a unique combination of three words: a what3words address. ///finishes.aura.moves, for example, will take you to the front door of the what3words office in Johannesburg.
In an emergency, a what3words address can be given to the call handler to identify precisely where help is needed. The free what3words app works offline, but when a caller does not have the app, emergency services text a link to the what3words emergency “find me” website which tells them the what3words address for the location. The caller then simply must read the three words on the screen of their smartphone or data-enabled phone.
To make the service more accessible, Vodacom has now zero-rated the what3words emergency “find me” website which means that South Africans can access the website for free with no concerns over data costs or data running out.