A brilliantly simple global positioning system The UN estimates that 4 billion people in the world lack a reliable way to address their homes. This means they are denied access to basic social and civic services and struggle to open bank accounts, cannot register births or get access to on-grid electricity or water. Ultimately resulting in billions of people unable to engage in online global trade. On an even more fundamental level, people unaddressed might not be found by paramedics in case of urgent illness, nor by fire fighters in case of a burning home. A dangerous situation for more than half the world’s population. At best, poor addressing is expensive and frustrating. At worst, it hampers growth and development, restricts social mobility and affects lives in a big way. What3Words solves this problem by dividing the world into 57 trillion 3x3m squares and assigning three words to each of these squares. Wherever someone is in the world, she can use the app to identify her location by getting the three specific words attributed to that exact square. For example, the Eiffel Tower in Paris is located at “prices.slippery.traps”, the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is at “luring.ignoring.wipes”, while the doubtful honor of “Credit.card.declined” belongs to a 9 square on the banks of the Big Trout Lake in Ontario, Canada. This information can then be shared with anyone else who has the app and will be able to find her location within that exact 9 m<sup>2 </sup>square: Paramedics looking for a patient, mountaineers looking for an avalanche victim, or the postman delivering your mail. What3Words was designed elegantly and simple, using systematic design thinking and a human-centric focus, to specify locations more precisely than street addresses by using easy-to-remember words instead of hard-to-memorize GPS numbering systems. So far, What3words is the official addressing standard of Mongolia, Djibouti, Tonga, Saint Martin, and Côte d’Ivoire, with many more – including developed countries – likely to follow. Having a home address will help reach targets for the UN SDG’s by 2030. Currently, there are more than one billion informal settlement and slum dwellers worldwide, and this is expected to increase by 300% over the next 30 years. Projects like What3Words show how a simple address can ensure that basic services can be delivered to those in need, supporting sustainable improvements to lives all around the world. The practical impact of What3Words is very clear: Providing addresses to homes, buildings, emergency sites, remote locations, etc. around the world facilitates mail delivery, census taking, emergency response, and more; the applications are wide-ranging and so is the endless range of cultural contexts. The app was designed to use digital technology as a means to increase connectivity within our physical world. And on an individual human level, What3Words provides a greater sense of identity and security to people who have not been “dignified” with the luxury of having an address before, by putting more power into their hands. On a universal level, What3Words was designed to bring people closer together, by driving a universal, global community. Regardless of an individual’s socio-economic status, race, gender, etc., the platform ensures that they will be recognized, identified, and found.
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