Addressing the World with Three-word Phrases

Screenshot 2017-10-17 21.58.27

Sustainability Problem: Mobility, Public Administration and Service

An estimated 4 billion people, close to 75% of the earth’s population, have no address for mailing purposes, making it difficult to open a bank account, get a delivery, or be reached in an emergency. In addition, global addressing in different languages can be inconsistent and ambiguous, which often leads to errors. While GPS coordinates are more accurate, they are also too complicated and cumbersome.

Sustainable Technology: what3words assigns every 10-square-foot block of space in the world a new name

what3words is a simple way to talk about location. The idea is that a series of words is easier to remember than street addresses and the strings of number that make up GPS coordinates.

  • It divides the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigns each one a unique 3 word address. It means anyone can accurately find any location and share it more quickly, easily and with less ambiguity than any other system. For example, the White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, becomes sulk.held.raves. The service can be used via the free mobile app or online map.
  • Mongolia is changing all its addresses to three-word phrases instead of house numbers and street names. The country is switching to the What3Words system because there are too few named streets and it’s sparsely populated.
  • NGOs including the United Nations have used the app for disaster recovery.
  • Pollinate Energy, an Indian solar lighting company, has used the service to delivery solar lights to people in remote areas who don’t have street addresses.

Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology

  • Government postal agency
  • Emergency service organizations
  • General businesses
  • Individuals

First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology

  • Building on the success story of Mongolia, offer the technology to developing countries with incipient address systems.
  • Encourage adoption of the free mobile Apps to individuals by social media campaigns to make it the standard for social mapping.
  • Continue to expand its functions in serving populations without formal address/settlements by partnerships with more NGOs.


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