Local health NGO, Gateway Health Institute, is piloting innovative mapping technology developed by UK-based what3words to improve the delivery of healthcare services in KwaNdengezi, KwaZulu-Natal.

KwaNdengezi is township close to Durban that is home to 54,000 residents. As with other informal settlements, a major issue in KwaNdengezi is the lack of road names and house numbers which make it difficult for emergency healthcare services to find patients in need.

To overcome this issue, Gateway Health Institute’s Founder and Director, Dr Coenie Louw, is leading an initiative to essentially map the entire township using what3words’ global online mapping system.

what3words has developed an algorithm that takes complex GPS coordinates and converts them into unique three word addresses. To assign the addresses, the platform has divided the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigned each one a unique three word address, for example “expanding.latched.remember”, that makes locations easier to communicate and find.

The service can be used via the free iOS or Android mobile app or online map. It can also easily be built into any other app, platform or website. The system is available in 14 languages and is used in 170 countries by NGOs, government services and businesses.

“For those living in informal settlements and rural areas, ‘location’ presents the biggest challenge in providing health services and products. In these areas demand is high but delivery is poor. What3words changes all that by providing every property with a unique address, residents now have a simple and reliable way to identify their homes,” said Dr Louw in an interview with Brands South Africa.

As part of the project, Gateway Health Institute is helping KwaNdengezi residents identify their homes on the what3words satellite map and then print out their three word addresses and attach it to their homes.

The addresses are also registered in a database that Gateway Health Institute can use to identify what medical services are needed where, for example pregnant women requiring antenatal care. In cases of medical emergency, the what3words address can be used to dispatch an ambulance.

“Helping Gateway to overcome one of their most fundamental barriers for delivering these services is something we’re very proud of. Addressing these communities is the first step to improving their economic and social development, and indeed to changing lives,” said CEO and Co-founder of what3words, Chris Sheldrick.

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