I received an e-mail the other day from one of the millions of “unaddressed” people of the world, living where there are no street names or building numbers. He lives in Ghana, and does have a postal code, a code which resolves to a GPS location so that Ghana Post can deliver to him. But that’s his problem – it’s only used currently by Ghana Post. He would like to order from companies outside Ghana, but they all require a street address and none will accept the Ghana GPS code, nor a latitude/longitude. What to do? I wish I’d had a short-term solution for him.
There are around 30 global code systems that are eager to fill the unaddressed gap, and a further 20 or so which work at a national level. No organisation would be keen on implementing all 50 systems in their online retail portals – in fact, few organisations seem keen to implement any at all, despite companies such as What3Words throwing ridiculous amounts of money around to try to be the default choice for adoption. Adoption by a one organisation wouldn’t be sufficient – the whole chain, including all delivery companies, would need to adopt the same code system too. Would Ghana Post be willing to deliver mail using another company’s code system?
Regardless, some of these code systems have been around for a number of years, and their adoption rates, despite their best efforts, remains low. There are good reasons for this. Postal address systems are very varied, both within and between countries, but most consist of similar sets of information and all, to a greater or lesser extent, can be interpreted by using something we all have with us at all times – our brains. What3Words likes to market itself as new and edgy, a start-up; but it was founded in 2013 – almost middle aged, in my book. They’re haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate. In the good old days, questions would be asked about a company that wasn’t even close to even covering its costs after 8 years. But it appears that investors will continue to throw their money into this pit despite increasing rates of negative publicity about its many flaws. What3Words, in their overweening conceit, simply will not accept that their system is anything other than perfect, despite obvious proof otherwise. This will be to their cost – there’s only so much their marketing can do to hide the facts. At what point should it become clear that What3Words and other, similar, systems are not what people are looking for? The amount What3Words spends on marketing and legal procedures each year could provide a lot of Ghanaians with the infrastructure required to give them the addresses they sorely need. I know where I would prefer to see this money spent.