“Behind the petrol station, take the street that leads to where the church once stood. Our house is on the right after the third mango tree. The door is grey….”
Such are the kind of responses you are likely to get when looking for direction to a place.
It is not just common in Rwanda, but also in many African countries where functional and accurate addressing systems are in very limited supply.
Addressya, which is on android, is a new web-based solution that seeks to help address that challenge.
It is a mobile application that any individual can use to register a complete, precise, easy-to-use address, and be able to share with family and friends.
People are able to do that with full access to their personal data. This means that no one can get access to your personal address without your permission.
“It means if I meet you on the street and I give you my address, you will not be able to see anything until I say so in the app. I can take it away whenever I like,” explains Karoline Beronius, one of the brains behind the system.
Beronius has previously worked with an organisation that developed e-health solutions in Rwanda, Uganda and Afghanistan, but during their work they faced a few challenges: they found it hard to immunise a child and follow up on them.
“This was because we didn’t have an address, and I couldn’t let go because I believed that an address is something that every person should have, to easily access any kind of services,” she notes.
Addresses are a fundamental infrastructure and a civil right, she says, highlighting that without addresses individuals cannot fully exercise this right, get access to banking and insurance services, or even direct emergency services how to reach them.
Beronius saw a need to respond to that challenge, but also an opportunity that would be monetised in the long run, when they integrate with e-commerce platforms.
The innovators plan to launch another feature to the Android platform later, in June, that will enable several businesses, including those in logistics and distribution, to manage addresses.
Today, when a business like Jumia Food wants to deliver to your house, there are high chances that they will call you as they won’t be able to accurately locate your place.
With the rise of online businesses, most of which rely on precise locations to deliver products, platforms like Addressya will arguably be a big deal as they will enable electronic commerce businesses to serve new markets.
While many may think that the platform is similar to Google Maps, there is a little difference.
The platform is built on Google Maps but it combines traditional addressing, landmarks and crossroads to produce precise locations.
But Beronius conceded that Addressya is a complement to the currently in-use Google Maps, despite the latter not being more accurate.
The success of such a platform, on the other hand, will depend on awareness as most people are currently not conversant with using modern addressing systems.
It will also depend on how fast people adopt the use of smartphones.