What3Words: All You Should Know About NIPOST’s New Address System

Nigeria’s postal service, NIPOST, recently adopted the what3words global addressing system, making it the seventh country in the world and the third in Africa to adopt the mail delivery system.

Nigeria has a poor mail problem that creates serious issues and it’s hoped that a high-tech address system can deliver a fix. Though a postcode system does exist, only 5% of mail gets properly addressed with the postcode, hampering the efforts of NIPOST to improve its quality of service.

Nigeria’s poor addressing system means that only 20% of Nigeria’s over 180 million population receive mail at home. 79% of homes and businesses cannot receive deliveries to the door, and the remaining 1% receive their mail using one of the 478,000 P.O. boxes throughout the country.

In the bid to improve this situation, NIPOST has set for itself the ambitious target of increasing home delivery to 70% within the next 2 years and 90% by 2020 through the ‘Mail for Every House Initiative’ (MEHI) and has adopted what3words to help it achieve these goals.

The what3words technology uses an algorithm to carve up the world into 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares, each with a unique 3-word address. It means that every home and business in Nigeria has a simple and accurate address that is easy to remember and to use. For instance: “bracelets.hesitations.mutes” refers to the exact 3m x 3m square at the entrance to the main post office in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

The whats3words technology was actually developed by founders Chris Sheldrick, Jack Waley-Cohen, Mohan Ganesalingam, and Michael Dent in 2013 after Sheldrick found it difficult to get equipment and bands to event locations on time due to inadequate addressing while working as a concert organizer. The founders incorporated their company on March 5, 2013, and filed a patent for the core technology filed on April 19, 2013.

Getting lost can take out the enjoyment and the efficiency of quite a number of things and what3word promised a way to explore the world without getting lost. Users of the technology stretch across the automobile industry (Mercedes Benz), Aid and Humanitarian (Red Cross), delivery and logistics. The advantages of what3words which are most touted include; memorability, error-detection, unambiguous nature of words which makes it suitable for every day, non-technical use and voice input.

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The innovative global addressing system is more accurate than traditional street addresses, simpler than landmark-based directions, easier to remember and communicate than GPS coordinates. The system has built-in error detection and is available through a free mobile app and API integration. The system even works offline, without a data connection.

What3words co-founder Chris Sheldrick with Barrister Bisi Adegbuyi, Nigeria’s Postmaster General

Nigeria’s Postmaster General, Bisi Adegbuyi said NIPOST was pleased to collaborate with what3words to adopt an addressing solution with the huge potential to unlock opportunities.

“Better addressing is a key to NIPOST’s agenda, which aims to transform, innovate, and deliver more services to more people all over the country,” he said.

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Available in 14 languages, with much more currently in development, what3words is used in over 170 countries by governments, postal services, logistics companies, emergency services, NGOs, as well as individuals. The system is already being used for mail deliveries in Mongolia, Sint Maarten, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Tonga and Solomon Islands.

What3words hopes to make money through the use of its service, with big customers paying for access to its application programming interface. And its business hinges on adoption in developing markets, where postal service is poor.

Young people make up 62% of Nigeria’s population, and this is reflected in the significant increase in cross-border e-commerce in the country; 53,612 parcels and packets were handled in 2016 (approx. 200 per day) which is up 70% since 2014. The e-commerce market is currently worth $12 billion, but there is still huge potential for growth. With improvements to infrastructure, innovation around payment systems and a reliable addressing system, Nigerian e-commerce could be set to take off on an incredible scale.

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As captured in the words of Chris Sheldrick, the CEO and Co-founder of what3words, Nigeria is a very exciting country to be working with.

“Postal services have a critical role in building a strong economy and NIPOST are firmly focused on the future, and are taking steps to modernise and grow their capacity and range of services,” remarked Chris.


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