Q&A: The Future of Digital Humanitarian Response
Hall 4 - Auditorium 5
Thursday 28 February 11:15-12:15
How is what3words different from other location services?
We’ve taken the world, divided into a grid of 3m x 3m squares, and given each one a unique three-word address. For example, the front door to our London office can be found at ///filled.count.soap. Unlike GPS coordinates, which are long, complex and difficult to remember, three-word addresses are human-friendly and designed for voice input.
How can better location data improve humanitarian responses, especially in rural areas?
During a humanitarian crisis, communicating an accurate location is critical to a fast and effective response. This can be difficult where there is no standard street addressing, in rural areas where addresses often cover very large areas or in places where they simply don’t exist.
From locating disaster spots and finding out where help is needed, to setting up supply chains that provide ongoing relief and medical supplies, better location data can make the delivery of goods, services and essential humanitarian aid more efficient.
How can these services change the lives of residents living in these areas?
Our system is being used by our humanitarian partners to make a positive impact on communities affected by natural disasters, war and poverty around the globe.
Volunteers in the Rhino Camp, a Ugandan refugee camp home to over 100,000 people, have been finding and giving inhabitants their three-word addresses so they can tell health workers exactly where to find them. Other partners include the Philippines Red Cross, which uses what3words to locate people during typhoons, and the UN, which uses three-word addresses to quickly tag photos during natural disasters.
What kind of partnerships or business models make these kinds of services possible?
What3words is free for individuals to use, available as an app for iOS and Android or on a web browser. While we charge businesses for access to the API or SDK, charities and non-profits only pay a nominal fee or use our technology for free.
Why is addressing the digital divide so important at this particular moment?
Internet and smartphone penetration is increasing, but there’s still a lot to do and that starts with tech that tackles the digital divide head-on.
What3words is still useful to communities that have no access to data or smartphones. Everywhere now has a way to communicate an address, so the 4 billion people that lack a reliable way to address their homes (according to the UN), can now get better access to basic amenities, education, financial and health services.