In developing countries, it is implicit in many emerging nations not always existing: The address.
One of my biggest challenges in Ghana has always been the non-existence of an address system and maps. In the first few years this lead to a few very confusing conversations with taxi drivers or potential visitors. In the end I always had to pick them up in a dead end road somewhere because they got lost.
Thinking about a reliable mail system where letters and other deliveries actually arrive seems a very unlikely prospect at this point.
Currently, official road names and street sign exist in the cities and albeit not every “road” looks like one but it does help with navigation at to a point. Unfortunately, these official road names are nearly exclusively used by Google Maps while GPS systems and other map services haven’t picked it up yet.
Most Ghanaians continue to use the -trial and error method where an attempt to try and describe as accurately as possible where your home, meeting location or your office is. An example I often use was when I opened a bank account, my address was registered as: Behind St. Peters School, take the 4th road to your left where the big signboard is, then it’s at the end of the road opposite the big green house. Needless to say even at this early stage I seen a need for mapping.
Over and above this, a missing address system has had a couple of major disadvantages for individuals, families and companies. Deliveries and visitors struggle to reach you, an address for official permits, financial transactions or contracts is missing, access to police, fire service and other institutions is limited.
Since October 2017 there is finally a solution: the availability of the digital address. From my perspective the conventional street names and signboards could have been completely skipped (especially considering the costs) and Ghana could have moved straight to digital address only. The Ghana Post established App uses Google Maps data and makes it possible to create and send directions, mark public buildings to use as landmark.
There are numerous advantages: Emergency services such as Police or Fire Service have a better chance of locating within an effective timeframe, formalization of business, opening bank accounts or creating addresses in very remote areas can be achieved.
The Ivory Coast also uses a digital address system, called what3words. This worldwide system codes geographical coordinates in three words. A little bit less clumsy than the Ghanaian word-number combination but also a little bit peculiar.
Whoever wants to come and visit me at my office is welcome to do so at WS-393-4700 or timekeeper.checkpoints.snared