A simple but smart technology is helping to save lives by making it easy to find people. The company what3words has divided the world into sections of 3m square, and given each a name of three words. Those words, such as filled.count.soap, enable any location to be pinpointed by the emergency services or others, even in areas with no formal addresses.
If callers are struggling to describe their location, the operator can send an SMS to their phone linking to the what3words website, and the caller reads out their three words.
Lyndsey Duff is the South African country manager for what3words.
“My proudest moment came in January when Gauteng Emergency Medical Services successfully deployed what3words’ technology to locate and save a woman who needed emergency assistance,” she says. “She lived in an informal part of Soshanguve, which would normally prove a huge navigation challenge for emergency crews. Paramedics found her in under 30 minutes using her what3words address.” She was rushed to hospital and made a full recovery.
Duff has spent her career promoting the interests of South Africa. She was responsible for inward investment at South Africa’s high commission in London before coming home with what3words.
She had assumed that South Africa was ready to embrace new technology at scale, but found that legacy systems and some reluctance to risk clearing a path for new ideas often impeded progress. She sees that as her challenge to overcome.
“I’m a big believer in applying your talents to help others, and in deploying clever technology to solve big problems with significant impact. Technology has a significant role to play in this country’s development, and I hope my work will contribute to a new wave of inclusive infrastructure that introduces a more level playing field for all South Africans.”