Vodacom zero-rates What3words for emergencies - TechCentral

Vodacom zero-rates What3words for emergencies

Vodacom South Africa has zero-rated access to What3words, the technology service that’s mapped the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares — with each location given three unique dictionary words — in an effort to make it easier for people to get access to emergency services.

Jorge Mendes, chief officer of the consumer business unit at Vodacom, said the decision to zero-rate access to What3words for all of the operator’s customers in South Africa will allow them to pinpoint their location and share it with emergency services, even if they don’t have data, airtime or an address — for example, if they’re in an informal settlement or out hiking in the wilderness.

The service has been added to Vodacom’s zero-rated ConnectU website under the safety and security section, Mendes said.

What3words country manager Lindsey Duff explained that the company has built a global address system, which, when paired with GPS-enabled smartphones, allows anyone to share their precise location. Alternatively, emergency services can SMS a link to the person needing assistance, which, when clicked, will share their What3words location.

In recent months, several rescues have been made across informal settlements in South Africa using What3words, Duff said.

“A big challenge was that people couldn’t find their What3words address because they didn’t have data. So many times emergency services have come tantalisingly close to getting a location (where someone needed help) but couldn’t. We asked Vodacom to zero-rate the technology so any one of their 43 million subscribers can access the technology even if they don’t have data.”

Mendes said Vodacom plans to introduce the service to other markets in Africa in which it operates but didn’t provide a time frame for this.  — © 2020 NewsCentral Media

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