3 words to address electricity pylons in Nigeria with GIS for Africa

GISforAfrica is a network of African GIS (Geographic Information System) users working together for the betterment of the communities they work in. Through their EduCONNECT programme, they teach young people how to use GIS within practical projects.

On a recent project in Oyo State, Nigeria, students aged 10-16 were tasked with finding the locations of 930 electricity pylons and adding them to a map which would be made available to the local electricity board.

what3words & gis for africa

Unfortunately, there is no simple way to communicate location. Street addressing is irregular and incomplete and whilst GPS coordinates are accurate they are prone to error when transcribing and communicating them. Typically when noting down the 18 digits of lat/long onto paper, taking it back to the office and then inputting into a computer, errors creep in.

To solve this the students used what3words.

what3words is an addressing and location reference system based on a global grid of 57 trillion squares of 3mx3m; each square has a unique pre-assigned 3 word address. 3 words are much easier to remember, use and are less prone to error.

what3words & gis for africa

Students downloaded the free what3words app and captured the 3 word address for each electricity pylon. Because the app works offline, students were able to find the 3 word address without the need for a cell phone signal. The 3 word addresses were recorded and later added to a map; the first time such an exercise has been undertaken. Due to the way similar sounding words are distributed very far from each other, even if transcription errors occur the system suggests the best match for the location.

“what3words was chosen as a way of capturing the point data due mainly to its simplicity. There was a secondary benefit too – when recording the 3 word addresses, students were exposed to new words which helped expand their vocabulary.” Olemu Ogheneochuko, Director of GISforAfrica. “what3words is a fantastic way to engage citizens with the GIS work we do and to help people understand their environment”.

GISforAfrica are planning to roll out the use of what3words across other projects.

gis for africa what3words