Rwanda is a small, landlocked country with a population density that is among the highest in Africa.  It is one of the world’s poorest countries but much has changed since the 1994 genocide that killed over 800,000 people. The country has made remarkable progress in developing national and local government institutions, maintaining security, promoting reconciliation and strengthening the justice system.

The U.S. government is one of Rwanda’s largest bilateral development partners. USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) Rwanda delivers over $120 million in annual development assistance across 40 projects in the country.

The USAID Rwanda Mission’s programs include the Global Health Initiative, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the President’s Malaria Initiative, Feed the Future, and Global Climate Change.

Christine Kayitesi, a community health worker at her home in Rutsiro, helps her community address gender-based violence. Lauren Welch/USAID Rwanda Family Health Project

Collecting reliable and accurate location information for each project helps the Mission to better monitor results, improve aid effectiveness and coordination as well as enhance transparency and social accountability.

In the past, the norm has been to record GPS coordinates to determine locations within a project. However, while they are accurate they are difficult to use and prone to error when transcribing or communicating them. To solve this the Mission is piloting the use of what3words to more easily identify locations within its projects.

what3words has divided the world into 3m x 3m squares, each with a unique 3 word address. For example digits.questions.line marks the 3m x 3m entrance to USAID Rwanda’s office in Kigali, Rwanda.

Each project manager downloads the what3words app and when at a site they discover the 3 word address of the specific location. This is then recorded in their project spreadsheet and sent to the head office. The app works offline, when there is no data connection and has built-in error detection to make things even simpler.

The USAID Mission in Rwanda is planning to do a lot more with what3words, including setting up a database of all projects with their 3 word address.

This project data alongside a consistent addressing approach provides a platform to improve coordination among various local and international partners working in the economic growth, education, health, and governance sectors.