Image: supplied.
Image: supplied.

Revolutionary technology to drive e-commerce in SA

By Karishma Dipa Time of article published Nov 22, 2020

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Since the dawn of democracy, South Africa has been divided into nine provinces which collectively span the southern tip of the African continent.

These regions all differ in population size, some have access to the ocean while others are abundant in wildlife and natural resources.

But the rise of the digital age, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, has now seen the rainbow nation being cut up into 3m x 3m squares.

This evolution is the brainchild of courier company Dawn Wing together with What3Words, a London based firm which develops a global standard for communicating location.

The purpose of this, according to Hilton Eachus, the chief customer officer at DPD Laser which trade as Dawn Wing, is to aid the country in its growing ecommerce capabilities.

“Our volumes have exploded over lockdown, so it has never been more important to be precise and punctual, ensuring great service to the rapidly growing e-commerce market.”

He also labelled this revolutionary technology which is already in use in 71 countries around the globe and is available in 44 languages, as a “a game changer for South Africans who want their precious parcels delivered”.

“Since the e-commerce explosion, courier companies have hardly been able to keep up.”

He explained that while there are many opportunities for courier drivers during this surge in the e-commerce sector, the country’s geographical layout is a challenge for them to navigate.

He also believes that this technology will give South Africans from all walks of life access to the e-commerce platform.

“With courier deliveries booming due to the rise in e-commerce, few customers are aware of the obstacles and complexities that face drivers in seeking to deliver a parcel on time, and to the exact location.

“The legacy of apartheid spatial planning has meant that many South Africans still fail to own a clear or adequate address, which is unacceptable, unnecessary, and causes frustration for both the recipient and the courier company, while potentially placing drivers at risk.”

Now, in a bid to grow the highly profitable industry, Dawn Wing together with What3Words are implementing a unique three=word address, to every single 3m x 3m square of the country as well as the rest of the planet to enable courier drivers to easily find and share any exact location.

“This makes it possible for anyone, anywhere to describe their precise address using just three words and discover them in four available South African languages: Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and English,” Eachus said.

“For example, instead of saying, ‘I’m in Mabopane, near the church and opposite the field’ callers can now say ‘I am at archives kickers slides’ and be located accurately.”

Image supplied.

Eachus said this concept has already received rave reviews from individuals and companies across the country

‘It has hooked locals who use what3words to help people find their homes and businesses more easily – displaying their three-word address on their websites, business cards and entrances, or simply giving, or asking for the three words in advance, providing a precise destination or meeting location.”

“Apps, websites and devices accept and display what3words addresses, from e-commerce websites to navigation apps and car navigation systems.”

Eachus believes that this initiative has been successful because of its precision and reliability which benefits the driver as well as those who are collecting parcels.

“In a highly competitive and demanding marketplace, the use of intelligence and accountability are a vital partnership.

"With this technology, it means we can pinpoint the recipient to within three metres and ensure accuracy, reduced delivery time, but also supports more accountability from the driver.

“If the driver can’t deliver the parcel it will not be because he cannot find the recipient, it can only be another difficulty, like a diversion or traffic, for example."

These sentiments were shared by Dawn Wing driver Nasser Abrahams, who explained that this revolutionary delivery concept has made his job much safer and easier.

“Sometimes it can be complex to track down the exact location, so this grid system approach makes it incredibly accurate,” he said.

“As drivers, we can't afford the time to go to the wrong address and are understandably nervous to find ourselves in a dangerous place.”

Image supplied.

Meanwhile, Eachus said that the 3m x 3m technology has also aided emergency services in South Africa with Vodacom even recently zero-rating the what3words find me page so that no data is used to contact emergency services

“Up until recently, thousands of people struggle to tell emergency services exactly where they are and how to find them.

“In areas without addresses, callers are often only able to provide vague descriptions or references to landmarks, which means emergency services spend vital minutes, and often hours, searching for those in need of urgent help.”

Chris Sheldrick, the co-founder and CEO of what3words is proud of this concept and for its contribution in growing the South African ecommerce sector and keeping drivers and emergency workers safer.

It is exciting to see what3words helping to change the lives of South Africans every day - whether that is providing them with a way to give their location in an emergency, or with Dawn Wing, being able to ensure their delivery can be made to exactly where they need it.”

The Saturday Star

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