When we talk about building smart cities, we often touch on sustainability, hyperconnectivity, and security. Rarely do we discuss addresses. Today, more than half the world’s population lives without a reliable physical address. By 2050, nearly 70% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas.
To ensure cities of the future are as smart as they can be, it’s important we start from the very beginning and address the issue of addresses - or the lack thereof. While 80% of addresses in developing countries are unverified, this issue is not specific to developing countries alone. 20% of addresses in developed nations around the globe are not verified, leading to far-reaching implications.
What is the impact of not having an address?
Addresses are an implicit part of a person’s identity and a powerful socio-economic tool. For a person living with no address, hurdles are aplenty. Acquiring proof of living and land ownership documents, for instance, is a common challenge, as is something as mundane as opening a bank account or receiving a package. It affects their ability to secure a home of their own and even impedes them from reaching out to the authorities for financial or social assistance when needed.
In some countries, having no address strips citizens of their voting rights, preventing them from voting for the political party they believe in. In times of emergencies where it’s a matter of life and death, the absence of an accurate address can cause detrimental delays as help may go off-course.
In today’s digital age, a lack of address can also hinder individuals from fully accessing digital and essential services - something that has proven to be crucial in the age of COVID-19. When the pandemic hit, delivery services became an essential part of everyday living. While we stayed home to adhere to social distancing and lockdown restrictions, delivery services joined the frontlines, bringing essentials and groceries to our doors. Such was not the case for the unaddressed.
Often, those living with no address are excluded from contributing to the economic development of their country. This then creates a domino effect into society - the higher the percentage of unaddressed citizens a nation has, the higher the likelihood of developmental issues occurring.
Famine, poverty, and inequality, for instance, can be traced back to inadequate addressing infrastructure. When it comes to the economic development of a country, businesses are likewise affected by poor addressing.
Unaddressed areas result in a pool of untapped economic potential for companies. For logistics services, inaccurate addresses can result in operational inefficiencies. The end picture results in losses for businesses as they spend substantial time and money on the recovery and re-delivery of products and services.
The digital Bangladesh example
Poor addressing has been an issue those in the mapping industry have been working to eradicate for years. Through technologies such as smart addressing, more citizens in Asia and around the world are given the chance to participate in society and own their identities.
Take Bangladesh, for example. Most of the nation’s population comprises the underprivileged, living in slums or villages surrounding its urban cities - many of whom live without a verified and accurate address.
The “Digital Bangladesh” campaign kicked off in 2008, sending the nation into an ongoing digital transformation journey. Among the many proposed solutions introduced to tackle the limitations of Bangladesh’s existing addressing and mapping approach was smart addressing.
Through an intelligent micro-location platform, the adoption of smart addressing solutions can enable citizens to secure a unique, digital, verified address. The platform morphed real-life worlds – cities and rural areas – into a 3D grid, allowing every nook and cranny to be addressed.
Data tools were also integrated to infuse content and context into smart addresses across the map. Citizens lacking an address could then take ownership of and make these smart addresses their own. This opened doors for many, allowing greater financial inclusion for the country.
Those living with no address are excluded from contributing to the economic development of their country. This then creates a domino effect into society - the higher the percentage of unaddressed citizens a nation has, the higher the likelihood of developmental issues occurring.
- Xander van der Heijden, CEO, UNL.
The benefits of smart addressing do not just end with an influx of financial opportunities. It also allows greater synchronicity, enabling greater access to digital services. For businesses, smart addressing allows logistics services to tap on previously unaddressed areas. This allows even those in remote areas to benefit from reliable postal service and the convenience of eCommerce.
While the growth of last-mile delivery demand is set to surge to 78% by 2030, failed delivery costs are projected to increase to an estimated US$16.58, with an average failure rate of 5%. 60% of costs in last-mile deliveries are due to inefficiencies in the last mile, including factors such as the absence of reliable addressing.
Having accurate and up-to-date data at hand can help businesses plot out precise routes, ultimately minimising inefficiencies. In a pandemic-hit world, it’s no longer enough to rely on a delivery personnel’s familiarity with the areas they service.
Having the right technology will boost delivery efficiency, all while keeping the safety of employees and customers at the forefront. Such technologies also allow for greater innovation, improving on-demand delivery and bringing to life new delivery models.
What has the pandemic taught us?
If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s the importance of having an interconnected and sustainable foundation. Digital transformation has been a common theme amidst the pandemic, and more countries in Asia are taking the necessary steps towards making their cities smarter.
Singapore, for example, is on the road to becoming one of the world’s first smart nations. As we tackle a post-pandemic world where all things digital reign supreme, more countries in Asia are already following suit and beginning to implement smarter technologies.
But to create a city that is truly smart and interconnected, countries in Asia must first address the issue of poor addressing. More governments in Asia and around the globe are quickly coming to the realisation that having a weak addressing infrastructure transcends to the economic and urban development of their nation. This does not only affect the economic growth of a country, but also the standard of living for residents.
On top of this, as the world is being digitised in building blocks, nobody is really focusing on rethinking the fundamentals for these blocks. Addressing is a crucial element to this digitization, and by extension, to the successful adoption of the new wave of innovation.
With 4 billion people still unaddressed globally, a large part of which are in Asia, there is a greater need and urgency for new global infrastructure that unlocks physical locations in a digital way.
As more governments focus their attention on the root of the problem, we’re hoping to see greater smart addressing adoption in the region. Only then can we form a truly inclusive and interconnected society - one that enables greater financial and social inclusion and encourages further equality.
We look forward to more unaddressed citizens claiming addresses, and fully embracing, participating in and thriving in our digital-first societies.
Xander van der Heijden is the CEO of UNL.