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In the not too distant future, when you order something from Amazon or another online retailer, it may be delivered by a drone. So, if you look up one day and see a fleet of drones hovering over your house don’t worry, it may not be DISS at all, but just your latest smart phone.
Except that can’t happen in Botswana because no one knows your address. We are one of the few countries in the world that do not have a national address system. This means that even if your new smart phone, or latest smart trousers, are delivered by S-mail (a derogatory term for the postal services), it still won’t get to you because BotswanaPost doesn’t know your address.
It gets worse. As more and more restaurants offer home delivery, providing the driver with instructions is a nightmare, and the pizza spot has long turned black before it gets to your house.
The lack of a national addressing system affects every aspect of our lives. Not only are we unable to get home delivered parcels and letters -and hot pizza – but if we are sick, the ambulance can’t find us. Nor can the fire service if our home catches fire.
In rural Botswana it is even worse, because there are not even street names. Giving a friend directions to get to your house includes looking for a morula tree on the left, and then the clinic on the right, and continue until you reach the kraal. Try putting those directions into your Garmin or phone GPS programme!
Ever tried to fill in a bank or any other financial document which asks you for proof of physical address? How can you fill in the Know your Customer form if you don’t know your own address, and even if you did know where you stay you can’t prove it!! What is worse, when you are at home at the cattle post you can’t check in on Facebook.
Although we are increasingly living in a digital world, the need to have a physical, rather than virtual, existence will never go away. Ironically, without a physical address we may not be able to gain all the benefits from the digital age.
It is difficult to understand why BotswanaPost – with a history of postal services stretching back to the 19th century – does not initiate a national addressing system. This would not only help us in our everyday lives but would facilitate the introduction of home delivery of letters and parcels, and breathe a new life into the ailing postal service. The drone will know where to drop your parcel, and a whole new home delivery eco-system can develop much needed jobs.
A legitimate home address adds a sense of self awareness, as well as a practical necessity for everyday life.
The development of a national addressing system is not complex in an era where the Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) can pin point a location with accuracy of under a metre. Every 10 years enumerators visit our houses for the national census data. Why can’t the two sets of data be put together to create a national addressing system?
So many benefits can flow from knowing where you live, from having a house number in a street that appears on a map.
It is time Botswana moved out of the 19th century, missed the 20th, and caught up with the rest of the world.
If you are worried that having an address will make it easier for the Police – or those other people whose name we do not say aloud – will know where to find you, don’t worry, they already do!!! And the CCTV cameras are making it even easier to follow you even when you are not at your home as you can’t tell anyone where you live!!!