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9,000 families in slums of Pune, Kolhapur, Thane and Navi Mumbai get independent digital addresses

Plus Codes use latitude and longitude to produce a short, easy-to-share alpha-numeric digital address that can represent any location on Earth.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | January 6, 2021 8:39:01 pm
As per World Bank data from 2014, 24 per cent families in India live in slums, often in overcrowded homes and cramped living conditions. (Express Photo)

In an unique project, as many as 9,000 families living in slums across Pune, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Kolhapur now have an independent digital address. The address is based on their latitude and longitude, and displayed as numbers and letters.

Pratima Joshi, founder of Pune-based NGO Shelter Associates, told The Indian Express that the NGO has partnered with Google and UNICEF to bring a unique solution — `Plus Codes’. Plus Codes are like street addresses for people or places that don’t have one.

“Having an independent accessible address means so much more than just having a place of living,” said Joshi.

As per World Bank data from 2014, 24 per cent families in India live in slums, often in overcrowded homes and cramped living conditions. They either don’t have an address or have one that does not identify their house or business location accurately.

“For basic facilities and emergency services to reach their doorsteps, a navigable location address is a must in the present digital era, and this is where we decided to partner with other organisations,” Joshi said.

Plus Codes use latitude and longitude to produce a short, easy-to-share alpha-numeric digital address that can represent any location on Earth. Whether one wants to open a bank account, receive confidential letters or simply order food online, all one has to do is enter the unique Plus Code on Google map and get navigated to your doorsteps. Number plates with the Plus Code can be fixed on the doors of individual shanties for ready reference of the unique address. Plus Codes also direct individuals or service providers to other points such as electrical posts, community toilets and manholes.

Shelter Associates, which operates in Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Kolhapur, Sangli, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Panvel, actively works on sanitation and housing for urban slums of Maharashtra, using a strong data-driven approach. With a recent milestone achievement of facilitation of over 21,000 individual household toilets, along with mapping and survey of 2.9 lakh slum households in seven cities of Maharashtra, Joshi said that they had demonstrated how this data could become an effective planning tool to deliver essential services like water, sanitation, and housing.

“Lack of granular data has always hampered governments from reaching out to vulnerable families but through this initiative, the urban local bodies will link this new data to their existing data, through which they can access and update more precisely. We have strategised a preliminary Plus Code project in the slum settlements of Laxmi Nagar (Kothrud) and Vadarwadi (Ghole Road) Pune, which houses over 1,000 inhabitants in each slum. All the slum-dwellers have received an independent identity through this addressing solution for easy accessibility of services such as water, sanitation, healthcare, electricity, opening bank accounts and postal services, further saving time and guiding service providers to reach individual doorsteps,” said Joshi.

The slum communities have been mobilised by community workers through awareness workshops and personal meetings, to help them understand the concept of Plus Codes and use it to their advantage. Large slum maps displaying household and infrastructure plus codes have also been installed in these slums for easy accessibility.

Apart from Pune, the Plus Codes project is presently being actively implemented citywide in Kolhapur and in selected settlements of Thane and Navi Mumbai. Nearly 9,000 families have been given digital addresses so far, said Joshi.

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