Thursday, June 13, 2024

Embracing digital addressing system


Ethiopia, unfortunately, has not reaped the full benefits of the digital economy due to its delayed adoption of a comprehensive digital address system. The absence of a reliable location-based service provider in the country has posed challenges and hindered economic activity.

To address this issue, the Ethiopian Space Science and Geospatial Institute (SSGI) has introduced the Ethiopian Digital Addressing System (EDAS). This system aims to provide a solution by assigning unique digital addresses to buildings, streets, and neighborhoods (blocks) while offering navigation services.

Agmasie Gebeyehu, the project manager of Digital Address, shed light on the significance, implementation, and challenges of the system in an interview with Capital. The implementation of the Digital Addressing System (DAS) holds great importance as it promises to unlock new opportunities and streamline various sectors of the economy.

By embracing a comprehensive digital addressing system, Ethiopia aims to overcome the obstacles it has faced in leveraging the digital economy fully. The EDAS has the potential to enhance economic activity by enabling accurate location-based services, facilitating efficient logistics, improving emergency response systems, and promoting digital commerce.

However, the implementation of such a system is not without its challenges. Agmasie Gebeyehu discussed the hurdles that need to be overcome, including infrastructure development, data collection, awareness campaigns, and stakeholder engagement. Addressing these challenges will be crucial to realizing the full potential of the Ethiopian Digital Addressing System.

Overall, the introduction of the Ethiopian Digital Addressing System marks a significant step towards harnessing the power of the digital economy in Ethiopia. By embracing this system, the country can unlock new avenues for economic growth, improve services, and create a more connected and efficient digital ecosystem.

Capital: Could you please explain what a digital address system entails?

Agmasie Gebeyehu: A digital address system is a method of assigning unique digital addresses to physical structures such as buildings, roads, and other infrastructures. These addresses are closely linked to digital maps and GPS data, ensuring convenient usability for users.

The primary purpose of the system is to enable efficient location identification, direction finding, and distance calculations from a specific reference point. It empowers users to access maps, search for specific locations, discover nearby services, receive route suggestions, and utilize navigation services.

Capital: What was the driving force behind the development of a digital address system? Can you share insights from other countries’ experiences?

Agmasie: The motivation to establish a digital address system stems from several factors. Firstly, the rapid urbanization and concentrated population in certain areas of the city necessitate an efficient system to manage addresses. Additionally, as the digital economy continues to thrive, online platforms have become the primary means of conducting business transactions globally. Such platforms heavily rely on a robust address system. Hence, the implementation of a digital address system becomes crucial to attract foreign investments into the country.

In the process of building this system, we initially assessed the country’s population distribution and the existing urbanization scenario. This helped us understand the specific requirements and challenges we needed to address. Secondly, we closely observed the emerging trends in technology that would shape the next generation. Lastly, we studied the experiences of other countries that have successfully implemented similar systems. By considering these three aspects, we developed a standardized approach for the digital address system and launched it.

By leveraging insights from other countries and tailoring the system to Ethiopia’s unique context, we aim to ensure its effectiveness and maximize its benefits for our country. The experiences of other nations have provided valuable lessons and best practices that we have incorporated into our own strategy.

Capital: How has Ethiopia’s delay in implementing a digital address system affected the digital economy?

Agmasie: The absence of a digital address system in Ethiopia has had significant economic repercussions. Firstly, the country has incurred substantial revenue losses by not embracing this system in a timely manner. Without a comprehensive geospatial information system (GIS), institutions that rely on location-based services have been compelled to purchase them from external sources using foreign currency. This has resulted in a drain of valuable foreign exchange.

Secondly, the absence of a reliable address system has deterred potential investments in the country. Investors in various sectors, particularly those dependent on accurate location data, have faced obstacles and uncertainties due to the lack of an established address system. Consequently, Ethiopia has missed out on potential investments and the economic benefits they bring.

In summary, the delay in implementing a digital address system has not only resulted in revenue losses and foreign currency outflows but has also hindered investment opportunities in crucial sectors. Establishing a reliable address system would not only mitigate these challenges but also stimulate economic growth and attract both domestic and foreign investments.

Capital: What are the available options for utilizing the digital address system?

Agmasie: The implementation of the digital address system takes into account the diverse communities living in the country. It offers both digital and physical addressing solutions.

In the digital addressing aspect, every house, road, and infrastructure will be accurately positioned on a digital map. Each location will be assigned a unique digital number, providing a specific address for every house. With this 10-digit number, individuals can easily navigate to any destination by entering it into a mobile app or website.

Regarding physical addressing, the system will extend its reach to land-based locations as well. Each house will have a prominently displayed house number on its door, allowing for easy identification. Similarly, streets will be labeled with consistent names and codes, ensuring clarity and simplicity in physical addressing.

By offering both digital and physical addressing options, the system provides flexibility and convenience for users, enabling them to seamlessly navigate both the digital and physical realms with accurate and standardized addresses.

Capital: When was the GIS project initiated and what was the cost involved?

Agmasie: The GIS project was launched in Ethiopia approximately three years ago. During the initial two years, extensive efforts were dedicated to conducting feasibility studies, research surveys, and engaging numerous stakeholders to develop the required standards. The Bishoftu project, specifically, commenced in late 2022.

Originally, there was a plan to complete the project within a timeframe of five months. However, due to the novelty of the initiative in the country and the challenges encountered along the way, the timeline extended to approximately one year.

In terms of funding, the project was a collaborative effort involving various entities. The Ministry of Innovation and Technology, Ministry of Urban and Infrastructure Development, Ethio Telecom, and Ethio Post played significant roles and contributed in different capacities. The digital development and addressing aspects were managed by the Institute, while the financial support for the physical addressing component came from the city administration. The exact expenditure details will be disclosed during the project’s inauguration next month.

Capital: In which cities has the digital address system been implemented? What are the plans for making it accessible in other regional cities of the country?

Agmasie: The digital address system has been successfully implemented in its entirety in Bishoftu. Every house, infrastructure, and natural resource within the city now has its own unique digital address. In Adama, the process of assigning addresses to locations has been completed, and the remaining task of entering them into the system is underway, with completion expected in the coming days.

Furthermore, an agreement has been reached to implement the project in Addis Ababa, the capital city. Efforts are currently underway to make the digital address system accessible in other cities across the country. The aim is to expand the system’s coverage to regional cities, ensuring a comprehensive and standardized addressing system throughout Ethiopia.

Capital: How does this project differ from platforms like Google Maps and other address-pointing systems?

Agmasie: This project stands out as it has been entirely developed within the country, including the data preparation, which sets it apart from other systems. Unlike platforms such as Google Maps, this system provides a fixed address for each individual house. Users can easily access the system by entering their unique ID, which is assigned to distinguish one location from another.

Furthermore, the project addresses a specific need within our community, as there was previously a lack of a dedicated digital address system tailored to our context. This uniqueness and relevance make it a desirable solution, differentiating it from existing platforms like Google Maps that may not have a specifically prepared digital address system for our community.

Capital: What were the major challenges encountered during the implementation of this project? How were these challenges addressed?

Agmasie: The implementation of this project faced several significant challenges. Firstly, obtaining approval from city administrations proved to be a difficult task. However, through persistent efforts by the ministry and the institute, approval was eventually secured from the city of Bischoftu, allowing the initial groundwork to commence.

Secondly, the low level of urbanization in our country posed challenges. Many cities lacked proper planning, resulting in unnamed roads and streets. Additionally, the diverse cultural and linguistic landscape of our society presented a considerable obstacle in developing a standardized system that accommodated these variations. Overcoming this challenge required extensive research and consultation to establish a comprehensive standard that considered the cultural and linguistic diversity.

Technical, financial, and implementation capacity were also notable challenges. The lack of prior experience in developing such a system posed difficulties in terms of technical expertise. Additionally, the financial resources required for the project were substantial. To address these challenges, the team invested in capacity building, leveraging external expertise and collaborating with various stakeholders to ensure the successful development and implementation of the system.

Despite the challenges encountered, the project persevered through strategic planning, collaborative efforts, and a dedicated approach to overcome each obstacle. The lessons learned from these challenges have contributed to the ongoing improvement and refinement of the digital address system.

Capital: What are the future plans for the Digital Address System project?

Agmasie: The Digital Address System project serves as a fundamental infrastructure for various institutions and national systems. Moving forward, our focus is on leveraging this system as a valuable resource for future endeavors. We envision other institutions utilizing and integrating this system into their own services, further enhancing its functionality and implementation.

The goal is to establish a robust ecosystem where the Digital Address System becomes an integral part of various platforms, empowering users with accurate and standardized addressing capabilities. By expanding its reach and encouraging collaboration with other institutions, we aim to maximize the system’s potential and ensure its long-term sustainability.

Furthermore, continuous development and improvements will be pursued to enhance the system’s features, address emerging needs, and align with technological advancements. The project is committed to adapting and evolving to meet the evolving requirements of the digital landscape, ensuring its ongoing relevance and usefulness for the future.

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