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Business Beat: Physical addresses, e-Commerce and the paradox of majuu'

by September 12, 2016 General

Most official documents from developed countries ask for a physical address, which is often confusing unless you have lived there. A physical address refers to where you can be found, either the workplace or at home – not the post office box.

It often refers to an office or house number, and the street or avenue where a house or office is located. An example could be 1108 Fairmont Avenue, 40706. The first number is the house or office block, and the last is the postal code. Other countries like the UK have a more complex address system.

The postal code is one classification that has been underutilised here. Can we have a population and its characteristics like education, income and crime levels broken down to postal code level?

We need to know the most affluent postal code, the most peaceful, the oldest and even the happiest. Such data would be an asset to marketers, political strategists and security analysts.

The Nairobi County government is giving buildings numbers, which is the basis of physical addresses. In many estates, houses have numbers, only that they may not be in any searchable database. Giving offices and houses numbers or better physical addresses can save customers a lot of time. Imagine locating offices next to a tree that has been cut down.

Direct rescuers

Logistics firms are the most affected by lack of physical addresses when delivering parcels. There is no doubt a well-coordinated physical address system has many advantages, especially in cases of emergencies. If you are calling for an ambulance or there is a fire, how do you direct rescuers?

The physical addresses being introduced in Kenya perplex me. Why now? Why more than 100 years after the founding of Nairobi? Why should we take that long to introduce a very simple, yet powerful idea?

Former presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki lived abroad for years and I am sure they had physical addresses. Why didn’t they introduce this system locally back in their time?

Why are we so obsessed with the big ideas and not the small ones that really matter? Why haven’t we adopted the physical address system from the US, yet we have adopted their political system? Also, why do we import Japanese cars and not their courtesy?

This selective importation of ideas starts early in our lives. Back in high school, we had exercise books where we wrote down the lyrics of popular Western songs, but we did not have any notebooks for great ideas in science, technology or engineering. Teachers, is this still common – or do students just download lyrics to their phones?

Our selective importation of ideas is a threat to economic progress. Economic powerhouses, such as Singapore and South Korea transformed themselves by carefully adopting Western ideas that focused on maximising returns for their citizens in the shortest time possible.

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