Why it matters: Google has partnered with the Sao Paulo government for the Rotas Rurais project to map out an area of over 60,000 square kilometers, giving addresses to 340,000 residences. By including them in a new database, roughly two million citizens will be given access to medical care, emergency services, government identification, and more.
In 2018, Google introduced the open-source Plus Codes program to give governments and citizens the option to freely create their own addresses regardless of remoteness, political turmoil, or shifting borders. Plus Codes take the coordinates of a location and turns them into a six-digit code, so for example, MXQ4+M5 New York is the address for the Statue of Liberty (check it out in Google Maps yourself). Sao Paulo’s Rotas Rurais project represents the first large scale implementation of Plus Codes.
In the first six-month phase of the project, Google will combine satellite imagery from Google Earth and further location data from Google Maps to map out all the dirt roads, houses, and farms in the designated region. They’ll then generate Plus Codes for all the residences, compile them into a database and integrate it into government services. The Plus Codes will act as official addresses and in later phases, will be given to state agencies and the private sector.
"The project will help the entire ecosystem in the countryside, but will also soon be applied in rural areas," Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria says. "We are investing heavily in technological innovation in agribusiness with the goal of providing producers in the state with the latest technology in the world, and, fortunately, we are succeeding."
The Brazilian government will be able to officially recognize people by their new addresses and create identification that lets citizens vote, open bank accounts, register for certain jobs, and access essential medical care. Addresses also mean emergency services can respond more effectively, parcels can be delivered, and infrastructure can be built. While it will undoubtedly take years for these things to develop, addresses are the essential first step.