Finding a spot on the net is a real obstacle course. Despite the mapping tools, addressing in general and postal addressing in particular is a real headache in Senegal. To end this problem, a startup decided to bring its knowledge and tools to improve this area, especially in the era of digitization and the rise of E-commerce.
Meet me is an application whose ambition is to popularize the use of postal addressing among citizens and companies. Hyacinthe Sambou, Head of Development at Findme, responded to questions from Socialnetlink
You are responsible for the development of Findme, a postal mailing application. How did this project start?
Thank you for this platform you offer our platform. To answer your question, FindMe was born from the idea of three young Africans who, given our continent’s difficulties in finding a precise address, decided to create a solution that would adapt to our populations. From the idea, we quickly moved on to creating an app and trying out this solution, first in Senegal. The entry into this country was facilitated by our partner La Poste SN because the General Manager, in his desire to modernize postal services, decided to co-create solutions in partnership with start-ups and we were chosen for postal addressing. This partnership allows us to jointly solve a problem that is deeply rooted at La Poste, namely the lack of an address for its customers.
Has the Government of Senegal in collaboration with the Ministry of Territorial Communities and Regional Planning already implemented its digital addressing project? Don’t you think you’re in a re-creation of the wheel?
We are not recreating the wheel, we are complementing the existing one and helping the population to use the addresses created by the State as the only address repository. It is important to better understand the role of the different parties so that you can better understand our positioning. The Ministry of Territorial Communities, Development and Regional Planning (MCTDAT) has its role to define an addressing policy and are the only decision makers on such a project.
We are also pleased that the State, through the Ministry, has managed to start the implementation of a project of this type, which is even part of a global strategy, materialized by the Senegal Digital Plan 2025. Action 528 of this Updated Plan provides, in truth, “the establishment of a national addressing plan”, project with a budget of 15 billion our francs and whose deadline is scheduled for 2025. The Findme solution, co-built with La Poste SN, was created with the aim of popularizing the use of postal addressing among citizens and companies.
We do not create addresses to replace the State, we only aggregate the constitutive elements of an address (Order Number / Street Name / Postal Code and City), provided by the State and at our disposal, to allow any citizen to manage their address.
This idea is based on the fact that States, in their desire to develop an addressing system, did not sufficiently place the citizen or companies at the center of the project; associating them and encouraging them to use this address as a single point of reference.
In the first hours of designing our product, we met most of the members responsible for the national addressing project at the Ministry. They appreciated our project and discussions are ongoing to integrate the Findme & La Poste SN solution into the implementation of a national addressing plan.
Findme & La Poste SN have the advantage of having a solution that works, that has been tested and that is acclaimed by the people of Senegal.
As this solution exists, we can only complement the action of those government authorities whose vocation is not necessarily to design this type of solution. Consequently, we subscribe above all to a partnership logic, knowing that we will be able to mobilize more quickly than at present, according to the authorities and that this mobilization is accompanied by massive recruitment. (We could recruit more than 1000 young people to implement this plan). This will have the merit of allowing the State to achieve this ambitious goal of providing every Senegalese citizen with an address by 2025!
Is the app working linked to Google Maps tools where you developed your own mapping tools?
We work in collaboration with Google Maps to use their maps accurately. The idea was to work with a system that already exists and that people know how to use. We are in an open source logic to allow as many people as possible to follow us, instead of locking us in a system in which we would have to deploy resources to make it known or popularize it.
How is the data you collect from Senegalese managed?
We work, like most companies in our industry, with platforms recognized worldwide for their high level of security. As this data is sensitive, the risk of losing it would be too high not to take this aspect into account. In this context, since the beginning of the design of our platform, we have complied with the requirements of the rules “GDPR” (The General Data Protection Regulation).
Our app complies with the high level of European and French requirements, in particular with regard to the protection of personal data.
We also know that the State is very careful with everything that is data collection, we also welcome the work of the CDP with whom we are currently in contact to be in compliance. I take this opportunity to specify that our data policy complies with the data policy of La Poste Senegal which, to remind you, is a branch of the State of Senegal responsible for the postal activities of the country. Finally, we follow the evolution of state bodies such as the SENUM with your DataCenter project. We could collaborate to the extent that both parties ensure the security of our users’ data. This aspect is very important to us.
What do you think it takes for Senegalese or even Africans to have more geolocation culture in this e-commerce era?
We are in a period where change will be inevitable. Some understand, some don’t. This comes with its share of advantages and, unfortunately, disadvantages in some cases, but you will have to adapt. When we see everything that is happening with e-commerce; sites like Jumia need to know where their customers live, the same in the transport sector where platforms like Heetch, Yango…do an exceptional job. Our fellow citizens will have no choice but to appropriate this culture for their own benefit. We are the protagonists of this change, so we have a decisive role to play in raising awareness and informing our populations. We are part of this approach with our sales teams that roam the districts of Dakar and take the time to present the benefits of our solution.