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Science and Innovations

Navajo Nation Homes Get Addresses From Google Mapping Project

Madeline McGill/Rural Utah Project

Many homes on the Navajo Nation don’t have street addresses, which can cause problems for voter registration and emergency services. That’s starting to change thanks to a first-of-its-kind partnership between the nonprofit Rural Utah Project and Google. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

Google assigns a six digit code to every point on the planet which works just like an address in Google Maps. The Rural Utah Project has so far installed more than 500 signs displaying these “Plus Codes” on homes and businesses on the Navajo Nation.

Drew Cooper, the group’s deputy director, says: "Google, we found out, was doing a large-scale addressing project using these things called Plus Codes in Kolkata, India, and wanted to find a place to maybe try to do it in the United States, and we thought there was no better place to try than in San Juan County."

The codes will allow police and first responders to find houses more quickly, and the Rural Utah Project has used them to register more than 900 voters.

Dalene Redhorse, the group’s field organizer, says "Especially here on the reservation, we have ceremonies and different types of gatherings. A lot of people have posted the Plus Codes as directions to their home and people are finding their way to these places they need to go to."

The Rural Utah Project plans to expand their voter registration effort with Plus Codes into the Arizona side of the Navajo Nation this year.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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