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Mail carriers are mapping Brazil's favelas before tech companies can

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Google and Microsoft may be trying hard to produce online maps for Brazil's favelas, but they've already been beaten by an old-fashioned (if very clever) paper solution. A private mail-delivery service operating in the Rocinha favela, Friendly Mailman, has been methodically charting the slum by using handwritten algorithms that detail every street and building. This system is indecipherable if you aren't one of the mail carriers, but it's reportedly very effective -- staff can both deliver packages to unofficial addresses and adapt to the favela's ever-changing landscape. Apparently, the approach is good enough that Google unsuccessfully requested a photo of Friendly Mailman's map. While that refusal isn't good news for internet users wanting to understand the favelas, the analog code is already helping locals send letters, receive online orders and otherwise communicate with the world at large.

[Image credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images]

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