Enterprise asset management (EAM) systems, including metering and billing solutions, help utilities to run more efficiently and, thereby, support utility and infrastructure provision, says information technology services multinational Wipro Africa business development head Marleze van Loggerenberg.
There is a strong push from African governments to uplift their countries using innovative solutions for utility and infrastructure provision, which may well result in their leapfrogging to sustainable energy solutions quicker than the rest of the world, she says.
“Despite the need to meet high demand for electricity, water and sanitation, inefficient utility service delivery continues. Current systems in place in many African regions are outdated and fragmented, with many of them still operating manually.”
Further, electricity and water supply is often intermittent and not properly monitored, while complexities, such as disparate systems and multiple service providers, contribute to difficulties.
“Apart from increasing demand, many countries also struggle with ageing infrastructure, which can make utility provision unsafe, as well as unreliable.”
Before a country can improve infrastructure and provide services and utilities to meet demand, it needs to ensure that efficient back-office systems, such as billing structures and customer management in line, are in place, says Van Loggerenberg.
EAM systems help solve billing concerns by streamlining processes and better managing stakeholders. However, the systems also help utility providers to fix and maintain their infrastructure, she adds.
Utility providers can leverage built-in EAM toolsets, including field workforce enablement and edge devices, to proactively resolve issues such as broken electricity cables and water lines. This enables them to better schedule regular and predictive maintenance teams and use geofencing and tracking to attend to a problem timeously.
Introducing smart metering has also helped many countries with billing problems, but is only possible if the problem of accurate distribution is resolved, she adds.
“Accurately measuring water and electricity use is challenging. Many dwellers do not have running water or electricity, and either leverage off their neighbour’s supply or, as with water, take it from a communal tank. Those with proper water and power often share theirs. Proper meter readings are not possible.”
However, these countries can leapfrog steps in the infrastructure development process. Integrating billing and customer relationship management solutions with mobile devices enables smart citizens to identify problem areas faster, and also allows for self-service to manage billing and payments, she says.
“The opportunities to incorporate these technologies into systems as early as possible will help to rectify existing issues and support utility provision into the future, as well as pave the way for a greener, cleaner Africa. Renewable power can be incorporated into traditional power supply, feeding back into the grid while ensuring that users do not have to cut corners to receive power,” concludes Van Loggerenberg.
* Smart utility asset and billing management solutions can improve revenue management, and support sustainable rollout and technological leapfrogging.
* Smart metering and mobile self-service functions can help to address issues and support service provision.