Analysis: LOUIS MWAPE
NOWADAYS information technology (IT) is everything; it is a major consumer of our time and the world is always chock-full of new inventions.
The impact of such development is keenly felt in our lives and many facets of the economy.
In the Western world where almost everything has gone digital, the use of information communication technologies (ICT) is in its heyday with almost all corporate entities utilising various technological services for their day-to-day business transactions.
Perhaps, that could be one of the reasons why at some point, Bill Gates, the Microsoft mogul, once remarked that technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven, and that they cannot be separated from each other.
That statement holds true to whatever innovations unfolding before our eyes in terms of the business-technology nexus.
Back home in Zambia, the use of ICTs is equally receiving overwhelming support as seen from the recent launch of e-governance systems.
For commercial utilities, its ringing praise and actual influence packs a real punch as a strategy for improving service delivery, even as our nation is steadily careening into digital revolution.
For instance, one would utter a thousand thanks to technology for a fact that a customer today at any given time, regardless of their location, is able to pay water bills via Xapit, mobile money and many other technological innovations.
For Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company Limited (LgWSC), there is a new approach in terms of conducting business, and technological innovations are effectively on the table. Amidst one of the most innovative times in its history, LgWSC has invented and finalised a remarkable award-winning application aimed at ridding off the tedious work that comes with manually taking water meter readings.
Presenting the logic of the application recently in Kabwe when Eastern Water and Sewerage Company Limited (EWSC) undertook a learning visit, LgWSC’s application developer and billing specialist, Emmanuel Nyirenda, revealed that the digital meter reading application that he and his team had been developing for almost two years, now dubbed as Lukanga Water Digital Meter Reading (LDMR), is a registered copyright and a brain-child of LgWSC.
Mr Nyirenda explained that LDMR is a two-fold application comprising of a web-based software and a mobile application that can run on any Android phone. He further explained that the application is meant to improve water meter reading accuracy and customer service efficiency.
The software developer emphasised the link between staff efficiency and digital innovations coupled with business growth.
“We are living in a fast-paced business environment and utilities should be fully aware of that fact and if the changes are made now, that will be terrific,” Mr Nyirenda said.
And LgWSC acting managing director Yoram Sinyangwe explained the advantages of the DMR.
Engineer Sinyangwe explained that unlike the old system where meter readings were written down on a meter card and then manually input them onto the database, LDMR enables customer service agents to capture meter readings, geographical positioning system (GPS) coordinates, images of a meter and customer details and update them on the server for billing purposes and data clean-up.
With many water utilities and other cooperating partners already expressing interest to replicate it, LDMR application has proved to be a striking change in the local water sector.
LDMR cannot seem to catch a break in terms of attention and to grasp why; here are a few developments that point to that direction:
Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company (LWSC), Nkana Water and Sewerage Company, North-Western Water and Sewerage Company, Southern Water and Sewerage Company (SWASCO) and Eastern Water and Sewerage Company Limited already undertook their learning visit to LgWSC to learn more about LDMR, with a possibility of replicating it.
After a recent learning visit, SWASCO procured LDMR at an initial cost of K50,000. The procurement is said to be part of good practices that they want to replicate for improved service delivery.
Cooperating partners too have swung into action to offer support to LDMR. The German Corporation Agency, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH or GIZ – a German development agency headquartered in Bonn and Eschborn that provides services in the field of international development cooperation, recently donated 41 android phones and seven computers to LgWSC aimed at boosting the capacity of the project.
LDMR made official a transition that has been quietly underway for a while in terms of digital innovations in the water sector. There is no doubt that LDMR is seen as a point of light in terms of innovation in the local Water Sector, and it will lessen human errors in terms of billing. So far, it has been awarded a silver and bronze medal under the Kaizen Institute sponsored by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency.
The author is communications officer at Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company Limited.
Analysis: LOUIS MWAPE