With the COVID-19 crisis, water utilities are demonstrating more than ever that they are providing an essential service with a level of commitment that is all too often ignored. They must ensure the continuity of their activity 24 hours a day while ensuring the health safety of their teams and the population.
Collecting receivables, although crucial for sustainable service provision, is becoming increasingly difficult for many utilities. One response, amongst others, is the use of digital technologies for customer related activities, especially the use of smart Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) solutions.
Several water utilities have deployed CityTaps’ PAYGO solution and have been able to obtain the following options:
1. Open water access to all disconnected customers In order to enable populations to wash their hands, water utilities such as Interagua (Guayaquil, Ecuador) have agreed to ensure access to water to all their subscribers, regardless of their payment situation (zero credit, unpaid bills, etc.). CityTaps’ PAYGO solution allows remote opening of the water access to all subscribers, on demand and for a predefined period of time.
2. Apply quick changes in tariff plans Some governments have decided to offer the first tranche of the tariff plan to reduce the financial pressure on people affected by the lock-down. This first tranche, also known as the “social tranche”, represents the first 6m3 in Burkina-Faso and the first 10m3 in Niger. Here too, CityTaps’ PAYGO solution allows the management of tariff plans from the central software and pushes any change to the entire installed base of PAYGO meters in real time. In the case of retroactive instructions, it is also possible to re-credit customers for amounts previously collected.
3. Collect payments in lock-down situation While the population is confined to their homes and the utilities' agencies are closed, the best way to collect payments is by using Mobile Money. CityTaps’ PAYGO solution allows users to make top-ups at home with Mobile Money and avoids RF-ID card use or going to a counter.
4. Keep the most precarious customers connected to the water network The lock-down situation has put the most precarious households under great economic strain. CityTaps' PAYGO solution allows them to receive running water from the water utility by making micro-payments from 0.8 EUR.
5. Avoid sending staff on site CityTaps’ PAYGO solution is based on radio communication between the smart PAYGO meters and the central server. Reading of meter indexes is fully automated, thus avoiding utility staff to go on site physically to read the meters.
6. Monitor the water network from home Using CityTaps’ PAYGO solution, authorized water company staff canmonitor the water network activity (transactions, consumptions) from their home and with any computer or smartphone. Thecloud-basedsoftwarewas designedspecifically taking into account the particular constraints of remote access with a very low internet bandwidth.
7. Communicate Health messages to the customers The water utility can use CityTaps’ PAYGO solution to send awareness messages on anti-COVID health procedures by SMS or WhatsApp.
The current COVID-related situation is exceptional in its unpredictability and magnitude, thus exacerbating the need for water utilities to be agile in case of crisis. Those equipped with digital technologies have a wider range of tools at their disposal to react and mitigate risks.