The Energy of Change: Two Perspectives of Utilities in the Digital Era
It is easy to take for granted the technology we have at our disposal. We flick a switch and the lights go on, we turn on the tap and clean water comes out. We turn on the television and our favourite shows are readily available.
When I was growing up in rural Sussex, we had 3 TV channels and the height of in-home computing was a ZX Spectrum with rubber keys, a tape drive and a whole 48k of memory. If anyone talked about the cloud, it was usually the harbinger of rain. Amazon was just a really, really big river.
Compare that with the digital world my daughter has grown up in. Try to explain to an 8 year old today a world before apps, Netflix and the internet.
I have of course mentioned in previous blogs and webinars how utilities are going through a time of unprecedented change. Digital disruptors are raising the bar in terms of the customer experience. Utilities recognize this and that interaction with customers needs to go beyond a monthly bill. Utilities need to communicate to engage, understanding the individual needs of the customer with a cohesive approach to Big Data. It’s not enough to handle one interaction in isolation - rather the need is to construct a picture of the customer through a tapestry of collective interactions.
Recently I was fortunate enough to host a panel webinar on the impact of digital on utilities. I was joined by 3 leading experts in the field of utilities, discussing digital transformation, disruption and the expectations of today’s customers. I would encourage anyone interested in the subjects of digital transformation and utilities to have a listen to the webinar recording.
The subject of digital transformation and disruption was unsurprisingly high on the agenda at this year’s CS Week conference in Phoenix, Arizona, my first visit to the Copper State. CS Week is always a fantastic networking opportunity and forum to discuss hot topics for the utilities ecosystem.
One CS Week keynote speaker in particular painted a very different perspective of water in the digital era. Doc Hendley, President and Founder of Wine To Water reminded that many people still lack access to clean water and sanitation. In fact 663 million people today do not have access to clean water, while 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation.
We turn on the tap and water comes out. But what if the nearest tap is 3 hours away and the water is liable to make you sick? It is difficult to comprehend, in this digital age, that the supply of water is a major cause of disease and death.
Doc’s story, from growing up in North Carolina, to getting shot at in the Sudan, of his efforts to supply clean water to those most in need, is amazing, inspiring and upsetting.
“It can be as simple as installing a $25 water filter and that will completely revolutionize their entire life”
A significant portion of the world faces a clean water crisis. In fact according to the UN by 2025, as many as 1.5 billion people will be living in areas affected by water scarcity.
So let’s continue to push the boundaries of what technology can do..
But while we do that, let's devote some of that energy for change to ensure that everyone has access to the fundamental utilities for survival.
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