Maanda Ramutumbu, a technology executive in South Africa, said the escalating protests underscored the incapacity of local municipalities to provide basic services to ratepayers.
That incapacity is partly attributed to insistence with archaic technologies by authorities.
“We are living in a world of contradictions: many utilities are still hobbled by business models that were formulated during the era of the telegram while the ratepayers they serve have evolved, become more discerning and embraced digital solutions,” Ramutumbu said.
Ramutumbu, the Senior Manager for Accenture Resources in South Africa, said science and technology have permeated every industry and facet of life.
In addition, modern day technology had developed the science of analytics,which encompassed tools and methods that enable informed predictions of future events using predictive algorithms.
“These analytical tools can be deployed to empower utilities to manage their water resources more efficiently and provide them with the tools to take proactive steps to mitigate against the impact of events we have little control over,” Ramutumbu said.
He said virtually, all sectors of the economy are embracing a myriad of smart solutions, albeit at different paces, in order to improve efficiencies and reduce operational costs.
“The adoption of analytics technologies provides utilities with the tools and the know-how to optimally serve the needs of their customers in the digital age.”
The expert pointed out water utilities lost millions of rands due to non-revenue losses resulting from leaks and burst water pipes.
He said while the adoption of smart technology solutions might not stop the leaks, nonetheless customised smart solutions can be used to identify areas of leaks and predict where the next leakages in the system would most likely to occur to allow for early prevention.
This would enable water utilities better manage their maintenance teams spares inventories and depots.
“Armed with this insight, water utilities can deploy their workforce closer to where bursts are most likely to occur, thereby reducing the time of resolution that results in more water losses. Ultimately utilities can reassess if their infrastructure renewal plans match the locations where most bursts occur,” Ramutumbu said.
South African municipalities are beset by crises.
Zweli Mkhize, South African Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, painted a grim picture recently when he revealed that no fewer than 55 municipalities had been identified as distressed or dysfunctional.
He revealed that 31 percent of the country’s municipalities were dysfunctional, another 31 percent were almost dysfunctional. Only 7 percent of municipalities were well functioning, while the remaining 31 percent were reasonably functional.
In 2017, The City of Johannesburg revealed that it required R120 billion (US$9,7 billion) in the next ten years to address the infrastructure backlog.
Approximately R415 million of this capital expenditure is earmarked to replace water pipes.
The government of President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed the North West Province under administration in an effort to restore service delivery, following a month of protests against waning service delivery and allegations of corruption.