Meter reading is one of the challenging parts to make Utilities more efficient. In partnership with Ghana Water Supply Company Ltd, Skyfox has developed a SMS-based self-reporting and billing system. The application has high potential, as it builds the trust between customers and utility and it saves travel time and costs for the meter readers.
The purpose of this project was to achieve the following:
- Test the potential of a USSD system that enables customer self-billing and payment of water tariffs at scale;
- Assess the social, environmental and economic factors that are necessary for the successful deployment and user adoption of the system;
- Assess the actual and potential contribution of the system to improve the financial performance of utilities and water services for consumers; and
- Test the potential of social control to check illegal connections.
- 10,000 people were reached of which
- 2,000 were trained
- 1,2000 did self-reading
- 500 used an e-payment option
- Bills become more transparent for customers and there are less issues between utility providers and customers
Tips for the future
- Continue to strengthen coaching role for innovators
- Schedule regular check-up calls with project partners
- Encourage project partners to embark on cross-learning from peers
Potential for growth
High potential for growth, the increase in usage could save the customer and utility money. It can also save time and travel for those who use the e-payment platforms to pay their bills. Convenience is increased on both sides.
Tangible leads as a result of the project
- Discussions to adopt the innovation in rural communities and small towns to another 10 regions, around 2000 household meters
- Partnership secured to implement SMS System in districts of the Volta, Eastern and Central regions of Ghana
- Discussions to expand to Sierra Leone
SkyFox Limited, Ghana Water Company Limited
June 2017 - February 2019
ACCRA , Ghana
Last project updates
Public utilities remain core to water services, yet utilities in developing countries lose up to 50-70% of treated water due to poor infrastructure or poor management. This limits the amount of water available to under-served customers. Low cost recovery and uncertain financial flows limit the utilities’ ability to expand the network. Many public water utilities in Africa face a challenge of poor billing systems and low revenue collection. The structures for revenue collection are largely non-functional and therefore they hardly breakeven. Uncertain land tenure and property rights make water delivery, billing, and bill collection extremely challenging. Billing and collection procedures are cumbersome and take a long time. Customers on the other hand, incur considerable costs in time and money when settling water bills at physical pay points. Specifically in the case of Ghana, the urban utility, Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) has about 54% of the water produced being non-revenue water. Key reasons accounting for this include inefficient billing, poor collection systems, illegal connections, inadequate metering, and poor customer services, among others. Mobile water payments present a promising new approach to improve financial performance for water service providers, offer time and cost savings to water users, and increase customer loyalty for mobile network operators. Yet adoption of mobile payments for water bills is still very low in Africa.
The project targets Customers of Ghana Water Company that fall in the bottom of the pyramid. These are people who are mostly not in the cities, have difficulties in assessing tariff pay points and even water services at their home. They also have to travel some distance at a cost that could have been saved and channeled to other developmental needs.
Overview of Goals
The overall goal of the project is to streamline the billing, revenue collection and customer relations of the Ghana Water Company Limited. The project focuses on achieving the following objectives
1. Test the potential of a USSD system that enables customer self billing and payment of water tariffs
2. Assess the social, environmental and economic factors that are necessary for the successful and user adoption of the system
3. Assess the actual and potential contribution of the system to improve the financial performance of utilities and water services for consumers
4. Test the potential of social control to check illegal collections
Results and indicators
- Measured variables
- (1) % change in monthly billing rate measured per month, per city, per poverty rates (2) % of men and women directly responsible for billing and payment before and after pilot ( target )
- Billing effectiveness ( Ability of people at the bottom of the pyramid to bill correctly using sms ). this will be dis-aggregated by sex, income level and geographical location.
- measured variables
- % change in bill collection rate ( target )
- Bill collection rate
- Number of illegal connections reported via sms
- community watch-dog effectiveness in reporting illegal connections. The pilot sought to explore the use of a community watch-dog system in reporting illegal connections where incentives will be provided at the beginning to encourage whilst its sustainability measures could be looked at later.
- % customers expressing satisfaction for specific services . This will measured through a customer satisfaction survey
- A customer satisfaction survey will be conducted on customers experiences
- measurement of non revenue water rates
- Another way the Ghana Water Company Limited losses revenue is through non-revenue water. Non Revenue water refers to water that is lost to the environment as a result of a broken water supply line or water that is consumed but not paid for. approximately total non-revenue water is 50% of which up to 20% is attributed to physical losses and illegal connection. the action research will try to measure the percentage non revenue water losses either through physical losses or illegal connections by deploying high level innovative systems.
- Average number of days of water supply per week
- The action research will also measure the reliability of water supply services in the pilot districts