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An exclusive interview with Reshaad Sha, CEO of SqwidNet, silver sponsor at the upcoming African Utility Week and participant in the technical water programme at the event.

“SqwidNet can be a key partner to bringing digitalisation to the energy sector at an affordable and scalable level.”

Let’s start with some background on SqwidNet and your role there.
SqwidNet was launched in November 2016 as the licensed Sigfox operator in South Africa. It has successfully deployed the a low-cost, low-power, ultra narrowband IoT network in South Africa. The company began through a partnership between Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) and global IoT operator Sigfox. Sigfox today has presence in 45 countries through similar partnerships and covers over 800 million people with a Sigfox network. The SqwidNet network in South Africa currently covers 81% of the South African population and will cover 85% by mid 2018, enabling millions of physical devices to be connected to the digital world and bringing the IoT to life.

As CEO of SqwidNet, I work closely with our ecosystem and channel partners to ensure that we have rapid traction in IoT adoption in South Africa. One of the roles that I also fulfil is to run a number of ecosystem invigoration programs including the IoT Entrepreneurship program that we recently launched, this program will see about 100 entrepreneurs go through our customised program this year enabling them to participate in the IoT ecosystem. These roles that I fulfil are only possible due to the team that I work with on a daily basis, a key function of mine is to ensure that we have the right resources on board and that we are all pulling in the same direction to enable digital transformation across industries.

What projects in the African energy sector that SqwidNet is involved in currently are you most excited about?
I would say resource management, the ability to get optimal utilisation of both natural and manufactured resources is where IoT can deliver significant value. We have a number of projects that focus on very basic smart metering through to more complex projects that when commercially rolled out will be able to demonstrate tangible savings in resource utilisation.

SqwidNet’s readily available low powered connectivity solutions and global ecosystem partners have created products and services to optimise processes and to meet new customer needs across all industries.

What in your view are the main challenges that the energy sector faces on the continent?
I think that too little data is being collected on consumption, utilisation levels, wastage and data points that could indicate efficiency levels. The challenge is thus an opportunity to use IoT to collect all of this data really cheaply and only after we have begun the process of this data collection can we start to glean insights from this data and coupled with machine learning we will be able to reliably address demand and utilisation challenges that exist throughout the sector on the continent.

How important is renewable energy for Africa’s energy future?
The pressure on resources to fuel energy will progressively increase and since those resources are limited, the cost of the end product is going to rise significantly and thus make energy unaffordable to the masses in every country.

Renewables-based energy production is thus of critical importance and the sooner governments across the continent begin the generation investments the better.

What is your vision for the sector?
Efficiency in metering administration and billing. Cost saving through flow management and load limiting and a regulatory policy framework that enables digitalisation.

You are a sponsor at the upcoming African Utility Week, what will be your message at the event?
SqwidNet through our Sigfox network can be a key partner to the participants that brings digitalisation at an affordable and scalable level to the energy sector.

What are you most looking forward to at the event?
I am looking forward to networking with stakeholders in the energy sector to influence and shape the developments towards the grid of the future.

African Utility Week