Change is inevitable and human beings have an innate desire to control their surroundings. It is this control factor that presents challenges to utilities who want to invest in new technologies for the communities they serve.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Edition 2, 2019. You can read the magazine’s articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

To find out more on this topic, ESI Africa spoke with Jodie Sherwin Hill, Executive Director of Jomat Investments and an African Utility Week Advisory Board member, to take us on an educational behavioural change ‘journey’.

Jodie, let’s first talk about the projects in the energy and infrastructure sectors that you are involved in.

Currently we are involved in several projects in the social facilitation and property space for social and affordable housing. This is a consistently difficult process as you are constantly challenged by the community needs. Contractors use 30% of the local labour workforce, which may not be highly skilled and require training. Our involvement is to recommend the utility products that will best suit these buildings and manage the education required for their use.

Our goal is mostly to ensure implementation success of projects and ensure completion of the product. It is important to keep projects moving and we have had many success stories where consumers are extremely resistant to new technology and post discussions and training become empowered to own their change process.

Any success stories/case studies you can share?

Our goal is mostly to ensure implementation success of projects. For instance, in Soweto, the new residents of social accommodation were extremely resistant about using a smart device. We held a meeting with over 300 residents and family members in an open area to explain the benefits to them. We did ample investigation and preparation to understand what was important to them, allowing us to link the meter to these points; e.g. paying for electricity, church and socialising. The consequences of tampering formed part of the educational process. The first question of this group thereafter was: “When do we get our training?” By empowering the group and being honest and transparent, they felt valued and willing to engage and take ownership, which also meant there was zero tampering of meters.

The point of this story is that preparation and understanding the community is key to effective and transparent communication, which ultimately makes the world of difference towards successful project implementation.

Where in Africa are you active? Any specific projects you are excited about?

For 2019, we are active in South Africa and Ghana and are waiting on a large pilot proposal for work in Nigeria (prepaid metering). Africa deserves quality utilities (working as they should) to give the individual the opportunity to independently manage their use of power and water, ensuring a sustainable future – this is what inspires us.

We also have some large scale projects in the building industry (up to 12,000 affordable market homes), which will have smart solutions provided. Our role will be handling the marketing and change (education) process. We also work with a local based ERP (enterprise resource) and we look forward to its affordability and success in municipalities in South Africa to ensure successful utility implementations.

What is your vision for sustainability on the continent?

A priority to properly educate with innovation, technology, and systems in mind. Education creates people (children and adults) who are empowered enough to independently solve the problems.

What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week?

I absolutely love keeping up to date with what is happening in the utility space and hearing success stories. I find that Spintelligent does a fabulous job with organisation, pushing the barriers to see how else they can get more people involved and making a difference. It is so inspiring to play a small role in this event. I love shifting mind sets to think outside the technical box and consider the human factor, which ultimately has the final call on the difference that can be made. This is the ONLY conference I have continued to be committed to, year after year, because it produces amazing results every time. ESI

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Edition 2, 2019. You can read the magazine’s articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

To speak with Jodie Sherwin Hill, attend the Smart Energy Revolution sessions on 14-16 May in Cape Town at the African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa conference and exhibition. | | | #AUW2019 #PGAF19