An App for every occasion
DEWA's Marwan Salem bin Haider explains e-service developments
Marwan Salem bin Haider, VP and Chief Information Officer at DEWA, explains the e-service developments his organisation is launching, and the advantages they can bring for both utility and customer
From behind a desk impressively massed with the latest gadgetry, Marwan Salem bin Haider, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s (DEWA) Chief Information Officer, enthusiastically explains the latest eService creations.
“DEWA’s core business is to deliver electricity and water, and ultimately at the end of a month, a bill has to be paid. So far we have around 13 methods of payment, and all of our methods are listed on our website. Customers can pay through the site, with mobile payments, through banks, Etisalat machines, for example, as well as at our offices.”
DEWA’s approach to creating these payment options was to keep everything in-house – retaining control over development and final design.
“As I tell my people – it is ‘to be or not to be’. Either we will do it ourselves or we’ll never do it. We are the only government department available on so many devices, and this has all been done internally.
"We never paid even one dirham for any outsider. We have saved a fortune – hundreds of thousands of dirhams.”
The adoption of eServices has really taken off for DEWA, with 53.7% of its customer base using the online services during H1 of this year. However, there are plans to push this even higher.
“We would like to increase it as much as possible. We actually tried to get a benchmark with other countries [on eAdoption rates]. 53% is a big achievement. When you consider the 2.1 million online transactions in 2011 – that’s 2.1 million customers who avoided visits to a DEWA office. That’s huge.”
One of the most interesting new eServices now available allows customers to log in to DEWA’s website to track their own energy consumption. Customers are presented with an online graph that provides an easy visual medium to compare their water and electricity consumption over time.
By providing a means to track their own usage – comparing it on a monthly or yearly basis – DEWA believes that customers will be encouraged to seek ways to lower their monthly consumption.
“As they say – you cannot improve what you can’t quantify; what you can’t measure. This will, for sure, help people to see what they are doing and I can guarantee that the consumption will go down for many people. People will want to keep consumption down.
“We also don’t just show them the problem. We also provide a lot of conservation advice on how to bring consumption down. Beyond DEWA’s water pipe and meter, it’s the customer’s responsibility. It goes back to the behavior of the people who live in the house.
Usually the owner doesn’t think about these things, but now he can easily see what he is using and will know when he is paying more.”
The “eConsumption Graph” was soft-launched at the beginning of August, and with no fanfare for its launch, attracted 7,000 users within the first two weeks.
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The ‘Green Bill’ offering is a straightforward effort to encourage customers to switch from receiving paper bill to receiving electronic versions of their monthly usage via their email accounts. The basic idea is that, with a customer base of over 600,000 accounts, there is a substantial amount of paper that could be saved by cutting out physical bills.
“At the beginning, it will be an optional service. What I am heading now in DEWA is the ‘e-adoption enforcement committee’ – I added the word enforcement because sometimes you need to enforce what is good for people.
It is like what Ford said when he invented the car; he said that if he had asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse. Nobody would have asked for a car. But he said he knew it should have been invented.”
One group that will not be given the option to adopt the service is DEWA employees, who will be compulsorily enrolled in the scheme from this November.
“We need to walk the talk. We discontinued salary slips two years ago – so no more paper – and people at first resist, but they get used to it. It is also another way of marketing the scheme – our 8,000 staff will be ambassadors and hopefully this will tell people that DEWA knows it’s good.”
DEWA’s other principle new eService has seen the launch of its AutoPay mPay service, which allows customers to have their monthly bills paid through the mPay gateway automatically instead of on a one-time monthly basis.
“What we have done is to enable scheduled payments, making it very convenient for customers – so they can specify the minimum and maximum payment thresholds, and can also specify how often the system should check the outstanding bill amount.
“There is a benefit to customers and to DEWA – everyone will be happy. Everyone has to pay bills, and if you have to do it for the rest of your stay in Dubai, let us automate it. And it helps the government of course, because it means bills are collected on time.”
This innovative approach aimed at making life easier for the customer, whilst also ensuring that bills are collected on time, has also seen DEWA become the first utility company in the world to develop an application for Samsung’s Smart TVs.
Styled similarly to the website and mobile applications, the service allows customers to check their DEWA bills, and browse DEWA updates from the comfort of their sofas.
Another example of developing technology that delivers a practical business benefit is the DEWA mobile application's ability to allow customers to send a photograph when they see a water leak – automatically sending the coordinates of the leak so that DEWA can send technicians to the exact location to deal directly with the problem.