Aligning Business and
Social Issues for Utilities
BY KEITH TEICHMANN, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER OF DELTA ENERGY & COMMUNICATIONS
The business answer is in having utilities look for solutions
to build out infrastructure in the right way to optimize power
delivery and improve access to the internet. In doing so, they
will see efficiency gains, be able to enhance revenues and improve customer service, among other benefits. But, in parallel,
they will be addressing important social issues by enabling
broader access to a world of knowledge otherwise inaccessible
In seeking to achieve their business goals, utilities are also
opening the doors for those in underserved populations to
become empowered to better their future. That’s especially
critical in places like sub-Saharan Africa, where more than two-thirds of the population are without access to electricity.
From an education standpoint, a community is empowered
to learn, grow, and gain access to new information. In fact,
research shows that by extending internet penetration in Africa,
Latin America, India and South and East Asia to some of the
levels seen in developed countries today would enable an additional 640 million children access to the internet and the
information it makes available while they study.
In addition, studies show that there is a strong correlation
between country wealth and internet access, with poorer nations
such as those in south and southeast Asia and sub-Saharan
Africa, having much lower internet rates compared to richer
developing countries in Latin America and the Middle East.
Without access to internet, early developing nations lose a key
competitive ingredient when contrasted against their peers in
developed nations. Expanding infrastructure and improving
access will, in turn, improve local economies by providing a
platform for communities to explore business ideas, conduct
competitive research, and support enterprise and innovation.
India and Africa are expected to see sweeping growth over
the next few years in the number of internet users.
The number of internet users in Africa has grown by 8,503
percent from 2000-2017—almost twice as much as the next
closest region (the Middle East at 4374 percent). Yet, while
internet access is improving in South Africa, it still remains
behind the global standard.
Aligning business and social issues will help to boost business
growth for utilities, while also helping associated communities to
expand their economic opportunities—from business, to education,
and even healthcare. By improving access to energy (a business
concern) and increasing access to the internet (a social issue), not
only will utilities improve their business position, but communities
will be empowered to tap into the many internet-based resources
currently unavailable to them.
THE PHRASE “doing well by doing good” is often attributed to
Benjamin Franklin as the secret to his success as both a scientist
and as a diplomat. His autobiography expands on that phrase
saying, “As we enjoy great advantages from the invention of others,
we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any inven-
tion of ours, and this we should do freely and generously.”
In fact, in a survey by McKinsey & Co., CEOs were asked about
the most critical environmental, social and political issues for the
future success of their business. One hundred percent of respon-
dents named a social issue that was directly affecting the success
of their businesses—whether it be security of the energy supply,
technology accessibility in developing regions or other issues.
It’s clear that ignoring social issues is no longer an option for
today’s businesses. That’s especially the case for utilities that are
increasingly faced with modern-day challenges to their operations
and efficiencies. By aligning business issues like improving access
to energy, with social issues such as increasing access to the internet,
utilities will not only boost business growth, but foster the economic advancement of emerging communities as well—from
education to business opportunities, and beyond.
Utilities are faced with a host of challenges that are negatively
impacting both their businesses and local economies. For example,
non-technical energy loss like energy theft is costing electric utilities
billions per year in lost revenues – every year as much as $96
billion is lost worldwide, with $64.7 billion of that in emerging
markets, and $6 billion in the U.S. alone. Another roadblock for
utilities is outdated energy infrastructure, which is typically being
monitored by old software and hardware with a limited ability to
anticipate potential problems.
Without the right solution in place to address these challenges,
resources are stretched thin and it becomes a challenge for utilities
to handle customer needs and complaints, service adjustments,
and general system failures.
Additionally, from a social standpoint more than 3. 8 billion
people worldwide don’t have internet access and internet penetration in developing countries is nearly 1/3 that of developed
countries. Research shows that internet and electricity-poor regions
have less access to healthcare, education, and overall