If you have lived in Kenya, you will have an idea of the unreliable nature of the electricity distribution by the national company Kenya Power; power outages in rain, extended services times, poor customer service, the list goes on and on. Though they have embraced the modern times by switching from wooden electricity poles to fiberglass and concrete poles, and installed pre-paid electricity meters; Kenya Power still has a reputation of being unresponsive and decrepit.
The one area that reinforces this perception is how Kenya Power dealt with scheduled and unplanned power outages. In the past, Kenya Power relied on advertising scheduled power outages in the local newspapers; if you didn’t read the paper on that particular day, then woe unto you. As times progressed, the Kenya Power team resorted to posting a PDF of the planned outage on their website. A step in the right direction, but this was still not much better than the newspaper. However their latest endeavor will please a lot of Kenyans who live in fear of the unexpected blackout.
The Kenya Power IT team has quietly rolled out their Power Alert website.
“The PowerAlert service consolidates all planned outages/shutdowns in a single portal for customers to effectively plan their daily activities and help minimise inconveniences that may be caused. You will be required to sign in using your Google, Facebook or Twitter account to enjoy the service.”
The website works as follows. A consumer logins into the Power Alert website with their Gmail, Twitter or Facebook account. They will then enter their location into Kenya Power Database. Once a power outage is scheduled for that particular location, the website will notify the consumer by email, twitter or SMS before the outage occurs, for free. This proactive approach will, to use Kenya Power’s words, enable you to “Plan your day around the outage, not because of it”. In addition, to take advantage of the growing number of outages reported via twitter, The Power Alerts website also has a TweetMap showing the location of unplanned outages reported by Twitter and the status of the repair for that particular outage.
The benefits of digitizing this process are numerous
- Proactive rather than reactive communication to consumers
- Outages repair time can now be tracked not only by Kenya Power but by consumers.
- The maintenance process becomes transparent, increasing accountability on Kenya Power employees and improving customer service for its subscribers.
Kenya Power has clearly stated that the Power Alert website should be seen as a beta site:
“Please Note: This Site is still under development, some features may not function as expected or may fail entirely. We apologise for this and hope you will bear with us as development work continues.”
As the Kenyan populace moves from features phones to smartphones, I would like to see Kenya power release an API for the data set and allow developers to build applications that add value. For example: A smartphone app should be able to tell a consumer, his transaction history, his power usage history, pay his bills, inform him of outages as well as other critical information regarding the service. All this would lead to lfewer trips to the infamous “Electricity House” for mundane tasks such as paying a bill. I hope that many other utility companies in Kenya will follow suit.
Take a moment and visit the site for yourself: http://poweralerts.kenyapower.co.ke/home