Amidst the poor power situation in the country, a young Nigerian entrepreneur has come up with some cheap power management solutions for citizens.
Moses Oraezue, the Chief Executive Officer of Power Alertz, is promoting a range of services that includes providing information to electricity consumers about when power comes and goes and improving customer care nationally.
“We are not reinventing the wheel. We are just trying to create practical solutions to everyday problems,” he said.
“You know, we have had the light problem now from time immemorial and throughout the time of this problem, one constant thing is that people still struggle to manage the time they have light. Why is this so? Lack of information. Power Alertz provides information that users can work with in the circumstances.”
Mr. Oraezue explained in practical terms how this works. “This is an SMS alert service that gives you warning about when the light is likely to go and when it will be restored. This will allow you plan your use of power better within the time you have it available.”
Mr. Oraezue believes this little story exemplifies the situation of many electricity consumers at the moment.
He gave examples of someone ironing and suddenly the power goes, people working on important projects on their computers only to have the light go off and situations where electricity might be needed to pump water and so on.
He says in these and similar situations, what you need is some form of notice, so you know how to plan your light usage.
“What Power Alertz does is to give you information via SMS about when the light would be out and when it would be restored. It gives you 5 to 7 minutes before it is out and 5 to 7 minutes before it is restored. That way, you can have some kind of control of the situation.”
Mr. Oraezue says while the government and distribution companies work on building the country’s power capacity up, some sort of power management solution that will be useful for everyone is needed.
With the cost as low as the price of a bottle of water to sign up for a month, he sees no reason why every Nigerian household and business shouldn’t have it. “For us, it’s not the profit; it’s the satisfaction of providing Nigerians with some sort of autonomy over how to use the power they have,” he said.
Mr. Oraezue also noted poor customer service as another problem facing the country.
According to him, the fact that the power supply situation is bad because of poor capacity does not excuse, for instance, customers being left in the dark about what the problem is.
“Our plan, along with the SMS alert service, is to have toll-free numbers that Nigerians can call free from wherever they are to get factual information about why they don’t have power in their area and what is being done to restore it. Such information is always useful for individuals and communities.”
Mr Oraezue says the toll-free service will be available to all Nigerians who call the lines, but subscribers to the SMS service would automatically have that information through the service.
Mr. Oraezue believes that until consumers are given power over the management of electricity, the vandalism on electricity assets and violence that is sometimes visited on PHCN officials who go into neighborhoods to disconnect lights or collect payments from consumers will continue.
A combination of customer frustration from poor service and the psychological and physical impact of power unavailability tips some people over the edge, but with the right information delivered and service charges made transparent, customers would be more open to cooperate, he says.
He believes that Nigerians will also feel the need to treat electricity assets in their areas as their own and report any attack or vandalism as quickly as they see it or even prevent it where they can if given incentives to do so.
Mr. Oraezue says he is banking on technology to deliver the solutions needed in all these areas. He believes that investing in relevant and modern customer communication strategies and technologies to meet the needs of Nigerians will be beneficial for the entire country.
Ms. Amanda Hawkins, a Director of Power Alertz, recently led a company team from the UK on a tour of electricity facilities in Nigeria.
She said at first it was a culture shock experiencing the frequency of the outages, but upon close examination, she began to marvel at the ingenuity of the people under the situation.
“It comes down to time management,” she said.
She stated that the alert can be beneficial for small business owners whose operations are largely dependent on power supply.
Ms. Hawkins believes that on the public level, the main problem is wastefulness. She believes that there are too many strata of unnecessary bureaucracies leading to too much being spent on too little.
She says the company has already commenced meetings with some of the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) with a view to partnering them in delivering much more effective customer care solutions.
“Our hope is that Power Alertz acts as the intermediary between the DisCos and Nigerian people. We have informed the DisCos that Power Alertz will do all of this, including total overhaul and rebranding, at no cost to the DisCos or the government. The gain for us is that we are helping create the best conditions for our customers to enjoy our services,” she said.