Ecuador is one of the Latin American countries that has suffered the consequences of the COVID-19. Ricardo Freire, Country Manager Idrica, explains the importance of digital transformation for billing cycle management in Ecuador. In this interview, he also describes the measures implemented by the team to continue with the activity during the pandemic.
After establishing and positioning Aguas de Valencia as a reference since 2015, Idrica is currently one of the best valued companies, and a strategic ally for the public sector. The company is the undisputed leader in Ecuador for the digital transformation of water.
Question: What has been Ecuador's response to the COVID-19 crisis? How is it affecting the company?
Answer: Ecuador has been seriously hit by the pandemic, and quite dramatic situations have occurred. Fortunately, we were able to take timely action, both to preserve health and to maintain productivity. This has kept us safe and active, despite the serious mobility restrictions that were established in the country.
The situation has been totally new for all of us, but this adversity has reinforced the message that new technologies are essential to fight any crisis. Today it may be COVID-19, but tomorrow it could be something else. Our role is to help the public sector be prepared for these possible crises.
Q: Can you tell us more about the measures aimed at addressing the situation?
A: Despite not being able to hold face-to-face meetings, we have all maintained unity and teamwork. Telecommuting has allowed us to keep making progress in new projects, while complying with all the contractual commitments established with the Public Water Company (EPA).
The results during this health crisis are excellent, this says a lot about the team, since everyone has been involved to strengthen the operational and commercial support actions. In this sense, efforts have been intensified to ensure that the effects of the pandemic affect the project as little as possible.
Q: How is GoAigua technology helping right now?
A: The successful implementation of the Billing and Customers solutions (GoAigua) has been essential to minimize the impact of this crisis in the areas of commercial management and customer support, managed by the EPA nationwide. Thanks to our web platform, accessible from any Internet-connected device, the EPA can manage all the processes and activities that form part of the billing cycle (invoicing, collections and customer service). It also provides access to information in real time on more than 21,000 active contracts managed by the EPA, and their related documentation, without depending on access to physical documentation thanks to a powerful document manager.
Through the mobility application, operators can receive work orders directly on their phones or tablets, and handle them from this tool, thus avoiding the need to go to their offices. In this way we reduce the risk of staff contagion.
This is just the beginning of a digital transformation process that, along with other solutions that are part of GoAigua, will allow a centralized management of the entire water cycle.
Q: Do you think that this crisis will bring permanent changes in the management of water services?
A: Ecuador is a very restrictive country in terms of water management legislation. We have been the first company in the private sector to sign a strategic alliance with a state-owned public company. After COVID-19 our alliance shows the way to overcome this crisis, relying on the experience of solid, technological and efficient private companies to manage drinking water, in collaboration with the public sector.
Another important milestone we have achieved, and which will play an increasing role to overcome the economic effects of COVID-19, is the collaboration with multilateral funds and social development banks. We are the only private company in the sector that has signed an agreement with the BDE (Development Bank of Ecuador) to implement and finance modernization programs in the different municipalities.
We also believe that SARS GoAnalytics, our tool for detecting SARS-CoV-2 in the sewerage system and at the entrance of water treatment plants, will be essential to prevent the spread of the virus. The implementation of this technology, together with GoAigua's existing solutions, reinforces our leadership in digital transformation applied to water management in Ecuador.