What do you think the water utility of the future will look like? Will it feature drones that inspect pipes internally and fix leakages? Will customer feedback be collected automatically and inform service changes? Will you be able to pay for services using cryptocurrency? Or will it entail the existence of contingency plans that are informed by the latest climate data? There are persistent problems that utilities face every day that limit their ability to provide water supply in their service areas.  These problems span from challenges in covering operational costs, to inability to supply water 24 hours a day to all residents. These challenges are being exacerbated by the effects of climate change and other threats such as COVID-19. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to think outside the box and not only focus on immediate needs but rather about taking utilities beyond the next level and fostering long-lasting changes that will allow utilities to deal with short-term and long-term challenges and provide safe and reliable universal water supply and sanitation services. The recently launched Utility of the Future (UoF) Program entails a close collaboration between the World Bank and utilities, with the end goal of igniting a transformative process that allows utilities to reach a desired performance  and maturity level by applying international best practices throughout its value chain. Moreover, this approach allows utilities to craft their own path to reach their vision of the future.

Your mission ‚Äď should you choose to accept it:¬†¬†¬†

The Utility of the Future challenge invites you to imagine the future (2050) where water utilities are providing reliable, safe, inclusive, transparent, and responsive WSS services through best-fit practices that allow them to operate in an efficient, resilient, innovative and sustainable manner. But the challenge does not stop at envisioning the future; you must also come up with a strategy to fulfill your vision.  Put on your thinking cap and help a utility in trouble become a Utility of the Future.

Your reward:  

Bragging rights at the upcoming World Water Week hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) being held from August 23-27; the opportunity¬†to¬†participate¬†and present your idea at the 2022 World Bank Water Week;¬†meeting World Bank‚Äôs senior¬†water¬†experts¬†to grow your network¬†and discuss the latest trends in water and sanitation; and last but not least –¬†being¬†shortlisted¬†for a winter internship with the WB Utility of the Future team¬†so you can¬†help real utilities¬†travel to¬†2050.

The UoF Challenge:  

This is the¬†roadmap you¬†must¬†follow¬†‚Äď don‚Äôt worry, you‚Äôll have plenty of space to be wildly creative!

Part A: The future today  

  • Step 1:¬†The Utility of the Present¬†‚Äď understand¬†your client

UOTP-WSS is the utility serving the city of¬†Dryland¬†‚Äď this is a made-up scenario; don‚Äôt try to book flights to Dryland.¬†They¬†are facing tremendous challenges¬†because of¬†climate change, the¬†COVID-19¬†pandemic,¬†and weak financial management. However, they have the ambition of becoming a¬†Utility of the¬†Future and being an example to other utilities around the world.¬†They chose to apply the Utility of the Future¬†framework¬†(www.worldbank.org/uof)¬†to¬†understand their current situation and¬†come up with an action plan to reach a desired performance and maturity level.¬†The¬†file¬†in this link¬†contains¬†all the information that you need¬†to know about the utility to proceed with the challenge.¬†This includes a narrative about¬†the¬†specific challenges that the utility is facing,¬†and¬†data¬†from the¬†UoF¬†assessment¬†that provides a diagnosis of the five key utility¬†performance¬†elements:¬†technical, commercial, HR,¬†and¬†financial management;¬†and¬†organization and strategy.¬†Based on your understanding from the¬†assessment¬†you need to choose, in your opinion,¬†the three most pressing challenges for the utility. No wrong answers here! But make sure to read carefully¬†and remember the repercussions of the butterfly effect in time travel!¬†You can always go back to the¬†Utility¬†of the Future¬†homepage¬†in case you need more context about the tool.

  • Step 2:¬†Tell us¬†about¬†what‚Äôs cool and trendy¬†and how it can help UOTP-WSS

So, you have a pretty good idea of what are the three main challenges that the utility is facing. Now the fun part: You would need to¬†think about innovative practices¬†to overcome each of the challenges¬†you chose¬†and¬†put¬†the utility¬†on the path to become a Utility of the Future.¬†For example, you can argue that utilities should use 3D printing technologies to improve asset management; that AI could be used to predict where the next pipe burst is going to occur;¬†or that social media monitoring tools¬†can¬†be used to better understand all¬†customer¬†needs and preferences and offer a better service.¬†Your suggestions¬†need to be grounded on emerging and disrupting trends/technologies¬†‚Äď meaning, they must exist!¬†Remember, innovation doesn‚Äôt necessarily mean all cutting-edge technology and living in a Star-Trek like world; it can be alternative practices to ensure inclusion of marginalized populations, incentive mechanisms to save water, or any other ideas that come to mind.

Part B: Imagine the UoF 

  • Step 3:¬†Imagine the future:

We want you to think about what the water utility of the future would look like in 2050. How do you imagine they would carry out the technical, commercial, HR, financial and organizational processes?  This is an opportunity to really envision a futuristic utility and communicate that succinctly and practically.

  • Step 4:¬†Back to the present:

Finally, you will need to come up with a strategy from 2021 to 2050 to turn your vision (step 3) into reality. What should the utility focus on in the short and long-term? You can use the 15-steps planning approach included in the UoF Framework as a guide for this task but it’s not mandatory.

Evaluating your time-traveling skills:  

A multidisciplinary team from the World Bank will review and rate the proposals based on the following criteria:

Part A: The future today  

  • Step 1:¬†Selection of the three¬†challenges/areas for improvement based on the assessment given (10%)
  • Step 2:¬†Identification of innovative practices¬†to address the challenges identified¬†for the utility based on emerging and disrupting trends/technologies¬†(40%)

Part B: Imagine the UoF 

  • Step 3:¬†Narrative about what¬†the¬†water¬†and sanitation¬†utility¬†would¬†look like¬†in 2050¬†(20%)
  • Step 4:¬†Action¬†plan to¬†materialize¬†the¬†strategy 2021 to 2050¬†(30%)

Application Terms: 

Team: Groups of 2 to 3 people. Make sure your group is diverse and inclusive!

Participants’¬†age:¬†Max 30-years old

Application Deadline: Aug 6, 2021

Submission to be done exclusively through this Link: https://bit.ly/3kaOPFz

Deadline for submitting any questions you have to uof@worldbank.org : Jul 22, 2021



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