Keynote Speakers

Leading voices and thought-leaders

Agenda-setting thought leadership from the most prominent figures within the water sector and beyond. Keynote speakers are the top specialists in their field and will provide the overarching narrative for the Summit. Keynotes and supporting panels will frame the key discussions and topics that will be addressed during the event.

Wednesday, 30 November


10:00 to 10:30

Vikki Williams, Arup

A chemist by background and a chartered environmental engineer, Vikki is Arup’s Digital Water Leader in the UKIMEA (UK, India, Middle East & Africa) region. Vikki has over 20 years’ of experience working with water utilities and other infrastructure industries, with half of those years spent in engineering and management consultancy. More recently, Vikki has combined her technical and management skills into digital service provision for clients, including early design work in digital twins. In 2019, Vikki led a project to build an IoT (Internet of Things) Water Treatment Works in a box, providing rural communities with access to clean drinking water. User-centric design, circular economy principles and maintainability were at the heart of this initiative. The unit developed treatment control philosophies based upon new edge IoT technology. Vikki’s current interest is in learning how digital technologies can be deployed, in the first instance, to improve the operational performance of infrastructure; she is also keen to combine this thinking with delivering social value, through the engagement of a wide range of stakeholders, to deliver the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

About the presentation:

Monitoring to insight Vikki’s presentation will illustrate how environmental monitoring improves decision-making in the built environment through two case studies.
1) How to use satellite data to deliver e.g. nature-based solutions at scale (Macro level) – How can this monitor and verify performance of nature-based solutions over time?
2) How sampling in the sewer and river monitoring can monitor health at different scales (Household, Community, Institution, and Catchment) – using some of the latest thinking around wastewater-based epidemiology.
Finally, what are the challenges? How do you ensure environmental monitoring is robust enough to make policy solutions?


15:00 to 15:30

Valentina D’Aniello, Xylem

Valentina D’Aniello holds a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering from University Federico II of Naples (2000) and an MBA from SDA Bocconi Business School in Milan (2006). Right after graduation, she worked as a Technical Sales Leader in the area of water treatment of industrial boiling and cooling water. Following her MBA, she joined General Electric Oil&Gas as Strategic Marketing Manager for The Global Services Division.

In GE she started her Lean Six Sigma/Continuous improvement journey and held multiple positions in GE as well as in Tyco and Pentair, both in transactional and manufacturing Lean Six Sigma. She joined Xylem in 2015 as the Continuous Improvement Director for Europe and later became the VP of Continuous improvement for the Water Infrastructure Division. Since a bit more than one year she had the opportunity to get back closer to products and became the VP of Global Product Management for Waste Water Pumping in Xylem.

Thursday, 1 December


09:00 to 09:30

Cecilia Wennberg, DHI

Cecilia comes from more than 30 years of professional work within the water industry. With a M.Sc, in Civil Engineering working across the water industry today she holds the position of global EVP, heading DHI´s global business in Water in Cities unit. With a specialized technical background in urban water and water resources, including development of new technology and solutions, working for utilities, engineering consultants and technology providers she has transitioned into strategic leadership roles in management and business development. Her drive is to see value created through strategic approach and solutions turned into results, driven by a business oriented mindset with technology and people involvement as key to success. Working with water is a passion, being one of the keys to a sustainable development of our world. Cecilia is a long-time member of IWA and actively engaged as a member of the IWA Digital Steering committee.

About the presentation: 

Digital Water with a higher purpose – The presentation will discuss the purpose and value creation of digital water if we have become wiser on its drivers, execution and benefits. Is there a comprehensive value-driven digital water vision, truly anchored with the decision-makers in the business strategies? What are the possible next achievements and challenges?

Jose Diaz Acciona2.png

15:00 to 15:30

José Diaz-Caneja, Acciona

José Díaz-Caneja holds an MSc in Civil Engineering from Madrid Polytechnic University and an MBA from IESE Business School. With comprehensive experience in the infrastructure sector, in both publicly and privately financed projects, after having worked in large infrastructure groups in Latam and Spain, he joined ACCIONA Agua’s International Business Development Department in 2002. In 2007 he joined ForoPPP Infraestructuras –a private PPP institution- as Managing Director for a 4 years period, and in 2011 he re-joined ACCIONA Agua as the Middle East and Africa Development Director, becoming CEO in the Water Business line of ACCIONA  in January 2014. He has been a member of the EPEC Private Sector Forum, a Professor at ESinfra (Nebrija University, Madrid) and at MEDIP master (Madrid Polytechnic University).

About the presentation:

Unlocking the regenerative power of water. By 2030, the world could face a global water deficit of 40% under a business-as-usual scenario. Climate change is disrupting weather patterns, leading to extreme weather events and impacting over water availability globally. Climate change threats water security in four different ways. During his keynote presentation, José Díaz-Caneja will talk about these four ways and what are the possible solutions.

Friday, 2 December


09:00 to 09:30

Michael Bednar-Brandt, Bednar-Brandt Innovation

Michael Bednar-Brandt is a passionate speaker, facilitator, forward thinker, networker, coach – and most of all hands-on practitioner for innovation within large organisations. He has spent his career in technology, marketing, sales, and management. He has worked globally and locally, in Austria, where he is based. He has run teams, programs and companies. Today he loves learning about and improving the very fabric of people who are working together to make a difference. He is inspired by complex questions, like how the future of large organizations will look like – where they are highly productive while constantly adapting to change, with ease.

About the presentation:

Corporate Innovation – Innovative Organisations in Changing Environments – In his keynote, Michael will not talk about digital nor talk about water – instead, he will challenge you to the human side of cultural transformation, programs versus movements, corporate innovation fitness, and your personal role in that game. Be prepared for 30 minutes of high-intensity input to lay the groundwork for many fascinating discussions.

Friday, 2 December

George Picture Final (1)

15:00 to 15:30

George Kibala Bauer, GSMA

George Kibala Bauer is a Director in the GSMA Digital Utilities programme, which supports urban resilience in low- and middle-income countries by enabling access to essential utility services (such as energy, water, sanitation, and waste management) through digital solutions and innovative partnerships. In this role, he focuses on developing and managing strategic partnerships, conducting research on the role of digital solutions and innovative partnerships in improving utility service provision, and supporting innovators in low- and middle-income countries in their journeys to scale. Prior to joining the GSMA, George gained experience in consulting and strategic communications, economic research, development finance, and government affairs. George holds a MSc in international economic policy from Sciences Po Paris, a BA in economics from McGill University, as well as certificates in project finance, impact evaluation, and urban planning. He was also selected to take part in the On Deck Climate Tech Fellowship, a programme bringing together start-up and climate experts to catalyse climate tech innovations.

About the presentation:

The digitalisation of the water sector in low- and middle-income countries – from potential to real impact – Most research and reporting on water sector- and water utility-digitalisation tends to focus on high-income country contexts and solutions. This overlooks key differences in the enabling environment, financing options, socio-economic realities, and political context of the water sector in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). It also overlooks some of the key benefits that digitalisation can help realise in LMICs. In many of these countries access to safe water remains extremely inequitable – a reality that is being exacerbated by challenges associated with rapid urbanisation, climate change, and persistent economic inequality. Digital solutions are critical tools for utilities and policymakers in LMICs to enable innovative service delivery models that can unlock access to more affordable, reliable, safe, and sustainable services for all. Over the past decade the GSMA Innovation Fund has supported innovative digital solutions such as prepaid smart metering, pay-as-you-go water ATM models, digitised billing and complaint management systems, and smart monitoring of systems through IoT. In this keynote, George Kibala Bauer (Director, GSMA Digital Utilities) will draw on some of the GSMA’s experience of supporting the scaling journey of these innovations in collaboration with utilities across Africa and Asia, present some findings of a recent study on digital adoption in the Kenyan water sector, and conclude with some reflections about the need for public-private collaboration and wider ecosystem support to ensure that these innovations can provide impact at scale.

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