Major events like disasters and catastrophes – for instance, disruption from the Covid-19 and extreme events due to climate change can alter how society uses infrastructure.
Plans to construct new infrastructure or update existing ones should be able to accommodate current and future challenges.
The U.S. $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill is touted to address the U.S. infrastructure problems.
However, governments and decision-makers have responsibility for spending the money wisely and making sure that they build the right infrastructure to meet today’s needs and the future.
The Mott Macdonald article, “Digital transformation can help infrastructure rebuild with purpose says that climate change and the ongoing pandemic have made resilience and sustainability a requirement for existing and new infrastructure.
And digitisation and systems thinking are essential to make infrastructure sustainable, resilient, and fit for the future.
The article explains further:
“The purpose of infrastructure is human flourishing – and crucial to human flourishing is the health of the environment we all live in… Using systems thinking and digital technology, we can reimagine infrastructure and how we manage it. We need to view infrastructure not as discrete projects or assets but as operational systems that interact with other systems to deliver social, economic, and environmental services. Digitalisation – the integration of digital technology into infrastructure – provides a fantastic set of tools for understanding, envisioning, and managing these systems to achieve better system-wide outcomes.”
This transformation will require a guiding vision and courageous leadership to make it happen.
The article says that technology can enable infrastructure to connect the built environment and human lives so that all can thrive.
This means that people and nature should be at the heart of how infrastructure is used, designed, managed, and built.
Infrastructure should also be sustainable and resilient throughout its lifecycle.
Sustainability means that infrastructures do not contribute to climate change. In contrast, resiliency means that infrastructure can withstand age-related issues and against natural and climate-related events in the decades or even centuries to come.
If infrastructure fails to meet these criteria, then services will fail at the expense of society.
The solution to making infrastructure more resilient and sustainable does not always lie in constructing new ones.
Digitalisation can improve existing infrastructure and make them perform better.
According to the article, “Digitalisation provides the means to see where efficiency shortfalls are, address them, and improve performance. We need to transform our infrastructure systems to harness that power, improving the ability of infrastructure to adapt to change, deliver value for money, and provide dependable service”.