Episode 3: Digital by default, infrastructure's next move

Updated: Apr 27




In this episode of the Urbanism.Live podcast we look at the 'digital by default' narrative building around the infrastructure sector in Australia.


So, it's 2021 and Infrastructure Australia publishes the Australia Infrastructure Plan. And for context, this is the nation's actionable roadmap for infrastructure reform.


The Plan features a series of reforms and policy recommendations to deliver better infrastructure outcomes for Australian communities.


The reform areas include:

  • place-based outcomes for communities

  • sustainability and resilience

  • industry productivity and innovation

  • transport

  • energy

  • water

  • telecommunications and digital

  • social infrastructure

  • waste.

And Recommendation 3.3 goes like this: Increase productivity and embed a culture of innovation in the infrastructure sector by adopting an evidence-based digital by default approach to infrastructure planning, delivery and operations.


Let's unpack this a little, as per the plan.


Firstly, the progress measures articulated give us a sense of what this reform is trying to achieve. These measures include:

  1. Digital Twin - the percentage of Australian Government funded projects incorporating a Digital Twin, using a harmonised approach

  2. National digital infrastructure roadmap - National digital infrastructure roadmap is published, with progress reports

  3. Digital asset champions - the percentage of projects over $500 million that have digital asset champion roles

Secondly, the series of outcomes documented give us a glimpse into the reform sought, by listing some of the following:

  • Digitise all major projects by applying contemporary digital engineering practices that leverage proven technologies and processes

  • Embed a digital by default approach by creating and implementing a smart infrastructure policy in each jurisdiction that uses technology and data to drive economic success and social inclusion

  • Increase digital adoption in infrastructure and develop jurisdiction-wide digital twins of the built environment by creating or strengthening related capabilities and cross-departmental functions.

  • Improve knowledge-sharing about digital approaches to infrastructure planning, delivery and operations and promote more consistent approaches between jurisdictions by establishing a national digital infrastructure network.


So let's take stock.


We have the most aggressive and ambitious infrastructure reform laid down, seeking fundamental changes in the way we plan, design, deliver and manage infrastructure.


And for Infrastructure Australia, don't forget that infrastructure is seen as something well beyond roads and bridges, and more an opportunity to unlock the potential of every place.


So, it's early days and this digital by default narrative is new for some. And it's not going away.


Just a month ago (March 2022) Infrastructure Australia released a follow-up document titled "Delivering Outcomes: A roadmap to improve infrastructure industry productivity and innovation". And in it, seven focus areas of reform, underpinned by 30 best practice principles.


And you guessed it, one fo the seven reform areas - 'Digital' (Digital transformation will drive productivity and innovation in infrastructure delivery).


You can read the full document here, but let's just say the 16 recommendations for digital transformation are both exciting, and a huge mountain to climb.


But, the climb has started, and the marker placed in the ground of a future state that embraces digital and data as a major transformative tool for a more sustainable and productive infrastructure sector. And by default, a more productive planning sector, place making sector, transportation sector and so on.


I am sure there will be more to come on Australia's digital by default infrastructure make-over post the May 21 federal election.


You can listen to the Urbanism.Live podcast via our website here, on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

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