The 2016 Infrastructure Plan sets a challenge for all Australians to confront critical infrastructure priorities in order to ensure economic growth and well-being.
It sets several bold challenges for all stakeholders to consider, grouped under the following important categories:
• Productive cities, productive regions
• Efficient infrastructure markets
• Sustainable and equitable infrastructure
• Better decisions and better delivery
Challenges outlined include the impact of new technology, such as digital disruption, increasing user-pays systems to better manage and fund new infrastructure projects, focussing more on managing the impact of growth in our cities and how to effectively connect regions and cities.
A consistent theme appearing across the report remains similar to previous years – and that is, how are we going to pay for new infrastructure projects?
In a world where the scrutiny on government expenditure is becoming more intense, having confidence that taxpayer funds are being directed to the most appropriate projects is critical.
At Aurecon we are actively applying the contemporary process known as Design Led Thinking, and have a team dedicated to applying it on our projects. Design Led Thinking focuses first on the challenges the stakeholders are facing, clearly defining those needs before going on to focus on the projects needed, the possible design solutions, how the project is to be funded and so on. Because of the focus on user needs and the growing appreciation that innovative digital solutions are the best vehicle to address those needs, this process invariably results in innovative and smart technical solutions being brought to bear.
As it happens, Infrastructure Australia’s 2016 Plan does exactly that – the main report sets out key challenges, supplemented later by a list of priority projects, drawing out the need to provide innovative solutions.
Infrastructure Australia’s Plan focuses on individual projects – this is a practical reality with infrastructure plans of this sort. That said, our experience is that solutions are seldom solved with a single project and it is Aurecon’s longer term view that we should shift focus on broader scale, regional solutions that are both smart and integrate with community needs.
Some of these include:
• Driving greater efficiency through innovation, particularly digital solutions
• Making better use of networks through investment and technology
• Better understanding of demand drivers and data
• Providing passengers with tools to make best use of the transport network, again by using digital tools
• Efficiently connecting people and business to information
• Moving goods and services across the economy more efficiently
• Connecting regions and cities
If Infrastructure Australia’s report is approached from a Design Led Thinking perspective, then the possibilities are exciting and potentially endless. New technology that connects more data together, in particular, has great potential to make infrastructure smarter, more interactive, and hence more efficient and productive for users.
To implement the challenges identified by Infrastructure Australia, we need to adopt the same standards and expectations that we apply as private individuals for digital smart solutions. That is, faster and better access to services and products using digital tools such as smartphones.
Isn’t it time to align our expectations of personal connectivity with the need for some minimum changes in the way in which infrastructure helps us all to move, connect, and interact?