29 September 2020

How Will Data Make An Impact On The Future Of Infrastructure?

Written by Melissa Zanocco, Head of Programmes, Infrastructure Client Group and the Digital Transformation Task Group
29 September 2020

The Global Infrastructure Hub, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, hosted a webinar on Infrastructure Futures. This was based on the findings from our recent report on this topic and a snapshot of four key infrastructure trends that will shape our future.

During this webinar, Melissa Zanocco, Head of Programmes for the Infrastructure Client Group and the Digital Transformation Task Group in the UK, provided her perspectives on the challenges and solutions for leveraging the value of data and enabling digital transformation. You can view Melissa’s original webinar presentation here (6:20min).

Following the webinar, we caught up with Melissa to delve deeper into the topic of data and digital transformation.  

You can view other blogs in our Infrastructure Futures series in the links above. 

GI Hub: You mentioned on the webinar that data, algorithms and digital twins are assets, and therefore data should be considered as infrastructure. Can you expand further on this concept of ‘data as infrastructure’?

Melissa: The Open Data Institute defines ‘data infrastructure’ as datasets, that can be effectively and practically collected, maintained and used by organisations and people – much like that of physical infrastructure. This requires an enabling environment consisting of the right technology, training, processes, policies and regulation. If you consider a road network for example, people know how to use it and we can easily see the value that it brings. There is actually a lot of data underpinning the effective delivery of that road network, but the usage and value derived from that data infrastructure is currently less obvious and this is what we are wanting to change.

GI Hub: Can you provide us with an example where data infrastructure has been valued?

The UK’s Highways England has done a data valuation exercise to estimate the value of their data in monetary terms based on the value outcomes created for some of their key stakeholders. One of their conclusions was that they could achieve efficiency gains of up to 20% by using their data better and, in some instances, could get a better ratio of return by investing in data rather than the equivalent investment in physical infrastructure.

We need to recognise that these ‘Digital Assets’ add value and therefore manage them appropriately.

GI Hub: What implications will data infrastructure have on business models and infrastructure delivery in the future?

Melissa: The current transactional model we use to deliver and operate much of our infrastructure is broken due to an emphasis on cost-based competition, turnover and cash, rather than generating sustainable returns that can be invested back into the system. The Project 13 Principles developed by the Infrastructure Client Group (ICG) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) advocate a move from a transactional model to a collaborative enterprise model, bringing together the right capabilities and technologies to deliver high performing infrastructure. Digital transformation is one of the Pillars of the Project 13 framework, and it is enabled by the enterprise model which allows data to flow freely between organisations in the ecosystem rather than in the current siloed, adversarial supply chain model. The Capable Owner procures the capability required to achieve its outcome, rather than scope, and this will include digital capability, to ensure it has the partners with the requisite digital skills to achieve the data infrastructure requirements alongside the physical ones.

GI Hub: What have you found to be the biggest enablers in achieving this vision for digital transformation across the UK infrastructure sector?

Melissa: Leadership, built by consensus, at both the national level and the organisational level is a critical success factor for Project 13 and indeed digital transformation across the industry. Leaders need to know that digital transformation is not only about technology, which is just an enabler, and they need to be committed to achieving outcomes which take into account the whole life of an asset and what has already been built. Taking a people-focused systems-based approach to the design and delivery of physical and digital assets is also a turning point in the journey.

GIH: What’s next on the agenda for Project 13?

Melissa: The ICG will be launching the interactive Project 13 Network platform in the coming months which is at the heart of the UK Construction Leadership Council Recovery Plan for Infrastructure. Project 13 has moved from being a UK initiative to being a global industry change movement (with formal and informal adopters across the world) and we need a way for people to be able to engage with and be part of the direction of Project 13 wherever they are located. Project 13 is not something new, it is made up of best practice from across the industry brought together in one model. Leaders therefore need to be asking themselves if they can afford not to adopt best practice, rather than worrying they are taking a risk on something new. The Project 13 Network platform will therefore ensure that Project 13 remains at the cutting edge by continuing to harvest the best practice from across the globe. You can sign up to the Project 13 Community to receive notification when the Project 13 Network is launched here: http://www.p13.org.uk/contact/

About the ICG

The Infrastructure Client Group brings together the UK’s most progressive economic infrastructure clients in partnership with government and industry to drive improvement in the development and delivery of the UK’s economic infrastructure for the benefit of end users – society. The work programme of the ICG focuses on initiatives where clients can have the biggest impact: delivery models (Project 13), digital transformation, zero carbon and people development.

If you want to know more about the ICG and Project 13, please get in touch with Melissa Zanocco at Melissa.zanocco@ice.org.uk

About the GI Hub

Contact

If you want to know more about the Global Infrastructure Hub and our Infrastructure Futures work, please get in touch with Monica Bennett at monica.bennett@gihub.org.

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