NICTA calls for smarter infrastructure

Research organisation urges Productivity Commission to recommend ICT be integrated into public infrastructure investment process

National ICT Australia — NICTA — is pushing for the Productivity Commission to recommend greater use of what the research organisation dubs 'smart ICT' to enable better decisions in the planning, construction and operation of public infrastructure.

'Smart ICT' is the research organisation's umbrella term that covers data analytics, advanced modelling systems, networked sensors, integration of systems with mobile devices and the use of social media and crowd-sourcing to gather data.

"Smart ICT will enable better, more insightful consideration of the issues and decision-making at the planning stage, minimise risk and uncertainty during the build phase and provide higher operational efficiencies throughout the life of the asset," states a NICTA submission to the Productivity Commission's current inquiry on public infrastructure.

"As computational power and algorithmic complexity grows, these techniques and tools will provide even greater ability to reduce cost and improve productivity."

The Productivity Commission issued a two-volume draft report in March. It is currently conducting public consultations before handing a final report to the federal government in late May.

NICTA pointed to a number of the findings outlined in the draft report, including inadequate project selection leading to poor value for money and problems with the provision of "wasteful infrastructure".

"Data problems beset the detailed analysis of the costs and productivity of public infrastructure construction, and of the effects of various policies," volume one of the Productivity Commission's draft report states.

"A coordinated and coherent data collection process can address this and improve future project selection decisions."

NICTA argues that new infrastructure should be designed with the use of ICT-enabled analytics in mind by integrating networked sensors that can be used as the basis for data-driven decision making.

'Smart ICT' can be used to make better decisions about the impact of construction and the efficient operation of infrastructure.

"It is proposed that the Commission recommends that the use of Smart ICT be integrated into all aspects of the public infrastructure investment process: planning, design, development and operations," the submission concludes.

"Infrastructure Australia evaluation criteria for projects should also include consideration of how Smart ICT can be used to optimise productivity in this process."

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