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Last edited 01 Feb 2021
Data and infrastructure productivity
How can the infrastructure sector capitalise on the data opportunity? Ahead of the ICE Shaping a Digital World event on 25 September 2018, ICE held a joint roundtable with construction sector advisors Invennt to explore the actions required.
Digital transformation offers vast opportunities to improve the way we deliver and manage infrastructure. It strikes at the heart of our profession’s remit – to support society, transform lives and improve communities.
To realise this potential, we must take steps to better value data and recognise infrastructure as an information-based industry. We must drive collaboration and open data sharing, and redefine value as a long-term outcome, and not an immediate financial gain.
A decade ago, TfL took the approach to release all non-personal data about its services in an open format, enabling partners and developers to build applications and widen the reach of TfL information channels.
Commuters and commercial road users are better informed about journey options and delays. Congestion and overcrowding have reduced, overall network efficiency has improved and economic benefit has been estimated as £130m per year.
By foregoing the sense of value meaning immediate financial gain, and challenging the traditional mindset of 'we’ve always done it this way', the TfL approach demonstrates the true value of data towards delivering vastly improved outcomes for service users.
However, this level of open data sharing has not been the norm across industry. Sharing of ideas and information clearly offers benefit, and helps break down activity silos encouraged by failing business models and traditional project-led approaches.
So why do we see a reluctance to share information, even within single organisations? Because information is power. Unless the competitive nature of the construction industry shifts to a more collaborative approach, with a holistic view in mind, sharing information will remain a challenge.
This will shift information sharing strategies and better translate available data into useable knowledge, improving the quality of infrastructure services with quantifiable benefits to consumers, society and the economy.
With the scale of available data rapidly growing and technology developing faster than organisations can keep up with, focus needs to shift from simply gathering data to highly focused data collection and analysis.
Like any other valuable asset, data requires investment, management and maintenance in order to deliver long term benefit. But are we too focused on capture rather than maximising the value of existing data?
Frustration is widespread in a large fragmented sector like construction, where clients traditionally see value as lowest cost, whereas further down the supply chain, value is seen as profit. These two concepts of value are incompatible.
 Perhaps industry isn’t ready for collaboration…
As an industry, we appear to be waiting for some form of regulation to force collaboration. With the volume of recommendations made to government around digital transformation, and the number of subsequent government reports in the last twelve months, where is the leadership that will drive change from the top?
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Articles by ICE on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Digital transformation - engineers need to keep pace.
- How to utilise technology in construction projects.
- Future skills for civil engineers.
- State of the nation: Digital transformation.
- The impact of digital on civil engineering.
- Virtual reality and big data disrupting digital construction.
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