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Infrastructure Commission wants digital strategy

Earlier this month Te Waihanga, New Zealand’s infrastructure commission, tabled its first Infrastructure Strategy: Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa.

Te Waihanga describes its document as a road map for a thriving New Zealand.

The document pins down the most pressing issues facing the nation and looks at what is needed to fix them.

Risks to infrastructure

Among other items it warns there is existing infrastructure at risk from rising sea levels and a need to increase electricity generation to meet net zero carbon goals.

Te Waihanga notes that technology can do much to improve the nations infrastructure. It says; “We need to accelerate the adoption and diffusion of technological and digital change.”

It helps that most of the technology needed to transform infrastructure is in place. The strategy document says there is little need for high-risk, cutting edge technology. There would be huge benefits from speeding up the adoption of existing technology.

The strategy says: “New Zealand is well-placed to leverage many of the advances in digital technology that have occurred in the past decade.”

High quality broadband network

“We’ve built a high-quality broadband network and have coverage that, while not universal, is widespread.

“Strong market competition in sectors such as energy and telecommunications has proven important in incentivising pockets of technological excellence.

“New Zealand is small and agile with a rich history of adopting new digital technologies with speed, dating back as far as 1985, when New Zealand was one of the first countries to adopt a national system of electronic fund transfers (known as Eftpos)”

Consultation

Te Waihanga consulted the public and interest groups before publishing its strategy.

The feedback on the role of technology suggests that the infrastructure industry has invested less than it might have done in digital technology because there was little pressure from its customers. The industry’s main customer is government.

Submitters told Te Waihanga there is a need for a national digital strategy and more leadership in this area from central government. The government is working on a strategy.

Incentives

The issue is not the lack of technology, but the speed of technology adoption. Te Waihanga wants to see this move faster and suggests there should be incentives for industry to adopt new technologies.

A key part of this is developing people’s skills and moving to an open system of infrastructure data. Standardisation and common data frameworks can also help.

Te Waihanga wants procurement to move from chasing the lowest cost towards seeking the highest value. It also wants government procurement to motivate more technology take-up.

There are legal and regulatory questions, especially in areas like privacy. And a focus on security is essential.

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