Infrastructure Australia wants industry input on future infrastructure planning

The agency is seeking solutions to help address potential challenges that Australia's infrastructure will face in the next 15 years and beyond.

Infrastructure Australia has urged for submissions to be made on its Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019, as part of its three-month long industry engagement program.

"We're at the beginning of our strategic planning process … so my pitch is for [industry] to engage with us, make a submission, and put forward your ideas. We're a small organisation and we're hoping, particularly with new cycle of strategic planning, to engage broadly to get ideas from [industry]," Infrastructure Australia associate director Anna Bardsley said, speaking at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Summit in Canberra on Tuesday.

Bardsley's call follows Infrastructure Australia's publication of its 2019 Audit last week that covered the major challenges and opportunities facing Australia's infrastructure over the next 15 years and beyond.

The audit examined several areas including telecommunications; industry efficiency, capacity, and capability; energy; and future trends that encompassed the role technology and data can play.

According to Bardsley, while the audit found that technology is "reshaping the world" when it comes infrastructure delivering new services such as Uber and electric vehicles, as well as rooftop solar technology, the benefits of technology are not equally shared among communities due to age, socioeconomic, and geographic locations.

She added technology is also presenting challenges around cybersecurity and data privacy.

See also: Network technologies are changing faster than we can manage them (TechRepublic)

The audit also found within the telecommunications sector that while substantial investment in new infrastructure as 5G and NBN is "integral in everyday life", it also poses potential issues around maintenance, Bardsley said.

Additionally, the lack of access to these newer infrastructures are creating a wider digital literacy gap among the elderly and those in regional Australia.

This year's audit paints a much more realistic picture compared to its 2016 audit when the 200-plus page report lauded the benefits of broadband but failed to state the obvious facts that the days of fibre to the node were limited.

"The delivery of the NBN is a transformational opportunity to enable all Australians to benefit from an increasingly digitised world," the report stated at the time.

Perhaps it has something to do with the new audit methodology that Infrastructure Australia has adopted, as revealed by Bardsley.

"Reflecting on what's happening currently in government, we've moved away from traditional approaches focused on direct economic contributions to be instead led by theme and megatrends," she said.

"This decision was informed by our decision to use a new field of research called strategic foresighting to move away from traditional approaches that are characterised by a predict and provide mentality to instead, use forecasting tools that provides a standard to under a fuller spectrum of potential events that might happen into the future.

"Our decision to adopt this methodology was based on our assessment that the current time we live in are defined by significant levels of change and as a result the traditional approach about thinking into the future is no longer sufficient to deal with those future changes." 

DisclosureAimee Chanthadavong travelled to AWS Public Sector Summit in Canberra as a guest of Amazon Web Services.  

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