Infrastructure NSW strategy talks up cloud, telework, e-ticketing

Infrastructure NSW' 2032 strategy has indicated that teleworking, e-ticketing, and digital classrooms will play a large role in the future of the state.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The 20-year strategy for New South Wales, released today by Infrastructure NSW, stated that IT infrastructure and a "digital precinct" in Sydney will be key to improving productivity in the state by 2032.

The report (PDF) has been over a year in development by Infrastructure NSW under the guidance of former AAPT CEO Paul Broad. The report makes a number of recommendations to the NSW government for short- and long-term plans to improve roads, transport, schools, and hospitals, as well as planning for the growth in the population of the state over the next 20 years.

While the big recommendations all relate to extending rail lines, bus corridors, and light-rail transport systems, much of the report stated that improvements must be underpinned by the use of IT infrastructure. But it took a cautious approach in making recommendations for what technology should be used.

"It is hard to predict how these new and emerging technologies (and reactions to them) will change infrastructure demand," Infrastructure NSW stated. "Therefore the strategy has prioritised those 'no-regret' options that will be required in all likely demand scenarios. The strategy takes an incremental approach, and prefers the high-value, small projects over mega projects which would be exposed to higher technology risks."

The rise of cloud computing and workers choosing to stay out of the office will become more prevalent in the future, the report said, but this wouldn't mean that people would be working from home. The report stated that people would still need an "office" of some sort, even if it isn't in a CBD location.

"An enduring human need is for connection and collaboration. Workers still need an 'office', but less and less of the sort that has been used for the last 50 years or more. This is likely to lead to a different mix of cleverly designed places and spaces, where people, workers, and citizens can congregate and connect for all sorts of work-related reasons."

Infrastructure NSW said that it would be important for the state government to look at the design of towns and suburbs and the facilities that they contain, in order to experiment with new types of offices and collaborative work environments.

"Enabling these innovation hubs requires a planning system that supports flexible development and transport infrastructure that accommodates new journey patterns."

This would also increase employment opportunities for people in regional areas, the report stated, with around 10 percent of people in Bowral and Moss Vale already teleworking.

On the issue of transport, the report stated that fares for trains in New South Wales are much lower than the international standard, and that one such way to recoup the cost for improving services and to push people outside of the peak hours of transport would be to use the new electronic ticketing system Opal.

"The introduction of the Opal card provides the technology to allow a tailored pricing scheme to be introduced in the CBD."

Customers arriving in the Sydney CBD between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. would be charged 25 percent more, and this would ultimately reduce peak-hour demand by 10 percent, according to the report. Customers who regularly travel outside of the peak hours could be given "bonuses" on their Opal card as a reward.

The report stated that current school standards for design were developed in the 1970s, and do not reflect how technology currently drives the way students are now taught. Infrastructure NSW said that a new classroom design should be developed "as an urgent priority" with a focus on the use of technology. The Department of Education and Communities is already working on a case study with 13 schools on how to modernise classroom design, according to the report.

Technology will also be a cost saver for justice, according to the report, with the use of video conferencing for witnesses giving testimony, and conferences from any location across the state reducing the need for the total number of purpose-built government buildings for those activities.

As the report focused only on NSW, it did not mention the largest national infrastructure project currently underway: the federal government's AU$37.4 billion National Broadband Network.

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