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Turbocharging an infrastructure renaissance through digital

iStock / Getty Images Plus / NatalyaBurova

Julian David

CEO, techUK

In the wake of the hardship caused by the pandemic, HM Treasury recently published a landmark National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS), setting out a plan to deliver an infrastructure revolution and build back faster, fairer, and greener.

Infrastructure provides the backbone of our national economy, and the Government’s plans for an infrastructure renaissance can support decarbonisation, trigger economic recovery and reduce social inequalities for generations to come.

With an eye on the future, the role that digital technologies can play in driving the implementation of this Strategy should not be underestimated. Forging strong connections between the UK’s technology sector and those in charge of delivering transformational infrastructure upgrades will help to ensure that major investments translate into human-centred, inclusive and resilient growth.

Decarbonisation through digital technologies

As the UK looks to downscale and close carbon-intensive industries and repair the damage they have caused to our environment, digital technologies can play a vital role in smoothing the path to decarbonisation.

This is a mission-critical area of focus for techUK and our members who recognise the need to highlight practical steps, expose trade-offs and drive public awareness of climate-related factors and we are keen to hear more from organisations that wish to join us on this mission.

For instance, we recently collaborated with Costain to build the case for a digital twin of the UK’s natural environment, looking to international exemplars such as the European Commission’s Destination Earth (DestinE) initiative for inspiration.

Digital technologies can play a vital role in smoothing the path to decarbonisation.

Reducing social inequalities

Through empowering locally contextualised decision-making, digital technologies can also drive reductions in social inequalities, helping citizens and public decision-makers to deliver better outcomes for people up and down the UK.

During the pandemic, for instance, one of our members, Iotics, developed a proof of concept digital twin to provide first responders and staff across the UK’s hospitals and healthcare infrastructure, with a line of sight into the real-time availability of critical care beds, allowing for the optimisation of scarce resources.

Looking to the future, digital technologies should be viewed as an essential enabler of citizen engagement, public consultation, and, ultimately, as a means of improving access to local public services and of reducing social inequalities.

With this critical role in mind, the NIS undoubtedly represents a crucial enabler of progress for our people, economy, society and planet. But if it is to yield truly transformative benefits, then digital technologies should be at the heart of the Government’s approach.

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