Major government infrastructure projects are worth billions, yet they are often impacted by delays, overspend, customer disruption and internal politics.
These issues, however, can be thwarted if decisions surrounding these projects are supported by data that is open, transparent, verifiable, and comparable. Access to open data can ultimately help unlock greater collaboration opportunities for future government infrastructure projects and result in more productive assets.
But look closely and often these potentially useful data sets can be unstructured, siloed, unsecure, unreliable, repetitive, managed through analogue processes or inaccessible by other government agencies. This can be the case as there is typically a focus of efforts on the physical assets and not the data, besides collating and using it to meet legal, reporting, procedural, and records keeping requirements.
When data is managed properly, it can deliver immense value to government agencies. Data can be used to support more informed decision-making, navigate the journey of resource allocation, improve the performance of existing infrastructure assets, and enable a step change in overall productivity and the delivery of future infrastructure projects. At the same time, it will ensure there is a timely handover of quality information to set operators up for success.
Neglecting to take advantage of valuable insights could negatively impact future efforts to adopt new technologies and the sector’s overall ability to procure, manage, exchange, and re-use data. Governments will also miss out on being able to strategically drive success of future high-value projects.
The responsibility for structured data collection and management cannot fall solely on a single entity, such as the government agency overseeing the infrastructure project. Rather, governments – across all levels – must collaborate collectively with industry and academia to understand the critical importance of valuing and managing data as an asset.
Developing and implementing a national data standard across all infrastructure assets will help foster a collaborative and unified approach to better data interoperability, as well as support the lifecycle of digital assets and digital twins for public infrastructure. The standard would also focus on uplifting data awareness, data literacy, data custodianship, data specification and data management.
Defining best practice for the Australian infrastructure sector on how to handle and organise data in the future will also eventually create a complete digital ecosystem, built on trusted and reliable data, that connects infrastructure agencies with their suppliers, stakeholders, and customers. It will also promote cross-agency cooperation, by actively supporting data sharing and digital collaboration, to re-invent how government agencies partner together to plan, deliver and operate public infrastructure.
The body of work of establishing a national data standard needs to be a led by a central government body, made up of members from all levels of government and other relevant stakeholders. This will require a concerted effort to identify opportunities to formalise the standards.
Without a national standard, the public infrastructure sector will continue to be challenged in data sharing, and eventually see Australia fall behind on a global scale. Working with relevant stakeholders and technology providers, such as SAP, to co-design and trial digital solutions, governments can directly address the challenge of current systems and support effective data management over the digital asset lifecycle.
Learn more in SAP’s Digital Transformation of Public Infrastructure whitepaper that you can download for free.