The Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought various technological developments which have completely altered the way we live. However, if there is one sector which remains to be a laggard when it comes to growth, it is infrastructure. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterised as the fusion of technologies that blurs the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

How can the Fourth Industrial Revolution be brought down to infrastructure? The World Economic Forum (WEF) explored this matter in their community paper, Transforming Infrastructure: Frameworks for Bringing the Fourth Industrial Revolution to Infrastructure.

In their paper, they answered this by addressing four smaller questions. Let’s go through each of them.

How can technological disruption in the white space of infrastructure be encouraged?

One of the reasons why infrastructure has lagged behind in development is because its service is valued for its continuity, stability, and dependability. All these factors are of course ideal but attaining them means that infrastructure cannot just change as rapidly as technology.

To encourage technological disruption, new technologies must be taken into account as early as in the planning stage — identifying access points where new technologies can be integrated into the future, making infrastructure future-ready, so to speak.

How does the public sector drive innovation in technology by creating frameworks that encourage exchange while protecting intellectual property?

By making data as open as possible, the development of new technologies can be encouraged. In conjunction, idea protection policies are also imperative in order to allow the formation of sustainable business models as well as to further encourage innovation.

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These two in conjunction demand improved methods of collaboration amongst all stakeholders. The public sector plays a key role in the materialization of these necessary conditions.

How can data and analytics help to prioritize and optimize infrastructure decision-making?

By leveraging data across all the stages of infrastructure development, the value of infrastructure will increase — it will improve the system design quality and also contribute to the current efforts to make infrastructure sustainable. Data analytics will also help a huge deal in making important decisions regarding infrastructure.

How can viable commercial models be created via catalytic policy and regulatory frameworks? 

By modernizing policy and regulatory frameworks, we are shaping a society which is a conducive environment for infrastructural innovations to flourish. This can be accomplished by creating appropriate public-private sector partnerships in order to develop policies that are effective and fully informed. Only by setting up such an open, multi-stakeholder environment can we attain viable commercial models that also take into account the protection of the public.

The future ahead

We can see that in the midst of all the developments we are experiencing in this Revolution, we can only fully maximize the benefits reaped by infrastructure through a strengthened collaboration backed up with a robust and inclusive policy. This is true not only for the infrastructure — this is equally true across all the other sectors of the society.

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