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Infrastructure Australia’s 2021 Plan: Building a resilient nation enabled by digital and data

Submitted by Adam Beck on September 2, 2021

Today, Infrastructure Australia releases the 2021 Infrastructure Plan, which highlights the envisioned pathway to Infrastructure Resilience as well as the 2021 Reform Priority List.

The plan calls for a new wave of reform to leverage the full economic benefits of stimulus spending and take advantage of emerging opportunities across infrastructure to support the next phase of national COVID-19 recovery.

To ensure a solid foundation and broad support, the plan was developed in close collaboration with governments, industry and communities following a comprehensive engagement program targeting over 6,500 community members and industry stakeholders across Australia.

Given the inclusion of key themes such as the harnessing of technology and innovation in infrastructure to drive new industries and unlock the potential of every place, as well as the use of data to change the way infrastructure is delivered to Australia, Smart Cities Council Australia New Zealand’s (SCCANZ) Executive Director Adam Beck was invited to be a part of the industry group advisory and help shape the sections relating to both industry, as well as telecommunications and digital.

“As Australia’s peak body for smart cities we aim to not only ensure that technology and data are used to accelerate liveability, workability, and sustainability of our cities and towns, but work collectively with our public and private sector members to promote intelligent design that includes all areas of placemaking and beyond. Contribution to the 2021 plan was vital for us, and we look forward to seeing it be put into action,” said Beck. 

In the industry section, the reform highlights the need for reduced investment volatility to create a more efficient, cost-effective, sustainable and attractive market, alongside the need to adopt portfolio planning and management best practices to increase stability within the sector. A move from project-based to system-based approaches key in the delivery of equitable employment and procurement, particularly in regard to gender diversity.

Following catastrophic recent events, the Telecommunications and Digital section calls for government and industry to collaboratively identify and mitigate reliability risks through investment in a resilience and recovery roadmap that improves governance frameworks for coverage in high-risk areas, along evacuation routes. The plan also looks to continue the prioritisation of community safety to deliver social benefits through improved health outcomes.

“Digital connectivity is a vital enabler for better performing cities, and the added pressures of times like COVID and Australia’s very common natural disasters reinforce the need for technology and data investment that strengthens community resilience and ensures the quickest, best decisions in a time of crisis,” said Beck.

The 2021 Infrastructure plan responds to the 180 infrastructure challenges and opportunities highlighted in the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit, as well as the Infrastructure Beyond COVID-19 report.

“Building back better requires collective action from governments and industry, which combines both investment and reform,” said Infrastructure Australia Chief Executive Romilly Madew. “We have seen significant investment in the infrastructure sector since the start of the pandemic, but to drive the next phase of the national recovery, we need to pursue reforms that unlock the full benefits of stimulus spending.”

The 2021 Plan includes Waste and Social Infrastructure for the first time, alongside Energy, Transport, Telecommunications, and Water. It also focuses on three cross-cutting key themes Place (Cities, Regions, Rural and Remote Areas, and Northern Australia), Sustainability and Resilience, and the infrastructure Industry.

Key opportunities of the 2021 Plan include:

  • Supporting growth outside our largest cities, in regional centres, and northern Australia
  • Investing in transformative technology to deliver affordable and sustainable infrastructure services
  • Promoting changes to the behaviour around infrastructure use, empowering Australians to make sustainable choices
  • Greater transparency and coordination of the project pipeline and reforms to improve industry productivity
  • More collaborative models of infrastructure delivery to support productivity and innovation.

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