Many of today’s most fundamental challenges — urbanization, globalization, pollution, water shortages and climate change — can be tackled with smart infrastructure developments such as connected cars, electric vehicles, smart power grids, energy-efficient buildings, Internet of Things (IoT) networks and open data portals.
Governments are facing strong pressure to build and upgrade infrastructure, particularly in urban centers where expanding populations are putting increasing pressure on aging facilities. Many emerging countries need new infrastructure to support their growing populations and increased economic activity, while mature markets must renew deteriorating or inefficient infrastructure. However, the years of underinvestment in infrastructure is now catching up with countries around the world. Estimates show that nearly US$100 trillion globally needs to be spent on infrastructure in the next 20 years.
Smart infrastructure offers a way to harness the latest technologies to obtain maximum value and efficiency and create resilience and sustainability. It applies digital technology – such as smart devices, sensors and software – to physical structures, from power plants to bridges. These intelligent devices enable more efficient and effective monitoring and control of energy and water systems, transportation networks, human services, and public safety operations – all core government functions.
Governments must also pursue policies to encourage a thriving digital economy. This involves working with private businesses to provide enhanced 4G and forthcoming 5G networks, and data centers; create high digital literacy among citizens; promote digital inclusion; and enable secure access to services, through digital identification systems.
The public sector cannot fund every infrastructure project itself; it must find innovative ways of working with other investors.