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After years of disjointed data and analytics approaches, this is the year that many governments will begin in ernest to put the use of their data at the center of driving meaningful change in the way infrastructure is planned, designed, delivered, operated and maintained.

Many governments and asset owners have been making good progress on developing their D&A capabilities over the past year. In some markets, we have seen significant improvements in the way data is being used to support public consultation, needs prediction, operational efficiency and strategic planning. We have also seen governments thinking much more broadly about their data sources.

In Lisbon, Portugal, for example, the city authority is collecting, integrating and sharing mobility data from a range of public and commercial platforms to help customers make better informed choices about their options for moving efficiently across the city.

Yet, outside of a few innovative leaders, progress has been painstakingly slow; particularly when compared to other industries and sectors. This year, however, we expect to see forward-looking governments take bigger leaps to innovate.

In part, this will be driven by improved human capital capabilities. Front-line staff and management will increasingly develop the skills and secure the experience they need in order to make the most of their data. New tools (particularly machine learning applications) will take some of the analytics ‘strain’ off of employees’ shoulders, thus allowing them to focus on more strategic activities. Execution skills will be developed and scaled up.

Greater access to richer sources of data should also drive significant progress this year. We expect to see many governments start to better define their legal and regulatory authority to collect non-operational data from their citizens. And we expect some to test the elasticity of their legal rights to collect and use customer data. Privacy concerns will rightly persist and, in a number of cases, grow.

As this trend progresses, expect governments to spend more time thinking about how they (and their technology vendors and data managers) secure, use and share data across the ecosystem. Also anticipate greater public debate about what exactly constitutes ‘ethical use’ of data in various jurisdictions (but don’t expect a universal answer to that problem).

When combined with the increased need for public consultation (noted in Trend 1, Society finds its voice), the need for greater focus on asset lifecycle management (noted in Trend 2, Putting infrastructure resilience and safety first), the shifting expectations and needs of consumers (noted in Trend 6, Planners and consumers align) and the rebalancing of global competition (noted in Trend 8, Infratech tilts the balance), it seems the shift towards greater D&A capabilities and consumer value will continue to be a massive and enabling trend. 

 

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