Digital Transformation for achieving Sustainable Development Goals
‘Digital Transformation for achieving Sustainable Development Goals’
as written by Tonkin+Taylor own Digital Transformation Director, Rekha Kharbanda.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developed by United Nations member states for sustainable development by 2030, is a call to action to improve the quality of life for humankind and to create a sustainable planet for future generations.
Infrastructure is the fabric that helps create an environment for building societies in both developing and developed countries. Digital transformation will help pave the way for the successful delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, providing a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all and assist in faciliating the delivery of sustainable infrastructure projects.
Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. It helps organisations embrace advancements in technology to build resilience and growth for the benefit of human society.
Today our world is being disrupted by technological advancements which are taking place with increasing frequency, with many businesses struggling to keep up with the momentum. To take full advantage of these advancements in technology, our delivery methodologies should be agile and supported by dynamic business models, operations, support services and agile mindsets.
In the past few decades, a fourth industrial revolution has emerged, known as ‘Industry 4.0’.
Industry 4.0 takes the emphasis on digital technology from recent decades to a whole new level with the help of interconnectivity through the Internet of Things (IoT), access to real-time data, and the introduction of a digital built environment.
Industry 4.0 offers a more comprehensive, interlinked, and holistic approach to how we connect across industries, including the infrastructure sector. It connects physical with digital, and allows for better collaboration and access across departments, partners, vendors, products, and people including:
- Digital infrastructure (such as digital twins - digital replicas of physical assets both horizontal and vertical),
- Digital engineering across the project lifecycle from feasibility to handover of assets
- Using spatial tools for planning
- Digital asset management
- Integrated delivery of projects focused on decarbonisation, and achieving environmental and social outcomes
- Leveraging instant data to boost productivity, improve processes, drive growth and foster innovation
Industry 4.0 can be thought of as ‘the Information Society’, and it is empowering us to become more agile, nimble and responsive to the dynamic and unpredictable world with ease and confidence. It is making our organisations, cities, and people, ready to collaborate more easily with the aim of achieving common goals - like the sustainability of infrastructure, responding to pandemics like COVID, and dealing with climate emergencies.
ISCA stands to benefit from the digital transformation by encouraging industry to embrace these technology developments in large infrastructure projects. There is also an opportunity to gamify this process and use technology for embedding ISCA’s supporting tools and processes to accelerate the journey towards Net Zero carbon and achieving genuine sustainable outcomes.
The Fifth industrial revolution or ‘Industry 5.0’ is the formation of a creative society that thrives alongside mature responsive governance and an agile policy framework.
This human-first transformation will put humanity at the heart of everything. It is a society where man and machine will come together to build a sustainable future. We will see cognitive machines and autonomous systems managing infrastructure assets to meet sustainable outcomes and self-healing in the next five years.
Currently, it is difficult to know the condition of our assets, e.g. challenges of monitoring assets in real time, predictive maintenance of assets etc. Industry 4.0 will gear us towards that future, but Industry 5.0 will make it real, in that the asset will begin to adjust and adapt dynamically around its conditions. It would not be just ‘bricks and mortar’, but rather the start of a thinking cognitive machine which will self-heal and keep infrastructure owners/operators informed on its status. This transformation will allow the assets to contribute to our society and become inherently more sustainable, contributing towards coordinated and bigger picture environmental and social outcomes.
The world will move from a “for-profit” to a “for-benefit” operating model. Collectively, we will live in a society where information is readily available for decision-making and we will solve pressing sustainability challenges via cross-collaboration across an ecosystem of sectors.
The challenges are clear, but so too are the opportunities. The world needs the Fifth Industrial Revolution to flower like a new Renaissance Age. It will be marked by creativity and common purpose, as we will together work to bend progress and profits toward purpose and inclusivity.
Technological advancements are happening rapidly. Blockchain, AI, machine learning, robotics and IoT were not mainstream solutions a few years ago, but they are now mature enough to be used in our projects for productivity and convenience and, in some instances, are already helping achieve sustainable outcomes.
No one can predict the technology available in Industry 6.0 or the Sixth Industrial Revolution which will enable us to achieve integrated sustainable outcomes. The crystal ball gazing that we can do right now is to lay the foundation to prepare ourselves to embrace the exponential opportunities and attempt to predict the principles of the next technology wave in readiness for their arrival and application.
The Sixth Industrial Revolution will pave a way for a dynamic personalised world which will work for the collective good of everyone. We will be living in harmony with nature, building a homogenous society focused on co-existence and sustainability. Technology will be the way of life, enabling a dynamic and fluid world where we can leverage the exponential economies of learning for a truly equitable and sustainable world.
ISCA is well-placed to facilitate the challenges of the digital transformation in the infrastructure space and can play a pivotal role in ensuring the uptake of key developments, with the aim of delivering truly sustainable infrastructure and achieving the intent set out by the UN SDGs.
ISCA practitioners and members need to start having those conversations around digital transformation now - it is about sharing ideas and being ready for those changes when they arrive!