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The NIC: planning for digital innovation

30 · OCT ·2015

The Government announced the formation of its new independent National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) on 5th October. The commission will analyse the infrastructure needs of the UK, examining how the needs have changed every five years, and projecting future changings for the following 30 years. Lord Adonis, who will lead the commission, said: “Major infrastructure projects like Crossrail and major new power stations span governments and parliaments. I hope it will be possible to forge a wide measure of agreement, across society and politics, on key infrastructure requirements for the next 20 to 30 years and the assessments which have underpinned them.” But the commission won’t just look at construction projects and transport links: “The NIC will provide an assessment of the UK’s infrastructure needs every 5 years, looking 30 years ahead and examining the evidence across all key sectors of economic infrastructure – including energy, roads, rail transport, ports and airports, water supply, waste, flood defences, digital and broadband. As part of this work it will consider how investment in these sectors can support housing development.” The UK is currently playing catch-up when it comes to the deployment of high-speed broadband. Society and workplace norms have changed. Millions of people around the UK work virtually – in fact the CIPD predicts that remote working will be commonplace by 2030. The Government is aiming for 95% of the country to have superfast broadband coverage by 2017, but earlier this year half the local councils surveyed did not believe that the Government would meet that target.

Plan for innovation

Technological innovations develop at a rapid pace, and they don’t slow down for elections or shifting spending priorities. Businesses need to keep up with new technologies and more efficient ways of working, but they can’t do this if the basic infrastructure isn’t there to support them.

The NIC will, hopefully, be able to consult with experts, gaining insight into what the technological necessities of the future will be and what kind of demands these will place on the national infrastructure. Ideally, the commission will be able to shepherd infrastructure development so that it stays ahead of requirements (or at least, can cope with the demands placed on it). With the CBI calling for more digital infrastructure investment, it’s clear that businesses remain concerned that the current levels of connectivity, and broadband speed, acts as more of a stumbling block to running an efficient business, rather than a support. The NIC needs to ensure that UK businesses are supported in their future digital needs, or the UK economy will continue to suffer the consequences.
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Posted by Sanita Karra