Farai Mwashita, mechanical engineer at Arup, and vice chair of ACE Emerging Professionals London and South-East, shares her views on the panel discussion around technology’s failures in infrastructure and construction.
Expertly chaired by Teddy Chadd of Amey, the webinar took place on 20 January 2021 and featured Yuvray Domun, data scientist at Amey Consulting, Gary Raccuja, principal product owner at Highways England, Emily Scoones, computation designer at Ramboll and Dr Eime Tobari, founder of Cocreatif.
Gary Raccuja and Yuvraj Domun jointly presented their experiences on data science projects with a strong focus on how data science and artificial intelligence (AI) could transform the industry.
In their experience, finding the right, engaged stakeholders is essential to the successful development and deployment of technology in the industry. Yuvraj also debated the importance of unlocking and utilising the data that is already readily available within organisations, rather than focussing time and effort on finding the next big data set. By using the data value chain approach, companies can extract knowledge to build better systems and make the sound decisions required to automate services.
Gary and Yuvraj argued that the perceived “high risk of failure” is detrimental to the adaption of technology. The future of digital transformation in the industry requires companies and organisations to diversify their teams, have clear business objectives and digital vision, embrace change, and invest in innovation.
Emily Scoones’ presentation centred around technology adoption and how engineers respond to it. There are numerous technologies which could be used in the infrastructure sector, however very few are widely used by all, with BIM being the notable exception.
Emily argued that technology developers are not collaborating with stakeholders and in doing so not putting clients at the centre of the solution. By adopting an inclusive design approach, the developers will in turn produce tools tailored to client needs and requirements which are useful for a wide range of products.
Furthermore, Emily emphasised the importance of transparency when discussing investment costs and time with clients, which are the fundamental factors in innovation. She concluded by arguing that client needs and a change of mindsets by consultants around project delivery will help bridge the gap in technology adoption.
Dr Eime Tobari (Cocreatif) shared her experiences in data analytics to wrap up the discussion. Eime shared how she felt that while senior managers and board members may express an interest in using digital tools, this rarely translates into real-life use. She also argued that the drive for perfection by engineers is a hindrance to adopting new and innovative technology.
The Q&A session that followed covered a range of topics including, how speak with clients and stakeholders around failure, the risks of not investing in technology and innovation, and how clients can quantify the value added through use of new tools.
I believe that the way forward is clear; the risk of not investing in the future is far greater than investing. It is imperative that both clients and consultants see value in the outputs and outcome, and worry less about issues such as innovation rights. Ownership and intellectual property rights create a legal barrier in the use technology and data sharing and open sourcing will bridge the gap allowing for better accessibility, redistribution, and reusability of information. The industry can embrace technology and its challenges by applying a vigorous risk versus reward approach, upskilling and accepting the associated costs.