Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : Volume 8 Number 1 Contents futurebuilding 61
Technology, transport and reform
the last couple of years on how to go about disruption. As a
Government department, we keep saying yes until we have to
say no, and if we have to say no, then we look at the law and
regulation, and where there’s an end point and where there’s
a start point. We’re happy to let anyone walk through the door
and give us their view on life. Sometimes that will frustrate us or
them, and sometimes it won’t. But at the end of the day, you’re
teaching us, and we’re teaching you about government and
private sector interaction, and the key is always partnership.
From a government agency setting, we just need to be
ready. We need to be nimble, agile and all those types of things
for the next challenges that will come along.
We’re getting on the front foot. For example, we’re
disrupting the bus system with on-demand services. We’ll keep
doing that, since we’re the ones who talk about mobility as a
service. We think we’re a little bit ahead in our thinking, and
I’m sure everyone else will catch up and overtake us, because
we’re a government agency, but we are trying to get on the
front foot. Part of the reason is because we’ve got a Minister for
Transport and Infrastructure who is championing this so hard.
His expectations are probably two years ahead of where our
delivery capability is at the moment, but may it continue in terms
of him dragging us forward. We don’t need a lot of prompting,
but having that political champion is quite exceptional.
CS: Let’s jump into data. Not being a ‘tech head’ myself, I did
look up a few statistics on data. By 2020, it’s forecast that there
will be 40 zettabytes of data, which is equivalent to 43 trillion
gigabytes. Every month, 30 billion pieces of content are shared
on Facebook, and each month, more than four billion hours
of video are watched on YouTube. That’s quite extraordinary.
The velocity of this data is obviously increasing, thanks to
streamlined technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT). So,
my question is: big data often seems to lose its purpose in the
sheer scale of information available. Is it about big data, or is it
about good-quality information?
LT: It’s about putting smart data in, to get smart data out. It’s
a nicer phrase than garbage in, garbage out. The volume of data
around is mind-boggling, and it’s an opportunity for industry at
this point in time. We now have the technological capability to
make sense of that data – parts of it might be technical, but we
can select what is valuable.
With consumer design at the centre, we can make sure
that we’re pulling the right data together at the right time for
the desired outcome. I ponder this every day as I drive into
work because I commute over a fairly busy road, and I dream
of what’s possible. I sit there every day, watching myself and
my fellow drivers as individuals trying to beat the system with
imperfect knowledge, and imperfect data. We don’t know what’s
around the bend or whether there’s a congestion point further
along. We’re all thinking, ‘If I swap lanes, if I go this way, if I
go that way,’ which shows that it’s just not possible for one
individual, or one small piece of data, to optimise the system.
The possibility with data, as we look forward, is the fact
that we now have the computer capability and the technical
capability to develop the right algorithms, the right sequences,
the right machine learning and predictive analytics. I don’t have
to worry about whether I should be in this lane or that lane, or
going faster or slower, because I will be given a service and the
pressure of making the right choice will go away, because we’re
using data more effectively. That’s what binds all of us together
– that vision on the hill.
CS: Tim, you have one of the biggest databases going
TR: Yes, and many of them. To your point about zettabytes,
we should just know how to take them along slowly. Our
operational technology manages smart motorways, the Sydney
Coordinated Adaptive Traffic (SCAT) system, the TNS, new rail-
signal systems, automatic train systems and more, all of which
are needed, and all of which need to be upgraded, which is
a big job for us. Someone has to build the data so that we’re
ready for the next 10 to 20 years.
We’ve just organised ourselves an Open Data Hub so that
large swathes of our databases are available. There are now
about 3,600 registered users utilising our data for all manner
of things. The key now is to get a little bit more sophisticated in
the datasets that people need. Some people use our data very
effectively, and very quickly, but at the end of the day, it’s all
about what’s best for the customer. That should flow into what
datasets are needed. We’ve got a massive job to produce all
that data, and keeping them updated is a big job.
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