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Digital infrastructure and technology: innovation and sustainability

  • Meeting in digital format
  • 3 March 2022

        What was already an ongoing digital revolution accelerated with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, foregrounding it as a concern. Indeed, people in their daily lives and businesses have been inundated with digital-driven processes that are often taken for granted and in need of proper governance. As with all changes, the digital revolution is capable of generating unity and inclusion but can also divide and exclude. In that sense, the two principle perspectives from which to examine it are culture and infrastructure.

        References today to the younger generations such as “millennials”, or “zoomers”, often also include the “digito ergo sum generation”; i.e. born digitals capable through the sole use of technological tools to create communities, work and buy and sell goods and services. The advent of this new mode of expressing relations, communicating and working however must also come to terms with broad, digitally illiterate segments of the population that risk being subject to change without having a role in it.

        A second and pivotal point when considering the good governance of the digital transition concerns the right investment in and careful planning of new support infrastructures, which are going to be instrumental in two highly important areas. The first is a telecommunications network that, with the arrival of 5G, will require the radical overhaul of antenna installations across the country. The second is data calculation and storage based on networks of IoT data generation devices, cloud calculation and storage systems and, most recently and more frequently, digital data notarization using blockchains and based on distributed trust and consent.

        Planning the renewal of separate infrastructures must be confronted cohesively; indeed, infrastructures often cannot be updated with the frequency typical of digital innovation. It therefore becomes fundamental to plan communications systems to support growing cloud computation loads, and to build cloud-based data management systems to handle the massive amounts of data being uploaded at an increasingly rapid rate. Infrastructure design also needs to be cohesive from the functional standpoint; smart cities’ energy production and dispatching, monitoring and communications systems must converge in a single smart solution capable of optimizing the quality of life of citizens while also minimizing waste.

        A final issue associated with digital infrastructure is sustainability. The green and digital revolutions are parallel, and they have proven their ability to progress together and at the same pace. By way of example: it is estimated that 40% of the water distributed in Italy is lost, and that the most concrete solution is to install digital monitoring systems capable of identifying leakage, quickly and precisely. Moreover, it has been calculated that the use of digital instruments by telecommuters can lead to lowering CO2 emissions by approximately 10%, which can be added to an already natural reduction in their need to travel.