The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has urged the government to provide the funding needed for the National Digital Twin programme.
In its Annual Monitoring Report 2021 it has also called for a focus on accelerating the roll out of high capacity broadband and set targets for the availability of 5G.
Its section on digital and data points to the potential for the National Digital Twin, the programme for which is run by the Centre for Digital Built Britain and is aimed at creating an ecosystem of digital twins to support planning, investment and monitoring of infrastructure and the built environment.
While it has gained momentum and digital twins are becoming more widely used, the NIC indicates a need for further public funding to maintain the progress, and says the government should make the necessary commitment in the next Spending Review.
The report also highlights earlier government commitments to nationwide full fibre connectivity. It says the roll out should be accelerated by deregulation as far as possible, and by giving alternative providers access to Openreach infrastructure.
The NIC has also argued that the government should improve processes to obtain wayleaves for telecommunications providers, promote the appointment of digital champions by local authorities, and work with Ofcom to allow for copper switch-off by 2025.
This should be accompanied by the expansion of mobile networks and the growing availability of 5G. The report says it is not possible to accurately assess how much landmass is covered and that the government and communications regulator Ofcom should work with mobile network operators to identity suitable metrics and begin measuring 5G coverage.
Catalyst for decisions
Writing in the report’s foreword, NIC chair Sir John Armitt says: “We anticipate that publication of the National Infrastructure Strategy will catalyse decision making and investment across all sectors, helping to address the challenges of levelling up the UK’s economic geography and achieving net zero. Infrastructure can also help create the conditions for a market led recovery from the major economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“But achieving this will require detailed planning, and delivery roadmaps backed up by stable funding plans and, where relevant, clarity of regulatory oversight. These are critical factors for the successful delivery of the policy aspirations and targets government has now provided.”
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