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Italy Bridge Collapse: This Digital Age Competency Would Have Avoided It

On the 14th of August, 2018, a 200 metre portion of the A10 motorway bridge collapsed in Genoa, Northern Italy. 43 people were reported dead and more that 15 people ended upon a hospital in a critical condition, while more than 600 were evacuated.

The most scary part for me, was that my family loves travelling around Italy and we had almost finalised our plans to be in Genoa around that time. Thankfully, we did not make that trip at the time of the bridge collapse.

We had previously travelled these roads numerous times from Zürich, Switzerland and had always observed, that the state of maintenance of the infrastructure components such as bridges and tunnels, paled in comparison to those in Switzerland. I always wondered how the Swiss managed to keep their infrastructure tidy, bright and clean.

“Okay – we are not Swiss…” or, “… it only happens in Switzerland…” and similar comments are usually common. Regardless, of the country this is discussed in.

…is good discipline in infrastructure maintenance, only reserved for a few?

But, is good discipline in infrastructure maintenance, only reserved for a few? Should we not let technology, perhaps lead the way in filling for our habitual or even cultural lacuna?

Artificial Intelligence and Robots are certain to help us in this regard. I know for sure, because my sons says so. One is in middle school and one in is high school they know and even demonstrate to me how technology can fill the gap, where human weaknesses exists.

In the digital age, data and people must co-exist in harmony.

But, before this can happen, we need to understand two critical components of this eco-system. One is data and the other is the involved person(s).

The ability to act on data is not only a critical skill for individual but also for a team and even an entire organisation, in the digital age. In fact, it is more of a responsibility for a safer world. In a previous article in Scientific American, I discuss how big data can be of use in managing America’s ageing infrastructure. There is no doubt about the use of data and related technologies in creating better infrastructure systems.

The involved persons on the other hand, need to develop a competency, I term as “datapreneurship”. It enhances the ability of an individual to act on data in both a team as well as an enterprise setting, because it also instills communication and influence as well as process discipline along with a skills around knowing the economic usage of data.

Lack of digital age competency could be a crime

Any thing short of have this digital age competency is turning out to be a crime of gross negligence.

If the Italian authorities had their engineers with the datapreneurship competency, we would not have seen this disaster as they would have acted on data, communicated and influenced the right action, enforced the needed process discipline and also ensured the use of data and related technologies, serves as an insurance for better outcomes.