One of the domains where digitisation has unmistakably entered a crucial phase is infrastructure, especially those of mobility and electricity. In this report, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency explores the related comprehensive societal consequences. PBL offers 7 perspectives on digitisation, for government authorities, politics, non-governmental organisations and society. The study approaches the most important issues and dilemmas, exploring the new rules of the game.
Public values under pressure
Mobility and electricity services as well as the related infrastructure, increasingly, are using ‘smart’ digital applications. What are the consequences of this practice? Will all people still have equal access to the road network, in the future? How reliable is the Dutch electricity supply, as it is becoming increasingly dependent on ICT?
This Trends Report clearly shows that, if we allow fully unrestricted digitalisation of our infrastructure, this will put pressure on public values such as accessibility, transparency, privacy and security of supply. Possible issues include equal access to public transport and security of supply for vital services such as electricity.
New rules of the game required
It is obvious that digitisation of the infrastructure calls for a different government role. Where, in the past, an investment strategy for and regulation of the use of the main physical infrastructure were sufficient, a more comprehensive regulatory strategy now seems to be vital. First of all, new rules are needed to protect and uphold core values; for example, those regarding smart system accessibility, privacy, transparency and democratic management.
The need for clear government guidelines, with unambiguous regulatory frameworks, does not mean that government authorities should unilaterally launch extensive plans for change or impose monitoring instruments. Government cannot steer innovation, but can provide sufficient possibilities for an improvising, innovating and experimenting society. PBL advocates a process of small steps and continuous adjustments that are based on evaluation.
About PBL Trends Reports
PBL Trends Reports highlight certain environment-related developments that require more national-policy attention, and include recommendations for dealing with such developments.