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Digital infrastructure 'needs more resilience'

digital signalling

Interconnected and digital infrastructure will bring efficiencies, but could also lead to accidents if resilience is not built into the systems, a new report from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has said.

The NIC published the initial report on the resilience of digital infrastructure as it works towards producing the UK’s first National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA).

The report, Infrastructure and Digital Systems Resilience, produced by Arup and Dr Tom Dolan from University College London, has been launched as an invitation for comments on how resilience should be built into the increasing number of interconnected digital systems.

The report said digital system resilience referred to the ability of “increasingly pervasive” digital infrastructure systems to operate as intended and recover from incidents responsively.

National Infrastructure Commission commissioner Andy Green said it was “intolerable” to design systems today which could be brought down by “someone has put a screwdriver in the wrong place”. But he warned that this would happen if they were built without resilience.

“What this study is about is we’re all very excited about moving to smart infrastructure just like we were about electromechanical switches to digital switches because it’s really important,” he said. “It’s going to bring down the cost, it’s going to make things more efficient and give consumers a better service, but it’s also going to break down all of those control systems and silos.

“But it’s this basic interconnectedness which will surprise us.”

He said as systems became more tightly coupled, it would become more difficult to stop something once it started and the systems would become increasingly complex.

“People have the potential to not think of the implications a change on one system will have on another,” he said. “Accidents will happen and an accident could affect somewhere else and they could spread more quickly.

“So we wanted to think about this early.”

Comments on the topic are being welcomed by the commission as it develops the report over the coming months.

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