Using technology, data and crowdsourcing to hack infrastructure problems

Courtney M. Fowler at CAFWD.ORG: “Technology has become a way of life for most Americans, not just for communication but also for many daily activities. However, there’s more that can be done than just booking a trip or crushing candy. With a majority of Americans now owning smartphones, it’s only becoming more obvious that there’s room for governments to engage the public and provide more bang for their buck via technology.
CA Fwd has been putting on an “Open Data roadshow” around the state to highlight ways the marriage of tech and info can make government more efficient and transparent.
Jurisdictions have also been discovering that using technology and smartphone apps can be beneficial in the pursuit of improving infrastructure. Saving any amount of money on such projects is especially important for California, where it’s been estimated the state will only have half of the $765 billion needed for infrastructure investments over the next decade.
One of the best examples of applying technology to infrastructure problems comes from South Carolina, where an innovative bridge-monitoring system is producing real savings, despite being in use on only eight bridges.
Girder sensors are placed on each bridge so that they can measure its carrying capacity and can be monitored 24/7. Although, the monitors don’t eliminate the need for inspections, the technology does make the need for them significantly less frequent. Data from the monitors also led the South Carolina Department of Transportation to correct one bridge’s problems with a $100,000 retrofit, rather than spending $800,000 to replace it…”
In total, having the monitors on just eight bridges, at a cost of about $50,000 per bridge, saved taxpayers $5 million.
That kind of innovation and savings is exactly what California needs to ensure that infrastructure projects happen in a more timely and efficient fashion in the future. It’s also what is driving civic innovators to bring together technology and crowdsourcing and make sure infrastructure projects also are results oriented.