21st Century Infrastructure
As California moves deeper into the 21st century, new technologies have changed the way that people interact with infrastructure—especially in the fields of communications and energy. The infrastructure of the future requires the development of connectivity across a resilient, flexible, and diverse electricity grid, which will need to support a clean energy future while also powering a growing number of advanced communication demands. To capture the full economic benefits of 21st century infrastructure investments, the state will need forward-looking planning and a regulatory structure that can adapt to rapidly changing technologies and consumer demands.
California grows enough food to feed the world, but has a volatile climate and experiences droughts that can last years. For example, in 2014, one of the driest years on record, the drought resulted in a net water shortage of 1.5 million acre-feet, which cost statewide agriculture $2.2 billion and the loss of 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs.
Through both technology in the classroom and online learning opportunities, 21st century infrastructure is enhancing education. In 2013, 78 percent of students and 83 percent of faculty and staff in the US brought a personal device to the classroom and used the campus network for access to the Internet. However, more than 50 percent of teachers say that slow or unreliable Internet access presents obstacles to their use of technology in the classroom. Additionally, 63 percent of public schools in the US do not have adequate Internet infrastructure to support digital learning.
Better infrastructure means doctors can provide better patient care. Data captured from emerging non-invasive health-monitoring sensors, such as disposable bandages and ingestible pills, will support expanded mobile-based care, self-care, and more accurate diagnostics—all of which have the potential to both improve care and reduce costs, and can only be achieved through improved network connectivity. When paired with remote physician monitoring, these innovations could save the US healthcare system $197 billion over the next 25 years.
Smart city infrastructure relies on connectivity and can create efficiencies in water, power, transportation, and waste management. For example, Cleveland and Cincinnati have implemented successful waste-collection programs with the help of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags on garbage and recycling bins, cutting operating costs and increasing recycling rates.
In California, 21st century infrastructure is needed to maintain access to reliable, affordable electricity. “Smart grid” describes a next-generation electrical system that is typified by the increased use of communications and information technology in the generation, transmission, delivery, and consumption of energy. Smart grids are made possible by two-way communication technology and computer processing that has been used for decades in other industries. With this communications infrastructure, California can reduce carbon emissions and energy costs at the same time.