Committee chairs zero in on digital in key session at FIDIC Singapore event

10 Sep 2023

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A busy and productive year of activity for FIDIC’s committees and advisory councils and the growing influence of digital transformation across the engineering, construction and infrastructure sector, were highlighted at a special business session of FIDIC’s Global Infrastructure Conference in Singapore on 10 September 2023.

Describing the committees as “the lifeblood of FIDIC”, session chair FIDIC president elect Catherine Karakatsanis said: “Our committees are so important to what we do as an organisation. I know that, despite the challenges we all face as an industry and the changes that this often brings to the way we work, FIDIC’s committees are definitely heading in the right direction.”

Karakatsanis also said that the work being undertaken by FIDIC’s committees was a critical cog in pulling the various strands of FIDIC’s work together and raising the organisation’s profile. “Your work underpins FIDIC’s leadership of our industry and I want to thank each and every one of you for all that you do on our behalf,” she said.

During the session, a number of FIDIC committee and advisory council chairs gave a brief update on their work and forthcoming activities. Committees and councils represented included sustainable development, digital transformation, contracts, directors and secretaries, membership, diversity, equity and inclusion, integrity management, future leaders and business practice leadership.

Those present then zeroed in on a discussion about digital transformation and what that means for the industry. Reflecting the meeting’s theme of An Era of Transformation: People, Process and Proactivity, the committee and advisory council chairs said that people, process and a proactive approach were absolutely fundamental for success in digital transformation and the adoption of new technologies.

There was a clear belief amongst those present that the activities of each FIDIC committee had to work holistically together on the digital issue to bring real change and make a difference across the industry. Integrity committee chair and vice president of RS&H Richard Stump said that it was crucial to be aware of the digital threats that could make corruption more likely, especially as technology was moving so quickly making it a real challenge for firms to catch up.

From the perspective of the business practice leadership committee, committee chair Manuel Perez, who is also the CEO of WSP Spain, was worried about the rise of AI if not applied correctly, but this was technology that was here now and it needed to be embraced. While it was a challenge to ‘police’ this process effectively, it had to be done, Perez said, and the use of new digital tools needed to be aligned in a uniform way.

Michele Kruger, chair of FIDIC’s diversity, equity and inclusion advisory council and also functional general manager for water and environment at SMEC, highlighted the need to be aware of the diverse knowledge, skills and IT infrastructure of co-workers, colleagues and clients as this would have an effect on the speed of adoption of digital transformation.

While young professionals were traditionally more digital aware and tech savvy, nothing could be taken for granted, said Rodrigo Juarez, chair of the FIDIC’s Future Leaders advisory council and also a consultant at FOA Consulting. Underlining this point, sustainable development committee chair and managing director of Aurecon New Zealand, Tracey Ryan, made the point that although there was a multiplicity of data, digital expertise and knowledge available in the sustainability sector, how to share that knowledge and data and importantly, what to share, was crucial.

In the contracts arena, although digital had come into its own over a number of years, with the rise of BIM and other electronic processes, there were still countries that were lagging behind, said Vincent Leloup, chair of the FIDIC contracts committee and also a managing partner of contracts consultancy Exequatur. Whether AI would be a total game changer around contracts drafting, Leloup had his doubts. Although AI could bring some added value and benefits to the industry, he didn’t believe that it could deliver everything that real people were able to do.

FIDIC digital transformation committee chair Stacy Sinclair, who is also a partner and head of technology and innovation at Fenwick Elliott, said that just because technology was there, it did not follow that you had to use it. It was important to work out what you wanted to achieve from the adoption of new digital techniques, while having the right checks and balances in place, said Sinclair.

 

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