Software Can Close America’s Infrastructure Opportunity Gap

New report from the BSA Foundation shows how software can help create a 21st century infrastructure system

WASHINGTON — May 16, 2017 — America’s infrastructure needs a software upgrade. Our crumbling and outdated infrastructure was designed and built in an analog era – long before we could integrate sensors into bridges to monitor safety, build more cost-effective infrastructure with 3D design software, or create GPS-guided precision construction equipment. Today, we have an enormous opportunity to harness the power of US innovation and ingenuity to transform and radically improve our roads, bridges, airports, and more – creating millions of jobs, boosting the economy, and advancing a more prosperous middle class.

The physical concerns with US infrastructure are well known, but solutions are more difficult to come by. Software can help close America’s infrastructure opportunity gap by helping reduce the costs and increasing the efficiency of a range of projects, reports the BSA Foundation in findings released today. That report, “Infrastructure 4.0: Rebuilding America with Software,” demonstrates how software can improve infrastructure, among other ways, by:

  • Reducing highway construction costs and improving traffic flow. Advanced 3D design and construction software can reduce construction costs by 33 percent, and improve delivery time by 50 percent. Connected sensors and traffic management software can improve traffic flow by up to 25 percent.
  • Building better bridges. Software helps build and design stronger bridges while cutting costs and speeding construction time. Once built, advanced sensors can monitor structural health and identify problems well in advance.
  • Improving water quality, control, and monitoring. Software can help design, build, and operate water transmission, treatment, and distribution systems more effectively than ever. Sensors combined with predictive analytics can help remotely measure and monitor water quality, as well as wastewater and groundwater systems, to prevent water main breaks, flooding, and shortages.
  • Preventing railroad collisions. Investments in train control software could help save lives. These tools are designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments, and stop trains to correct railroad switch errors.
  • Reducing air traffic delays. The United States uses outdated aviation technologies based on 1940s-era radar. The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that a modernized software-enabled air traffic control system will reduce flight delays by 35 percent and provide $29 billion in net benefits each year.
  • Creating a smarter electric grid and lowering energy bills. The smart grid can change the way electricity is generated, distributed, managed, and consumed — providing up to $2 trillion in customer benefits over the next 20 years, while creating millions of jobs. Software-enabled technologies could also yield a 10 percent reduction in home energy use and a 20 to 30 percent reduction in factory energy use.
  • Extending digital networks. For every $5 billion invested in broadband infrastructure, 250,000 jobs are created, and with every percentage point increase in new broadband distribution, employment expands by 300,000.

“Our infrastructure challenges are more easily solved when we use transformative tools,” said Chris Hopfensperger, Executive Director of the BSA Foundation. “The test of strength for tomorrow’s infrastructure isn’t whether it is built with asphalt, concrete, or steel, but whether it is built with software, the cloud, and data.”

The report highlights not only how software helps address the infrastructure problems of today, but also how it improves infrastructure throughout its lifecycle. Smarter design software that enables Building Information Modeling (BIM) makes it easier to anticipate cost and time resources, and makes long-term maintenance and redesigns less costly. Jobsite software enables more precise builds and a more effective workforce. A connected and sensor-laden infrastructure can provide communities with better options for addressing some of their most pressing needs through smart city initiatives. Leveraging data creates new opportunities to reduce the energy, traffic, and water usage that overloads and congests today’s infrastructure.

“Our aging infrastructure costs the nation nearly $1 trillion a year in lost economic growth,” said Victoria Espinel, President of the BSA Foundation. “Policymakers now have an opportunity to mobilize the power of software, the cloud, and data to create a 21st century infrastructure system that can accommodate current and future needs, and gain back that unrealized economic potential.” offers three recommendations for rebuilding America’s infrastructure:

  1. Harness the latest software technologies. Every infrastructure dollar Congress spends should maximize the use of innovative software, as well as workflows that optimize software’s use and drive innovation. This can lower costs, reduce risk, speed construction, improve resiliency and sustainability, and make the most efficient use of our existing infrastructure and investment budget.
  2. Advance a robust digital infrastructure. To enable a smarter physical infrastructure, the United States needs to upgrade the digital infrastructure upon which it depends with wired and wireless broadband networks that communicate faster and support the cloud network.
  3. Fill the talent pipeline and upgrade our human infrastructure. Today’s infrastructure jobs often require high-tech job skills. We need to fill a growing talent gap that today prevents companies from hiring people necessary to drive important advances. We need to provide infrastructure workers with the software skills they need to perform in an increasingly technology-driven workforce, and make investments in computer science education to help prepare the next generation of tech workers.

To view’s full report, visit

About the BSA Foundation is an independent and nonpartisan international research organization established to help people better understand the impact software has on our lives, our economy, and our society. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the foundation publishes studies that examine the intersection of software and society, and it engages with policymakers and the public to inform policies that can stay ahead of cutting-edge technologies. The foundation also works directly to empower the workforce of tomorrow by encouraging a diverse community of young coders and working to increase opportunities for training and skills. Follow at @BSA_Foundation.