Article | August 4, 2021
In amongst the chatter about how we can 'do' infrastructure better, there's now a growing consensus that we need to improve the way we design our interventions - 'design' in the broader sense of the word, rather than the narrow sense we tend to use as engineers.
My front-end principles for better infrastructure
Over the course of my career, the following front-end principles have served well to ensure we think through, before we rush in where angels fear to tread.
Be clear about the purpose and the expected outcomes, and engage communities in decision-making through an effective communication strategy.
Prioritise the user, aiming to offer services that are modern, effective and affordable.
Seek to improve people's quality of life and support the transition to a more sustainable future, while also facilitating the functioning of the economy, enhancing productivity and accommodating growth (to the extent possible, given other competing objectives).
Extract greatest value from existing infrastructure through timely maintenance, repurposing, renewal and upgrading. Seek to remove constraints and bottlenecks.
Aim to make best use of data, automation, innovation and technology (including for future asset management), recognising the complexity and risks this may introduce.
Recognise, analyse, mitigate and manage technical, environmental and climate risks, and complete any surveys necessary to support this.
Improve governance, with robust, timely and transparent decision-making, supported by strong evidence-based planning, clear prioritisation, and best practice technical design and delivery.
Seek an appropriate funding balance between 'user pays' and general taxation which incentivises behaviours in the best long-term social, economic and environmental interests.
Complete well-evidenced business cases and risk assessments of proposed initiatives before embarking on projects, including financing proposals. Aim to allocate the risks identified to those best able to carry them.
Facilitate collaboration between the government and business to promote delivery of the broader social, economic and environmental benefits.
Clearly, there are many other issues to consider as a project develops, and the above principles may seem obvious to some, and a counsel of perfection to others, but it's surprising how many are overlooked in the rush to build.
Article | June 15, 2021
The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI), an Indian government policy commission, has published its SDG India Index and Dashboard 2020-21 report on progress against the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the state level in India, its third annual report.
The main theme of this year’s report is ‘partnerships’, with NITI aiming to highlight the pace that can be achieved by working together in pursuit of the goals, as well as shine a light on the quiet but effective partnerships working away in the background.
As part of this, the report sets out actions that have been taken across the 11 areas of the collaborative advantage framework to drive forward progress on SDG indicators.
In the accompanying index, all Indian states and union territories are scored and ranked on each SDG, alongside progress over the year.
Article | May 18, 2021
The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has published a new assessment of how behaviour change brought by Covid-19 will impact infrastructure networks as part of its prep work ahead of the second National Infrastructure Assessment.
The NIC’s findings are that it's too early to assume that Covid-19 behaviour change will lead to completely different patterns of infrastructure use, even if these changes remain in place. The commission recommends using realistic scenarios and planning responses to the range of possibilities these scenarios present to manage uncertainty. They also suggest a more ‘adaptive’ approach to longer-term project commitments and using data to understand how changes are unfolding.
Article | April 12, 2020
Managing the COVID-19 pandemic-and saving lives-depends largely on the availability of medical supplies, including the capacity of hospitals. But the United States lags behind other nations, with only 2.8 beds per thousand people compared to 4.3 in China and 12.8 in South Korea. The sheer pace of the outbreak raises the question of how we can expand our healthcare infrastructure and do so at speed. When China put up a hospital in just ten days, many people asked if the same would also be possible here in the U.S.