As ICE launches new resources to help global policy-makers better plan infrastructure for the good of society, Sir Michael Bear discusses what he hopes the programme will achieve.
Infrastructure touches every part of our lives. From the water we drink to the transport we rely on and the energy we use. Properly planned and delivered projects working together can immeasurably improve people’s lives and help to safeguard against future problems no matter where you are in the world.
The Enabling Better Infrastructure programme has that idea at its very heart.
Enabling better infrastructure
As we look ahead to the world in 10, 20 or 30 years, the infrastructure we build now must meet the needs those future societies will have.
Sadly, with varying degrees of development and geographical situations there is no ‘one-size fits all’ answer and no one country has a perfect approach which is adaptable, off-the-shelf, to any situation. It is only by working together, learning and collaborating with each other on our successes, and failures, that we will improve.
This programme and the associated resource hub are the starting block, ensuring infrastructure takes its rightful place at the heart of managing global challenges and driving change in societies around the world.
By providing a single destination for examples of best practice in global infrastructure delivery, it is our hope that everyone from Government decision-makers to local commuters can benefit from this huge wealth of knowledge.
For infrastructure to deliver the necessary results, we need to see changes in public attitudes and government policy, but most importantly we need continued investment in every country.
Investment is particularly critical, as it enables greater accessibility to services and outcomes many of which can only be delivered by infrastructure.
Unfortunately, investment is not keeping pace with need. If current trends continue, there will be a 19% gap between what investment is needed, and what we have. There is also a gulf in provision around the world, stretching from 47% in the Americas to 10% in Asia.
Our shared ambitions
Numbers are important but it’s also critical that we recognise what investment can bring.
We all want to live safely and securely in cities or the countryside, enjoying equivalent qualities of life.
Connectivity and resilience are becoming increasingly important, so that our communities are in touch and we are better able to deal with emerging global challenges such as population growth, urbanisation and climate change.
In fact, infrastructure has a direct influence over 70% of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal targets, so engineers have an important role to play in achieving these stretching ambitions.
One of the key drivers to meet these goals will be enabling and delivering better infrastructure.
New and upgraded communication and transport links open-up economic and educational opportunities for whole populations. Improved water supply and sanitation unlocks health benefits for all, particularly supporting the social advancement of women. Electrification of transport, heat and national grid systems will be central to bringing down global emissions of greenhouse gases.
This is why closing this gap in investment is so important, without it our societies will miss out on opportunities, growth and resilience.
Limited resources must be used well. Without a strategic infrastructure plan for prioritising investment to priority areas, governments risk accusations of inept handling of public money and will squander trust.
Proper strategic plans also have the benefit of achieving improved project delivery and ensure the realisation of potential benefits. These will manifest in a stronger link between infrastructure investment and a nation’s vision and objectives as well as improving the affordability of future projects.
The resource hub will host examples of where proper strategic approaches have been brought to bear on projects and communities around the world so that others can learn from them and apply them in their own countries.
We are at the start of a process, working with partners and organisations around the world for the collective good. We will continue to update the resource hub as more examples are shared with us and it is our sincere hope that the lessons held therein will lead to improved lives and a safer more resilient future for all of us.