Building Inclusive Societies

At its most fundamental level, when infrastructure is well planned, designed, and built, it provides the physical framework for a modern, healthy, and prosperous society. Whether we're talking about telecommunications, transportation, power and water, or public buildings such as schools and hospitals, infrastructure touches every aspect of the way we live. Infrastructure is an integral component of the system of society. It allows us to communicate, to move people and goods, and to improve our quality of life by propelling research, education, and commerce. In short, it enables the transformation of individual ideas into action.

Infrastructure forms the basis for social stability, human rights, freedom, and equality. It can play a critical role in either exacerbating or reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. And the quality of infrastructure is also very important, because it’s not just about building something. Infrastructure that advances a society involves extensive planning and is built in the right place for the right purpose.

The fundamental rationale is the same in both developed and developing economies. Being able to construct a road, bridge, or school unlocks enormous economic and social potential in developing countries, and also in developed countries. Because, as we all know, infrastructure is not limited to a single event. It is a process that you have to keep working on and perfecting—in terms of planning, financing, operating, and maintaining. This is certainly true in the United States, where our bridges and roads are aging and need repair. As international travel and trade among countries continues to grow, certain types of infrastructure—ports and airports, for example—are becoming more important in both developing and developed economies.

In developing economies where so many needs are still not met—some of the most basic human needs—infrastructure priorities and projects will differ. We also see more opportunities to build completely new infrastructure—and, in some cases, new cities—in developing economies, which present an opportunity to incorporate the latest thinking in socially and environmentally sustainable design. In some cases, developing economies actually have an advantage because they can learn from what has come before and “leapfrog” outdated solutions that make up so much of the built environment in the developed world. We can see a good example of this in the rapid adoption of cell phones in developing countries, which has circumvented the need for stringing traditional telephone wires. There are similar opportunities for leapfrogging in clean energy, efficient urban mobility, and other areas.

How Infrastructure, Social, and Governance Programs Create Value

In an increasingly complex environment, government must do more with fewer resources. Macroeconomic vulnerability and uncertainty mean the state is an increasingly important market player. Demographic changes in advanced economies and urbanization in developing economies put new demands on public services. Globalization requires increased collaboration across governments, agencies, and international institutions. Digitization raises citizens’ expectations for transparency and productivity.

Infrastructure is a cornerstone of a stable and productive society. The right approach to delivering and maintaining transport, housing, energy, water, and communication infrastructure is essential to create a strong and competitive economy and provide social services. Infrastructure presents unique challenges and opportunities for the public and private sectors. Our work spans economic development, education, healthcare, public finance, energy, the environment, and security.

 

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 Mr. Michael O’Brien

Mr. Michael O’Brien

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