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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

Transforming infrastructure through smarter information
 

Ahead of the EPSRC–NSF funded UK-US workshop ‘Funding, Financing and Emerging Technologies in Infrastructure to Improve Resilience, Sustainability and Universal Access’, hosted by CSIC and the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy (CPIP), Dr Rehema Msulwa, Research Associate at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge writes this month’s Smart Infrastructure Blog that considers the role of infrastructure in levelling up and provides an overview of workshop themes.

The invitation-only workshopwhich will be held in New York City from 11 to 15 July, will be attended by experts from infrastructure’s technological, engineering, social, environmental, economic, and financial dimensions to discuss how a multi-disciplinary approach can address pressing policy challenges, including infrastructure resilience in the face of climate change impacts, net zero carbon and social equity, with a view to identifying potential policy implications and research needs. There are dedicated online sessions enabling participants worldwide to engage in discussions and contribute to shaping the outputs of the workshop which will be crafted into a series of white papers to be shared with a wider audience, including policymakers, and inform future research agendas.

Patterns of inequality including spatial inequalities are decades if not centuries in the making… In places experiencing low productivity growth this will lead to a vicious cycle that feeds persistent growing disparities, economic decline, and disinvestment. On the flipside, high productivity growth can lead to a virtuous cycle of opportunity Dr Rehema Msulwa, Research Associate at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge

Titled ‘The role of infrastructure in levelling up – are we creating vicious or virtuous cycles?’ the blog discusses equitable access to infrastructure. Dr Msulwa writes: “Patterns of inequality including spatial inequalities are decades if not centuries in the making… In places experiencing low productivity growth this will lead to a vicious cycle that feeds persistent growing disparities, economic decline, and disinvestment. On the flipside, high productivity growth can lead to a virtuous cycle of opportunity.” She calls for long-term, intentional, and systematic approaches to policy, appraisal and infrastructure financing and funding.

Acknowledging infrastructure as a socio-technical system that has implications for people, places and the environment, Dr Msulwa considers the potential for infrastructure investment decisions to create winners and losers and points out that decisions are not “value neutral”. She asks: “What is meant by value in this context– whose perspective of value is adopted? How, by whom, and to whose advantage, or disadvantage is the perspective of value applied? As relates to digitalisation and the shift from physical infrastructure to digital infrastructure – what are the associated changes in social and business contexts? What are the implications of commodifying information and which parts of the value chain have access to emerging technologies? Who develops the standards? Who wins? Who loses?” All of these questions must, writes Dr Msulwa, be “carefully considered by people at all levels of decision-making if intended benefits are to be realised”.

• Read the Smart Infrastructure Blog The role of infrastructure in levelling up – are we creating vicious or virtuous cycles?’ by Dr Rehema Msulwa here.

 

  

 

 

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