The technological advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution have fundamentally altered society in ways both seen and unseen. This digital transformation has changed how people live and work, and everything in between. One area of daily life, however, seems to be largely missing out on this revolution: infrastructure. It remains one of the least digitally transformed sectors of the economy. While individual examples of highly advanced infrastructure systems exist, the sector at large lags behind others in innovation, a fact made all the more apparent by infrastructure’s ubiquity. When the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Infrastructure gathered for its annual meeting in Dubai in November 2018, it sought to understand why.
As it began to think through solutions, the Council found a situation full of opportunity. Infrastructure is far from being a staid industry devoid of innovation – indeed, new technologies and ideas are flourishing. Integrating these innovations, which could change the way infrastructure is designed, developed and delivered, requires aligning stakeholders, implementing effective strategies and creating fertile enabling environments. This will allow existing innovation into the space and provide opportunities for new ideas.
The Council thus decided to create a guidebook, contained here, that explores major questions about how to bring the Fourth Industrial Revolution to infrastructure. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
In 2012, China and 11 EU countries from Central and Southern
Europe and 5 non-EU members from the Western Balkans met in Warsaw, Poland for
the first time in a “16+1” format to deepen economic cooperation in the areas
of infrastructure as well as information and green technological development.
The occasion was marked by the signing of “China’s Twelve Measures for
Promoting Friendly Cooperation with Central and Eastern European Countries” and
the official launch of the 16+1. Seven years later in Dubrovnik, Croatia, the
format has now grown to “17+1” with the inclusion of Greece. Nearly 40
bilateral deals were announced between China and partner countries, which
included the opening of credit lines between the China Development Bank and
Hungary worth €500 million, Croatia worth €300 million, Romania worth €100
million, Bulgaria worth €300 million, and Serbia worth €25 million.
It could be suggested that this region was in fact an early
test case for the Chinese government’s 2013 announcement of its global Belt and
Road Initiative (BRI), which envisions land and maritime transportation
corridors stretching across and around the Eurasian landmass to Europe.
Certainly, there was a strong infrastructure demand signal emanating from the
region, which grew frustrated when its needs for new roads, modern ports, and
high-speed rail went unmet by Western investment. Having developed the unique,
mixed EU and non-EU 16+1 structure, Beijing could claim to be helping to
“bridge” the EU and non-EU divide. It also gained a high-profile vehicle to
channel a portion of the BRI’s $1 trillion in promised infrastructure
investment. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
Although the United States spends over $400 billion per year
on infrastructure, there is a consensus that infrastructure investment has been
on the decline and with it the quality of U.S. infrastructure. Politicians
across the ideological spectrum have responded with calls for increased
spending on infrastructure to repair this infrastructure deficit. The issue of
infrastructure costs is particularly important as calls for increased
infrastructure spending are sometimes coupled with prescriptions for dealing
with higher perceived costs. However, the scholarship on the cost of
infrastructure is lacking. [Note: contains copyrighted
Metropolitan areas need a new approach to regional economic
development and infrastructure investment. Competition to attract the most
productive industries and workers, rising price tags on large and small
infrastructure projects, an emerging focus on inclusive economic outcomes, and
demand for more livable and resilient neighborhoods all place significant
pressures on regional leaders to deliver an advanced, competitive economy that
works for all people. That means old policy playbooks that overly focus on
business recruitment and congestion mitigation will no longer suffice.
Instead, metropolitan governments and their civic partners
need a suite of land use and infrastructure policies and practices that work in
service of broader economic objectives.
Over the past 18 months, the Brookings Institution’s
Metropolitan Policy Program worked alongside Metro—Portland, Oregon’s
metropolitan planning organization—to begin addressing this need. The result of
that effort is the Economic Value Atlas, or EVA. The objective of the Economic
Value Atlas is to better align economic development, regional planning, and
infrastructure investment in support of regional economic goals. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
In many parts of the world, the issue of climate change and
the UN 2030 Agenda with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are
experiencing an unprecedented momentum. Finally! For many years already, robust
science is warning of the devastating impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and
fatal consequences of global temperature increase beyond the scientifically
based target of 1.5 °C. Without an adequate response, the global GHG emissions
will remain far off track, threatening to increase the devastating effects of
Every day huge amounts of additional GHG emitting infrastructure is still being built. Infrastructure construction and development and its operation in the energy, building and transport sector contribute to approximately 70% of the global GHG emissions, while again 70% of the infrastructure required by 2050 is yet to be built. This makes infrastructure a main source of the problem – yet also a substantial opportunity to become a key driver for improving the quality of life by generating development, employment and the unleashing of innovation for a sustainable future. However, fundamental transformations, such as the aligning of infrastructure construction and climate goals, need to take evolving social pressures into account that require an inclusive approach and deliberate policy-making. Ignoring these challenges is not an option – no matter from which perspective. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
The current model of cybersecurity is outdated. Adversaries
continue to grow more sophisticated and outpace advancements in defense
technologies, processes, and education. As nation states enter into a new
period of great power competition, the deficiencies in current cybersecurity
practice, evidenced by the growing number of successful cyber-attacks from
Russia, China, North Korea, and others, pose a greater threat.
The need to update the cybersecurity model is clear. An
enhanced public-private model – based on coordinated, advanced protection and
resilience – is necessary to protect key critical infrastructure sectors. In
addition, enhanced action from the federal government, coupled with increased
formal cooperation with international allies, are necessary to ensure
comprehensive cybersecurity resilience. [Note: contains copyrighted
The principal federal program to aid municipal wastewater
treatment plant construction is authorized in the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Established as a grant program in 1972, it now capitalizes state loan programs
through the clean water state revolving loan fund (CWSRF) program. Since
FY1972, appropriations have totaled $98 billion. In 1996, Congress amended the Safe Drinking
Water Act (SDWA, P.L. 104-182) to authorize a similar state loan program for
drinking water to help systems finance projects needed to comply with drinking
water regulations and to protect public health. Since FY1997, appropriations
for the drinking water state revolving loan fund (DWSRF) program have totaled
$23 billion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers both
SRF programs, which annually distribute funds to the states for implementation.
Funding amounts are specified in the State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG)
account of EPA annual appropriations acts. The combined appropriations for
wastewater and drinking water infrastructure assistance have represented
25%-32% of total funds appropriated to EPA in recent years.
Over the next 15 years, more hard infrastructure is
projected to be built around the world than currently exists. This global
build-out is already underway, and the changes it brings will only accelerate.
Infrastructure projects, especially in the transport, energy, information and
communications technology (ICT), and water sectors, have long been recognized
as the backbone of modern economies. Going forward, emerging digital
infrastructure, including fifth-generation (5G) networks, remote sensing, and
other advanced technologies, will be especially critical. As our infrastructure
is transformed, so will be the economies it fuels, the regions it connects, and
the global commons it underpins. These trends are too powerful and potentially
beneficial for the United States to stop, and too consequential to ignore. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
Climate change is getting harder to ignore, from alarming
new reports about its impacts to debates around a Green New Deal. Yet for all
this attention, individual places—from the biggest cities to the smallest
towns—are still struggling to do something about it.
An unpredictable climate should serve as a strong motivator
for every community to better maintain its manmade and natural stormwater
infrastructure to be more flexible and responsive. Increased flood risks are
among the clearest challenges, with climate change already having generated
billions of dollars in flooding costs. But as we saw in Houston during
Hurricane Harvey—and in several other places along the Gulf Coast, Mississippi
River, and beyond over the past few years—many communities currently have
failing systems of water pipes, plants, and natural wetlands. Even more
troubling is how communities cannot even handle runoff from daily rainfall, as
well as additional pollution.
Communities need a new approach to accelerate investment in infrastructure that is resilient to growing climate pressures. They should carry out proactive repairs of their aging, inefficient stormwater systems as a way to deliver fiscal savings and long-term environmental and economic benefits. They also should invest in new technologies and green infrastructure to better protect properties and improve livability. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
Driving is one of the riskiest activities the average American engages in. Deaths and serious injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. In 2017, 37,133 people were killed in police-reported motor vehicle crashes in the United States, and in 2016 an estimated 3.14 million people were injured.1 Many of the people who die in traffic crashes are relatively young and otherwise healthy (motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 17 and 23).2 As a result, while traffic crashes are now the 13th leading cause of death overall, they rank seventh among causes of years of life lost (i.e., the difference between the age at death and life expectancy).3 In addition to the emotional toll exacted by these deaths and injuries, traffic crashes impose a significant economic toll. The Department of Transportation (DOT) estimated that the annual cost of motor vehicle crashes in 2010 was $242 billion in direct costs and $836 billion when the impact on quality of life of those killed and injured was included.4 About one-third of the direct cost came from the lost productivity of those killed and injured; about one-third from property damage; 10% from present and future medical costs; 12% from time lost due to congestion caused by crashes; and the remainder from the costs of insurance administration, legal services, workplace costs,5 and emergency services.