Connect with us


Developing infrastructure for good on Government’s Future Frontiers



Developing infrastructure for good on Government’s Future Frontiers

Michael Flynn: Infrastructure is all about improving people’s lives. It is the stuff that brings us to work, creates our communities: the sports [stadiums], the schools, the hospitals, all of those elements. It is all the stuff we use on a day-to-day basis.

Look at the scale of [this investment]: An estimate of US$2 trillion in the United States, US$5 trillion globally. That’s of a scale that can have a real impact across society and really can change for the good.

[But it’s also about impact] beyond that economic piece: the social, the connectivity, the community, and looking at the future, and making sure that it’s climate-ready from an environmental point of view.

Tanya Ott: When people think of infrastructure, they often think of the physical networks that make modern life possible: water pipes, electrical grids, roads and bridges, telephone poles. And that’s if they think about infrastructure at all. In many developed countries, infrastructure only becomes notable when something goes wrong—something that can happen due to the effects of climate change, as technology becomes more complex, and as the demands of society change.

But infrastructure is about much more than [just] physical systems. Robust infrastructure can be a catalyst for transformation, vital for the development of societies, enabling them to function. Increasingly, modern societies are incorporating digital technology into their infrastructure to deliver efficient services critical for social, economic, and environmental needs.

In this episode of Government’s Future Frontiers, we’ll be exploring ways in which infrastructure can be developed, maintained, and sustained in the face of all the technological and physical developments that are taking place. We’ll be looking at ways that developing nations are establishing their own infrastructure and perhaps leapfrogging over countries with legacy systems. We’ll also take you on a whistle-stop tour of some examples of innovative infrastructure projects that may inspire others to follow their examples. And two years ago, President Biden announced a massive US$2 trillion plan to update existing infrastructure and build new services that are needed. We’re going to ask how that is going.

Joining me to explore this subject are Michael Flynn and Kelly Marchese. Michael is global Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Government leader for Deloitte Ireland, and Kelly is US Infrastructure leader for Deloitte Consulting LLP. Thanks for joining us.

Kelly Marchese: Great to be here.

Ott: Infrastructure is all about improving people’s lives every day, where they live. So as an icebreaker, I’d love to have you tell me about a project that is currently underway that you think is going to enhance people’s lives in the coming years.

Marchese: You know I’ve grown up all my life up as a manufacturing-dirty-fingernails kind of gal and one of the things that I define under infrastructure is around critical manufacturing capabilities. One of the big projects that I see coming down the pike is coming out of the military around the manufacturing industrial base. The military is investing billions of dollars in building up the supplier industrial base in the United States. A big focus there is around workforce because you can’t build that supplier capability and that manufacturing capability without the workforce.

When you talk about having big impact on society, it’s the work—building up the workforce and building jobs. It’s this cycle that will come out of this investment in infrastructure and to great jobs.

Ott: Michael, I saw you nodding your head there for a moment.

Michael Flynn: If I look at projects that are potentially changing the world and particularly changing particular countries, one of them is NEOM, which is in Saudi Arabia.

This is a new city that’s being built in northwest Saudi Arabia, but it’s part of Vision 2030, which is about transforming the Saudi economy, transforming society as to how it will approach the new world. It’s building a new city with that will be built differently, will operate differently. It is taking technology, innovation and putting all of that together to create a new economy, but [also] to attract people and to be a city for the world.

They’re doing things like vertical urbanism, building up into the sky, so using less land. No cars  so, no congestion—five-minute cities. How do you put all of those things together? They’re using less than 5% of the land to become an entirely sustainable ecosystem. Now that’s using infrastructure and investing in that infrastructure to an overall benefit, and they’re looking to share that knowledge and experience as they develop it over time. So that really is looking at an infrastructure investment that has that societal impact as well as building stuff.

Ott: You alluded to this, but the public is at the heart of improving, updating, and replacing infrastructure. So how can life be made easier, simpler, better economically, environmentally, and efficiently through infrastructure?

Flynn: I suppose we’ve always used the likes of infrastructure as an economic stimulus over time. So, every time we’ve had a crisis or a need for stimulus, we’ve always looked at that infrastructure. That in itself provides benefit to society and to communities. But again, we try and look beyond that now. We’re trying to say, well, it’s not just an economic thing.

We’ve developed “Infrastructure for good.” It’s trying to look beyond that pure economic piece to the social, the community, the environmental impact. And when you put those in place when you prioritize and when you design your projects, you’re designing [projects] with [the community] in mind, not purely that economic piece.

Ott: So you’re centring the community at the core of it all, but with the huge amount of money and massive amount of heavy engineering equipment and the number of workers involved, is it sometimes easy to forget the consumer on the other end?

Flynn: Very easy. People get lost in the project. That’s why we often get projects designed by the engineer and beautifully constructed, but forgetting about who’s going to use it.

Don’t make it [solely] an engineering project. The engineering project is part of the journey, but it’s not the outcome. The more you can make this user-ready, you get a far better project and one that is likely to have far greater impact.

Marchese: I think that’s super important because any time any large project starts to run over budget or behind schedule, sometimes people get under pressure and they lose the ultimate objective, the mission, or objectives that gets lost. And so, making sure an infrastructure project, it’s really, really clear. It’s a super important part of the governance process.

Ott: Kelly, you’re talking about sort of the push-pull between the benefit to society and the amounts of money spent on these large projects, right?

Marchese: Well, it depends on who’s looking, right? The people that are paying for it, they have one way of looking at it. And some of the stakeholders, they may not be paying the monetary, but they may be benefiting from it.

There has to be clarity around what are the measures of success and who are the stakeholders. And that has to be clear from the outset.

Flynn: If you evaluate purely on a monetary basis, well then you may get the wrong answer. If you evaluate only on a societal basis, you may get the wrong answer. So, it’s about putting those two bits together.

Ott: Well, we’re going to be taking a look at some infrastructure projects today and how they’re helping shift society and our needs. Our first stop is India.

Vinod Mishra is from UNOPS (United Nations Office For Project Services) and he has been involved in the Swachh Bharat mission. And this really goes to the very heart of the infrastructure story.

In 2022, the United Nations found that some 3.5 billion people still lacked access to safely managed sanitation. Swachh Bharat—which translates to Clean India—aims to change that.

Let’s hear from Vinod …

Vinod Mishra: The Swacch Bharat mission in India is the largest program in history started by the any country anywhere in the world.

We use the community-led total sanitation approach to trigger the community, to create the pool of trainers in the district and the work directly at the community level. So that’s the one thing—the capacity-building, [the] empowering [of] the community.

Building the capacity, creating the pool of trainers on the collective behavior change, that’s the one hand. And second is using the rapid action learning approach to collect the innovations and the good practice and document it, share it widely, so that government can understand easily what works, what doesn’t work,

The biggest challenge was that previously, the government of India was implementing the program called TSC (Total Sanitation Campaign). And it was completely supply-driven. Supply-driven means the government was actually providing the toilets, constructed toilets.

But there was no demand.

Ott: One of the biggest stumbling blocks is something that many of us would never consider. And that’s behavioural change …

Mishra: From the generation to generation, for centuries, there is a practice of open defecation in India. Breaking this habit and the practice, it was not easy.

When the Swachh Bharat Mission was able to start, we told the government of India to prepare a guideline for collective behavior change.

Ott: Among other things, the guidelines emphasized the benefits of the new sanitation project.

Mishra: There are the major two points. The first is whatever medical expenses they were doing because of the open defecation. The bacteriological contamination causes diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, jaundice—different type of diseases.

The second is most important, more than diseases: The dignity. Women used to go to the field for the open defecation, and [in]the daytime, they were not able to go in the field. They will have to wait the entire day for the sunset and a dark time.

And then they realized that if we will construct the toilet, we’ll use the toilet at home, and then we’ll not go outside. So, dignity was the second one.

Ott: With more and more people embracing the new sanitation system, how Swachh Bharat is going?

Mishra: [The] government of India is on phase two, [for which] they need the support in terms of the giving the real picture—the field realities. But we are working in the few areas, and we are trying to scale up that approach in the second phase. So, there is certainly a huge scope in the future also.

Ott: That’s Vinod Mishra from the United Nations.

So, give us an idea of the planning and what has to go on behind the scenes to make a project like Swachh Bharat successful.

Flynn: This is a huge-scale project. It was across the entire country, impacting millions, billions of people, in an Indian context. The challenge is you’re putting in 90 million toilets across every village, town, and city, across the nation.

And so not only were you impacting that solid-waste management, and then the physical piece of building in each of these areas, [they] also had to create a transformation with the nation and society in terms of actually shifting to using these. So, you’d have all of that as a challenge.

Now, if you go to the physical bit of building these: getting the materials to the various locations, making sure that process is robust and avoids any sort of fraud, waste or abuse, because you’re doing it in such a scale, so there’s US$28 billion being spent here.

And so managing all of that, the program management, you’ve got so many moving parts here that it’s a difficult piece.

Getting to all of those locations and convincing people to transform is probably your biggest challenge here, albeit the physical-build element just brings so many other elements as well.

Marchese: Any kind of massive infrastructure project like this, the complexity of the program management of this, it’s almost unfathomable. All of the logistics, the ripple effect of anything that can go wrong, it’s just huge.

And these are years-long programs. People [leave], right? Every time the people change, there’s institutional knowledge that changes, and then you think about how you have to maintain the messaging. These are really big, complex projects [where] the human side of that is just as important as maybe the bricks-and-mortar side of it.

Ott: So, what’s been learned from this massive project so far?

Flynn: I think if they were starting again, would they bite off so much? There was a good connection between federal and local that worked well, but would you do all the regions at once? Or would you break up the country and maybe do different delivery phases?

Marchese: It’s also interesting when you think about the speed of innovation in these large projects as well, how quickly technology is changing. When you plan out a big infrastructure project that takes years and innovation is exponentially changing, how you weave that in at the right times? Michael, to your point around do you do things in chunks, plan things out in smaller chunks so that you can maybe make adjustments as you go along. I think that would be another thing that might change as we think about these infrastructure projects, biting it off in smaller chunks so that you can do the technology insertion as that technology is evolving.

Flynn: It seems relatively new, but that interaction between technology, the individual and the infrastructure is the only way to deliver infrastructure, because it not only solves the build, but the ongoing operational piece.

If you’re not thinking about the operations as you’re delivering infrastructure, you’re again, you’re not doing your job properly on this.

Ott: I wanted to go back to something that you sort of kicked off this conversation about this project around, which was the idea that you had to really get societal buy-in on it. And it was a little bit challenging, right? Marginalized groups are often left out of the consultation and design process. Regulatory frameworks may not incentivize developers to prioritize inclusion or environmental sustainability. So how difficult is it to overcome this kind of hurdle?

Flynn: It’s not easy. I mean firstly you’ve got to actively go and try and involve everybody in this. You’ve got to understand that people have been excluded over the years. You have to actively make that decision to include.

When we’re looking at infrastructure for good, you’ve got to look at equity and challenge the project, challenge yourself as you’re designing this to say, are you achieving that? And then when you’re looking at sustainable, resilient climate. Is it being built in the most sustainable manner? Are you using the best approaches now and what may be there going forward to deliver the project?

And then are you looking at the future, are you including or designing the technology and even the layer of a particular asset from an operational point of view but also the usage point of view, are you future-proofing? So that’s where the community fully involved not only in designing this but eventually using this asset. And when you’ve achieved that and you challenge yourself to say, have I achieved all of those things, you can do economic evaluation. But if you don’t do this secondary evaluation of society, community, and environment, you’re not achieving the best project and therefore you may be picking the wrong one.

Ott: One of the biggest challenges that is going to keep rearing its head in the coming decades is the question of how to make your infrastructure climate-resilient and prepared to deal with the threats we may globally face from climate volatility.

This is one of the tests facing the folks of Broward County in Florida. Spare a thought for Greg Stuart. Greg’s the executive director of the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization. It’s his job to make sure an area that extends from Miami-Dade in the south, all the way up to West Palm Beach in the north, will be able to keep running.

Greg Stuart: One-third of the county area is developed and we have an incredibly high density rate. For Florida, we’re the most densely populated county based on the actual buildable area.

With the areas that we have 2 million people on, Broward by itself will triple to about 6 million people during holidays. You’re really moving a sizable chunk of people  in all different directions.

When you look at where Broward County sits, we’re about maximum three feet above sea level. The area is very low and vulnerable not only to storm surge from hurricanes and so forth, we also have vulnerability for our water supply systems because of sea-level rise getting into our aquifers. We do not have surface water. We use deep wells, we bring it out from the aquifer below. We have issues that challenge us environmentally from all different angles. And I think that’s one of the most unique pieces of the geography that we have.

Ott: And when a huge storm strikes, they can be devastating.

Stuart: April 15th of 2023, we had a storm cell sit over two of our major cities here, Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, and it rained about 27 inches in a 24-hour period. Most of that rain occurred in 12 hours. It shut down our international airport. The runways flooded to the point where you could not land or take off. First-floor facilities, baggage facilities, were flooded. Our downtown flooded. The city of Hollywood had vulnerable areas also flooding.

I was in downtown Fort Lauderdale for dinner. [I] came out of the restaurant around 8:30, 9 o’clock. [I] had to roll up my pants, take off my shoes, we all did, to get into our car. I made it a block and a half, literally a city block. And the SUV I had at the time started floating.

Anybody who’s been down to the coastal Florida areas, you know, there’s a lot of wealth. And the number of Bentley convertibles and Rolls and Lamborghinis and Maseratis sitting in water—the insurance cost just for that was astronomical.

The first-floor businesses and all the rest that were impacted —I was taking pictures on my cell phone. Imagine if we were able to utilize a technology that could have quickly run the model and said, hey, do not go here. Do not let your employees leave. Do not let your clients of your businesses leave.

When you have that type of experience, you recognize the technologies that we think we want to advance and the reality of why we need to advance them.

I think that’s such an exciting thing when it comes to our ability to look at AI and the modelling of our region and understanding how all these things fit together

We need to figure out how to deal with the population here in immediate. And then the long term, we need to be able to model out what 2 and 3 foot or more of standing water looks like, and how you deal with [it].

One of the things that we are doing here in Broward, which is really exciting, is this digital twin of looking at our region and saying, okay, well, [this is] the single source of truth is the way I’d like to frame it. And the twin will allow all the models to communicate with each other that everybody’s been developing. We’re developing this ability to plug in all the things that all these different agencies are working on and doing and be able to run them. And I’m looking to keep the data sets open source so that way people can access them.

And we’re just kicking that off. The first meeting is actually at the end of this month.

You know, there’s technology for cameras on buses to tell you that people are parked in bus lanes. Okay, great. Can I then take that resource and say there’s a foot and a half [of] water on this corridor, or it appears that my surface of the road is beginning to erode, and potholes are showing up, or I have an issue with my sewer storm drain there because it’s filled with debris and it’s not even able to handle what it was designed for. We are trying to figure out how to tie all those things together. It’s complicated.

I think this is going to be a really good test scenario. We like to fix ourselves and I want to help them get there so that way we can advance the infrastructure needs necessary to keep 6 million people above water.

The idea of having some type of open source—we’re not precluding anybody equity-wise from being able to access it.

We need to be able to structure it in a way that is not just Broward- [or] Southeast Florida–focused. It has to be globally focused because we all are going to be facing these issues.

Imagine the infrastructure solutions we could come up with together that would be able to be placed, whether you’re in Dubai, whether you’re in Jakarta, whether you’re in Melbourne, whether you’re in London, it doesn’t matter.

Ott: That’s Greg Stuart from Broward County, Florida. Greg talked about the prospect of using what South Florida learns to help regions all over the world. Can you envision a time when all infrastructure is built to required standards to ensure net-zero targets are met?

Flynn: Absolutely. That’s the ideal, isn’t it? That’s where we want to get to. [But] it is a challenge until [cleaned] up all the supply chains, until you’ve figured out and have enough supply to build all the things that you need. This is not easy because you don’t have enough volume of these sustainable materials across the globe. And remember, post COVID-19, you’ve got US$5 trillion a year of spend on capital projects, infrastructure projects around the world. So, there’s lots of demand for these things.

Now, can you get at all of that as sustainable material— green steel, green cement, all of those sort of things. [But] has innovation caught up to be able to produce that amount of volume? In time, we should definitely be there. But it is not an overnight solve.

Marchese: There have to be incentives enough for us to create the innovations, so that we have the innovations to be able to get the supplies to get to net zero. And then there has to be enough demand signal so that we can drive the cost down. So that there’s not an excuse that, “oh, it costs too much for me to install this into all my buildings.” But given all of the projects, there’s definitely the demand. Now there has to be the innovations in the supply.

Flynn: I think the other side is the physical resiliency. There are more natural disasters happening because of the environmental impact. We’re trying to do everything we can to avoid those in the future by how we build. You need to build knowing what could happen and building in that resiliency in terms of the design, the potential protection of the assets, and including that.

[It can be done.] We’ve seen it for years in places like Japan around earthquakes and things like that, where the buildings can sustain these things. It’s considering other natural disasters that are affecting across the world and how you build that into your design and delivery.

Ott: That sounds a bit like being able to predict the future.

Flynn: Future-proofing is looking at what you might know, trying to plan for what could happen, but also that you can adjust the assets. Were there to be changed? You may not get it all right day one. Can the assets evolve?

Can I do something different with this asset or can I make it evolve as user needs change? It’s not that we haven’t been doing that for some time, but the needs will change even more into the future as we evolve and in terms of how we use cities.

Ott: That concept of reusing old assets brings us to our final stop in our very brief tour of Infrastructure vanguards is Glasgow. The Scottish city, once an industrial powerhouse, straddles the River Clyde. Ships were built in the yards on the banks of the river, heavy engineering, iron and steel works, and even textiles were all industries that enabled the city to grow. And Glasgow is still looking forward as it is one of 100 cities in the Resilient Cities Network, which focuses on resilience planning in the face of climate change and more.

Duncan Booker is from Glasgow City Council where he is chief resilience officer. He explained what being a resilient, smart city of the future entailed.

Duncan Booker: We were one of the great industrial cities of the world. In fact, it’s a much older city than that and a long established place of human settlement, going back many millennia, and in many ways, our more recent journey can be described as one of moving from being a post-industrial city with a kind of long lament for lost meaning and purpose and industry to one where we want to become a post-carbon city and manage that change much more than we were able to do as we lost heavy industry from the 1970s onward in ways that ensure a just transition for our people to a net zero sustainable and prosperous city for all.

We were, in 2012, affirmed by the UK government as a future city demonstrator and received funding for that. And ever since then, I think we’ve explored what the smart cities agenda means, not just in terms of technology, vital and important though that is, but how that technology is applied in ways that address some of the social issues we have and also support businesses so that we can really have an economy that’s more resilient for the future as we look not only to high-paid, high-value employment, but how we export goods and services to the world in terms of the smart-cities agenda. And much of that is about infrastructure—physical infrastructure and engineering.

We’ve done a lot of work around climate change adaptation and put a lot of investment into issues around surface water management and drainage in the light of much increased rainfall in one of the wetter parts of Northwestern Europe already as global climate change affects local weather patterns. A lot of that is about making more resilient places and making them more attractive to the development market as well.

Part of that is around things like a smart canal development, which we’ve got using an old asset that at one point was very much underutilized and unwanted and bringing it back to life for the city. A former pre-industrial development in many ways that allows us to manage rainwater drainage, using the canal as a system and using smart technologies in light of meteorological reports and so forth to deal with increased rainfall. So, in other words, it’s using an old asset with modern means.

Ott: Once again, the question of “who pays” is raised.

Booker: It doesn’t come cheap. We estimate, for instance, to achieve our net-zero carbon emissions target by the year 2030, we’re going to have to spend or find investment in the region of about £40 billion. Not all of that is from the public sector and the council, but the council is in a convening and leadership role as a democratically elected body for the city and we need to shape that development with other partners, especially in the private sector.

In many ways, we’re drawing upon experience that went with the old Victorian city approach, which had to issue bonds and so forth to build some of the infrastructure, including the clean drinking water system we still have from the mid-19th century.

I think there’s a strong ethos in Glasgow not only of large organizations getting together to work for the common good, as it were to put a collective shoulder to the wheel of our ambitions, but also to ensure that what we do is, forgive the jargon but it’s fair in this case, what we do is co-create it with our people and in their diverse communities and I think that’s a strong message from Glasgow.

In the past, we’ve had to acknowledge that the fruits of economic growth haven’t been shared equally. And we haven’t always managed to ensure that those Glaswegians who are least able [are able] to take advantage of prosperity and opportunity.

The leader of the council said when we hosted COP26 that whilst nation-states make pledges at places like COP, it is cities that are leading on the delivery of a net-zero, climate-resilient, and socially just transformation. I often say that whilst our cities are often the locus of many of the world’s wicked problems, they are also the solution to them at the same time.

Ott: That was Duncan Booker from Glasgow City Council.

So, how can some lessons and skills used in the existing smart cities be applied to other settlements hoping to transform into future cities?

Flynn: Some of it is about just doing smart things, but not necessarily technology things. And so the use of technology is helping that operational piece, the interaction piece.

We’re also seeing that using things like sensors—either in vehicles or on the hard assets—to help manage particularly the flow of traffic or the emissions from traffic and through management of that through traffic flow—all of those things make cities work better.

And so rather than smart cities, it’s really looking at cities that work better for the citizens and for the users, rather than worrying about how that’s actually delivered from a physical or technological point of view.

Marchese: I like the term connected cities, where the citizens are connected to their city, and it allows you to live better in your city.

Ott: So, should all cities be aiming to become connected cities?

Flynn: Well, cities should always be aiming to connect better with their citizens. When you get that right and you’re trying to manage it, yes, every city should be trying to interact better. And so yes, cities are doing more and more to use technology to see how they connect.

But so is government, so are corporates. Everybody is beginning to move this way, but how do I make that personal connection with the citizen or with the individual? That’s the key piece, and you understand what they’re looking for. Then you start figuring out how you deliver against that.

Ott: You mentioned the citizens, you mentioned government, you mentioned business. Who pays? Is it big business? Is it the inhabitants of the city through their taxes? These projects are pretty bold and big and expensive, right?

Marchese: I really think it’s both. As you were talking just now, I was thinking about it’s about the customer experience, right? When you go into a store, if you go on a trip, you pay for a customer experience. As a citizen, I pay taxes, I pay for a certain experience. When I go into a business, I pay for a certain experience.

I think the government is paying for part of this and I think businesses are paying for part. So, it’s public and private funds that are paying for this. It’s, you know, this connected experience.

Some of these big projects, because they go on so long and some of the benefits of it aren’t well explained, maybe some of the good parts of it get cut off. People don’t necessarily see the great benefit. Maybe some of these big infrastructure projects [should] have better marketing campaigns about the benefits to the citizens.

Flynn: And the willingness of people to pay for it will be depending on the value they get.

It is the key question—how do you pay for all this? Because there’s lots of money, and public sector can’t pay for everything, private sector won’t pay for it, everyone’s trying to make profit. As a starting point, is the citizen saying, I thought I already paid for that in my taxes? If you can deliver that exceptional service, you get into a spot where the citizen, the individual, the corporate, whoever’s getting using the service, starts thinking, actually, I can pay a bit more for this. I’m willing to put additional funds over and above my taxes to pay for this.

Ott: With smart cities, the Internet of Things, Wi-Fi being built into the very fabric of this new infrastructure, how do we safeguard the technology?

Marchese: We’ve increased the connectivity, we’ve got to increase the protection of it as well. Everything has technology embedded in it. And some bad actors are taking advantage of that at the same rapid rate. And so, we have to stay on top of that just as quickly as possible. And there are  all kinds of technologies out there, companies that are trying to stay on top of that as well, but that has to be built in just like everything else we were talking about it—from the get-go.

Flynn: I would add to that just our definition of essential infrastructure changed after COVID-19. So, if you remember beforehand, roads, rail, moving us from home to work, generally was what we deemed to be essential infrastructure. Now things like fiber [optics], Wi-Fi, that connectivity piece, that’s now considered essential infrastructure.

The more you use technology in your city or in your assets, then this becomes a greater risk. But if you’re not using technology in your assets, then you’re not delivering them properly and you’re not operating them properly. So now this is just something we’ve got to deal with and therefore putting in that cyber piece and that level of protection just has to be a standard and included in every one of these projects, rather than avoiding putting in the technology to avoid the risk.

Ott: Can we end today’s conversation by hearing from both of you about what you think are the key takeaways when it comes to infrastructure for the planners and those behind the development project and also for society and the community being served? How could society function if we get this infrastructure planning right?

Marchese: What I get really excited about when I think about this question is we’re at this really interesting inflection point because infrastructure projects have been probably designed and planned in a very similar way for a long, long time. They take a long time and they’re really hard and complex and by brute force and they’re usually over budget and take longer than you ever expect.

But technology has changed, and we’ve got artificial intelligence coming in and complex math and all kinds of interesting scenario-planning capabilities. I think we can upend some of that so that projects can happen a lot more predictably and maybe happen faster and more reliably.

And then when you talked about society, I think [of] the idea of designing these infrastructure projects around the way we live. How do we design a transportation project [to] put the public services that are needed for people around where they’re having to go to work [so] everything that they need is on their way. And you put the driver’s license office there and the child’s daycare there and the grocery, like everything would be designed around the way we live instead of having to go all out of the way. If somebody designed an infrastructure project and worked with all the private businesses in a way so that you design these infrastructure projects around the way we live, wouldn’t that be cool? That’s the way we ought to be thinking. And that would change society.

Flynn: You now have such a scale of investment and it’s touching every part of the world, every type of asset, whether it’s upgrading from what was there previously or building new. You now have this opportunity to design in a different way, embed technology, align it to the user needs and user demands, and how you interact with that. The scale that’s been worked on now allows you to do that. Previously, it was sort of bits here and there and smaller programs. Now, it is across the world, and It is for every type of asset.

Because if you look at the programs that are across the world, they are touching everything. So now, if you can shift that from just purely economic view, drive it based on citizen need. Look at inclusion, look at equity, do it on an environmentally sustainable way.

But change it because you’ve got this scale—you can actually change the way we do things. And therefore, change the supply chain, change how the public and private sector work together because they have to work together to deliver all these things. But it’s there, that benefit.

I’m incredibly optimistic about the opportunity. This is not just an engineering solution. This is about the demand-led user solution.

We can then deliver this sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to delivering this. It can be transformational, not just in that developed world, but in developing worlds. And overall, we will be better for it.

Because your point is right. It is hard. And therefore, for somebody to take on something hard, it has to be big enough of an opportunity from a business point of view or it needs to have that scale. So, it does have that scale. And so therefore creates the opportunity.

But you’ve got to have that consistency of message and consistency of what we want as being the outcome. And that’s where we were driving on infrastructure for good is that, you know, social equity, environmental, all of those driving elements as being those the North Star. What is the outcome you’re trying to achieve? If you can achieve that, then it will drive all these other behaviors and how we set ourselves up to get there.

Ott: Thank you, Michael [and] Kelly. It’s been wonderful talking to you today and hearing your thoughts on the topic.

Thank you for listening to Government’s Future Frontiers from Deloitte Insights. Remember to follow and subscribe, so that you don’t miss an episode.

This podcast is produced by Deloitte. The views and opinions expressed by podcast speakers and guests are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of Deloitte. This podcast provides general information only and is not intended to constitute advice or services of any kind. For additional information about Deloitte, go to

Continue Reading