Photo Credit: Flickr user n8agrin
Seven years ago I began working in the infrastructure field, and it has been truly remarkable to witness so much knowledge and so many incredible bright minds dedicated to the cause of providing sustainable and inclusive infrastructures globally, really!
During this time, I have realized how crucial project preparation is even though in the scheme of things it seems like a minute phase of a very long infrastructure life cycle. In fact, I compare the project preparation phase to the “cornerstone concept,” defined as the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.
In other words, if a project is well-prepared, well designed, well-thought of, it is more likely to flow better across the infrastructure life cycle and provide the desired services to the population, and vice versa.
This is where it gets tricky because while there are a lot of funding resources dedicated to project preparation coming from the multilateral development banks (MDBs), project preparation facilities, bilateral donors, public-private sector entities or private sector establishments, there is a clear lack of standards in project preparation.
Will a set of commonly-agreed principles or standards for project preparation soon be identified for infrastructure projects? I believe so, and it is already happening through various infrastructure knowledge and capacity-building platforms and software that have recently populated the market.
These databases, or platforms, are offering users crucial information (sometimes directly inputted by governments) on global project pipelines across the infrastructure life cycle by facilitating, but not limited to, the matching between project sponsors and potential investors.
Software as a Service (SaaS) can also provide similar outcomes but with more features, including project optimization and management, which are embedded into a very complex series of algorithms that requires years of continuous researching, testing, development and deployment (depending on the features offered).
Since 2010, initiated by the Asian Development Bank, a standard software for project preparation is being developed, based on commonly-agreed principles, called the International Infrastructure Support System (IISS). Laurence Carter, the Senior Director of the Public-Private Partnerships Group of the World Bank Group, listed the global launch of IISS as a highlight from 2016 in his end-of-year blog.
Why is IISS becoming a standard with commonly-agreed principles?
- Standard, because IISS is a unique software for project preparation based on years of research, testing, development and deployment that has been and is being designed, advised and supported by the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank), CAF (Development Bank of Latin America), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Inter-American Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, World Bank Group, and coordinated by its executing agency the Sustainable Infrastructure Foundation.
- Moreover, not only are the development banks and project preparation facilities institutionalizing the use of IISS for preparing all their projects, governments around the world are also doing it.
- Commonly-agreed principles, because IISS is based on a series of over 36 templates that address different sub-sectors of infrastructure that encompass detailed questions covering governance, technical, legal, economic, financial, environmental and social aspects among others. These templates’ questions have been reviewed, and benefit from comments and upgrades from more than 200 private sector representatives from over 60 companies that have provided more than 4,800 comments (an average of 100 per month) as of February 2017.
Since its global launch at the end of January 2016, the numbers speak for themselves:
- Seventy-one projects valued at more than US$18 billion
- Over 500 global users from 28+ countries.
IISS offers governments a unique global standard: a reliable, secure, and user-friendly project preparation software to maximize public sector users' financing options—including PPPs—by providing well-prepared projects in a consistent and transparent way to the international community of contractors, investors and lenders.
Welcome to the “Source of Well-Prepared Projects”: http://www.public.sif-iiss.org/*
*You will need to register to access the currently published projects on IISS.
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Disclaimer: The content of this blog does not necessarily reflect the views of the World Bank Group, its Board of Executive Directors, staff or the governments it represents. The World Bank Group does not guarantee the accuracy of the data, findings, or analysis in this post.