Building sustainable infrastructure one click at a time

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Photo Credit: United Nations

Development of infrastructure services is often a central feature for rebuilding fragile and conflict affected states (FCSs). One of the reasons is that infrastructure is often devastated by conflict, making provision of water, power, communications and transportation priorities for recovery efforts. Another reason is that equitable distribution of services may be an important feature of a peace agreement and any appearance of unfairness could spark renewed unrest. Whatever the motivation, without proper planning for governance, the development can falter.
There are two governance challenges with infrastructure in FCSs. One is that the urgency to provide service sometimes overshadows developing systems that can easily transition from something quickly built to infrastructure with sound governance that grows and matures as the country progresses. Another challenge is establishing regulations that encourage investment by protecting property rights. And given the diversity of FCSs situations, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
How can development professionals advance good infrastructure governance amongst the turbulence and urgency of infrastructure recovery in FCSs? PPIAF and the Public Utility Research Center (PURC) at the University of Florida recently launched a web portal to assist in this work.

The portal outlines a basic strategy for developing good governance while rapidly expanding access to services. There is a menu of options for FCSs regarding how they might provide a more predictable environment for protecting property rights. These include regulation by contract, license, or laws, depending upon where the country has institutional capacity; self-regulation, where providers share common interests in good service; and regulation by subnational or national institutions, depending upon where the country has credible and effective institutions, all the while recognizing that in many situations tribal relationships may be more powerful than formal governmental rules. Successful implementation of any of these options follows a logical sequence of steps that begins with developing a guiding coalition of powerful stakeholders, which then develops the vision and strategy, over communicates the vision, empowers local action, maintains momentum, and institutionalizes successes.
Another facet of the portal is a self-assessment tool that allows users to identify strengths and weaknesses. Following research by g7+ on fragile states, the tool assesses economic activity, political stability, social cohesion, governance, security, and current infrastructure. Rather than provide an objective assessment, the tool relies upon users’ opinions, making the tool valuable for comparing viewpoints as well as framing and organizing dialogues.
The portal’s taxonomy section provides a more in depth view of the areas of self-assessment and organizes them so that practitioners can see whether their countries are in situations of crisis, rebuild and reform, transition, transformation, or resilience with respect to infrastructure and governance, and what it looks like to transition up to the next level. Numerous case studies are provided so that users can see how others in similar situations addressed their challenges.
In some instances, development professionals want focused information on particular challenges. To address this need, the portal has a section of frequently asked questions. The FAQs address key performance indicators, coping with poor data, performance targets, public participation, and political interference. The FAQs also link to and leverage the broader Body of Knowledge on Infrastructure Regulation that is used by hundreds of regulatory professionals on a weekly basis.
The portal provides tools, ideas, cases and action items that professionals can use to build sustainable infrastructure systems in countries with urgent needs. The process in FCSs is non-linear, but the commonality of people’s basic values, needs, and motivations suggest an overarching framework for developing scalable and sustainable governance for infrastructure in FCSs.

Want a hands-on tour of the portal? Consider tuning into a webinar I will be hosting January 12, 2017 on "Improving Infrastructure Regulation for Low-Income, Fragile and Low-Capacity Countries." The webinar will introduce the portal, summarize its key content, and demonstrate its tools, including showing results from countries that have engaged with the self-assessment. The webinar will also feature an interview with two experienced practitioners in the field of infrastructure service delivery.


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.


Mark Jamison

Director and Gunter Professor, Public Utility Research Center, Warrington College of Business, University of Florida

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