Infrastructure – what and why?

The ‘group for building stuff’  (post 20 Jan) focussed on construction.  The reserve bank idea focusses on financing. Both of these miss the point – by your traditional country mile.  What is the point?  Probably best explained in the title of Brett Frischmann’s book “Infrastructure – the social value of shared resources” The whole point of infrastructure is not so much what IT does as what it enables US to do!  That’s the social bit.  The ‘shared resources’ refers to the fact that, unlike our iPhone or car, infrastructure is not owned by any one of us alone, but by all of us together. Thus we need a representative group decision.

So rather than give the job to some group that can only do a partial – and therefore poor – job, how do we improve government decision-making?

One Thought on “Infrastructure – what and why?

  1. I’m going to attempt a multi-post comment, there’s a theme running through them…

    24 Jan: I think we can improve government decision-making if we can foster a CONVERSATION about where we’re headed and what we need to do to get there, one that politicians and community can understand and take part in with the support of AM professionals… which is why 100’s of pages of technical AMPs aren’t the answer!

    23 Jan: I think Gladys B’s comments (schools and hospitals not mega projects) sound more like populism than good decision making because she seems to be saying certain types of ‘feel-good projects’ are better… but where she may be on track is acknowledging the state govt. hasn’t focused broadly enough? I’m sure better decision making demands we consider ALL PRIORITIES competing for funding across the community, not just mega projects or schools… and not just infrastructure. Our community $ all come out of the one bucket.

    20 Jan: I think the conversation is possible using the language of ‘VALUE’ rather than ‘building stuff’. By focusing on ‘build stuff’ we isolate infrastructure decisions from broader priorities, but also from the community / political conversations… they want to talk about ‘value’ where often we AM professionals want to talk about the ‘stuff’.

    17 Jan: Of course, this is why the decisions can’t (and shouldn’t) be taken out of the hands of politicians and made by a ‘reserve bank’ or some other group of EXPERTS.

    I was talking with a planner last night over a beer about exactly this: he told me NSW govt. has built light rail infrastructure out to Kensington and is now consulting about the height of high rise (25 storeys, or if you don’t like that 18 then!) to be serviced by it. This intensive development is needed, they say, because Sydney needs another 100,000 homes. For this to be a GOOD DECISION, it must be informed by a CONVERSATION about the needs and aspirations of the community – where they want to be and how to get there, ALL PRIORITIES – and particular actions to help us get there. This isn’t about stuff, but the VALUE we place on activities, alternative courses of action/futures. EXPERTS can’t give us these answers without talking to the community.

    So… to answer the question posed here, we can improve government decision-making by facilitating a simpler, ongoing conversation within which these decisions are made (the integrated planning and reporting framework for NSW local government is the right approach: we just need better tools and clearer thinking to help us implement it).

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