6 Secrets for Public Sector Infrastructure to Thrive in the 21st Century

Public sector organizations in many places around the globe are looking for better ways to manage, improve, or modernize their infrastructure assets often while budgets have been shrinking. Efficiencies and asset management have improved over the years, but largely the infrastructure sector has operated much the same for over 100 years. Without the sector reinventing itself, many public sector organizations will find it increasingly difficult to meet the challenges of managing infrastructure in the 21st century.

Perhaps the primary barrier to renewing or expanding community infrastructure is financial. Many public sector organizations:

  • Lack their own capital to renew or expand their infrastructure
  • Lack the financial strength to attract capital via lenders without government guarantees
  • May find it difficult to raise capital even if they are stronger financially, because many lenders either do not want to fund infrastructure or do not provide competitive rates for renewal or expansion infrastructure projects

This lack of available capital often creates dependence on sporadic provincial and federal government funding.  Even with government funding, many public sector organizations still face:

  • Lack of accountability by vendors, contractors, and engineers after the design and build stages of a major infrastructure renewal or expansion project. For vendors, lack of accountability includes vendor warranties that DO NOT match expected useful life of the asset
  • The potential for bias by government departments to adopt inappropriate designs for projects
  • Lack of adequate testing or lack of proper design by design groups for major infrastructure projects
  • Lack of comprehensive long-term strategic planning for public sector infrastructure asset management. Often the planning time frame associated with government program funding is much less than the useful life of the asset. This often leads to an inadequate budget or plan for the long-term operations and maintenance of the asset. This can lead to the premature deterioration of the asset or worse yet catastrophic failure
  • Lack of capacity or lack of commercial expertise by the public sector organization or the government agency to manage the planning, procurement, and build of complex infrastructure projects or the operations & maintenance of an operational project
  • The uncertainty of hard to determine “surprise” costs of infrastructure asset operation and maintenance. This is especially daunting when the operations and maintenance budget is limited
  • Lack of performance monitoring for the entire useful life of major infrastructure assets
  • Lack of long-term budget stabilization for infrastructure asset operation & maintenance
  • Lack of an unbiased “champion” to keep a complex, major infrastructure project moving forward
  • Lack of an unbiased “champion” to communicate with all the major stakeholders in an even-handed manner so the interests of all groups are upheld
  • Lack of time, knowledge, or capacity to successfully acquire appropriate government funding from various levels and ministries of government and their programs, which these infrastructure projects may qualify for
  • Lack of time, knowledge, or capacity to get various government ministries to collaborate with each other to provide the necessary government resources to either assist in building capacity at public sector organization or to ensure the long-term viability of an infrastructure asset
  • Lack of time, knowledge, or capacity to work with government regulators that are required during the useful life of the project


The 6 Secrets

There is hope though. During the last decade, IGNITE Infrastructure Association, a nonprofit organization, has discovered 6 secrets to not only overcome these many issues, but to thrive. It has thoroughly researched and field-tested these secrets, and now wishes to share these secrets with public sector organizations. Over the next few months, we will describe each of these secrets, so your organization is better positioned to thrive with public infrastructure in the 21st century.