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Indian MOF Conference sets objectives for new future-ready infrastructure

Indian MOF Conference sets objectives for new future-ready infrastructure

The recently concluded 4th Regional
Conference
on ‘Futuristic, Resilient and Digital Infrastructure’ in
Bengaluru identified the need for Indian infrastructure development to prepare
the nation to capitalise on the opportunities that digital technologies and the
4th Industrial Revolution has to offer.

The conference identified three key
objectives in achieving sustainable infrastructure development — integration in urban planning and transportation, inclusion, and
building for resilience in design and operations.

Organised by the Indian Ministry of Finance
in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and Research
and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), the two-day conference
is a lead-up to the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment
Bank (AIIB) in June 2018. Featuring delegates and experts from partner institutions,
academia, civil society organisations, and industry, they shared their views on
the opportunities and challenges a digitally enabled India could face in coming
years.

In planning for new nation-wide
developments, experts pointed out the rigorous new demands that new
infrastructure will be expected to contend with in coming years.

The
Role of New Infrastructure

One of the most pressing requirements of
new infrastructure is the imminent need to alleviate congestion in the rapidly
developing cities and towns in the Indian subcontinent. It has become
imperative, particularly in recent decades, to leverage futuristic smart
technologies, emerging digital technologies, satellite-based services, intelligent
traffic and city management to promote further growth in these areas and
achieve decongestion.

To maintain such growth and support flourishing
cities, resilience of infrastructure has also become essential,
especially in disaster prone areas. The conference stressed
the need for new infrastructure and methodologies in planning for and dealing
with these disasters — like
purpose-designed hospitals, the creation of utility maps, and early warning
systems that use digital technologies to predict storms, tsunamis, cyclones, and
heat stress. It was also suggested that community level partnerships and
initiatives would be important to promote integration at the ground level.

Integrating the vast and sometimes even
remote areas of the country, a recurring theme during the conference, was
identified as another key objective that new infrastructure will be required to
address. Experts suggested that robust masterplans for city expansion that consider
the cultural and anthropological characteristics of the geography will be crucial
to ensure inclusive development and minimise exclusions across India’s diverse
topology. Once again, the conference reiterated the role of digital
technologies in fostering these connections.

New methodologies in urbanisation will be
vital in ensuring the smooth transition into modernisation and expansion of
tier-2 and below cities. Sustainability will also need to be considered in
planning and erecting new urban landscapes and mobility solutions to fulfil
current demands and to be poised to accommodate for future ones.

While the conference unanimously recognised
the need for new digital infrastructure to pave India’s way forward in the tech
focused economy and society, they also made special note of the pitfalls such a
task would pose.

Challenges
of a tech-enabled infrastructure

Financing the gargantuan task of
futureproofing the infrastructure of the world’s seventh largest country poses
the most significant hurdle. The conference suggested that in addition to the
use of the existing private-public partnership funding models, the futuristic
Infrastructure may also be funded through land value capture. Allowing land value to first increase then leveraging it for revenue
apart from using pooled savings in the form of insurance and pension funds could
offer a solution to the financing hurdle.

On the flipside, the conference also
contended that the paradigms of infrastructure financing are also changing
globally. Increasingly, infrastructure for competitiveness is being championed
by multilateral banks like the Asian Development Bank.  

In addition, other challenges such as
security, privacy, the future of work, market failure of futuristic
innovations, and the concern over the rural-urban gap were also discussed.