Development of urban infrastructure held back by city leaders

Urban infrastructureThe main obstacles to the implementation of urban infrastructure are those raised by the organisations and people who do most to champion them. That is the standout finding of a new report, Urban Infrastructure Insights 2015, published by the Economic Intelligence Unit and FCC Group. The survey of more than 400 business leaders and policy makers worldwide found that a majority believe the greatest impediment to the development of urban infrastructure is a lack of will and skill amongst civic leaders and officials. Lack of political will was cited by 40 percent of respondents, alongside a lack of skills among officials (39 percent), and poor governmental effectiveness (34 percent). Lack of funds was cited by 34 percent. Policy makers were especially scathing about city leaders with more than half citing their lack of skills and knowledge.

Overall, three quarters of respondents think their current urban infrastructure is adequate but two-thirds (68 percent) believe investment will be needed within the next five years. The report highlights a mismatch between the aims and expectations of business leaders and policymakers. The former would like to prioritise technological and transport infrastructure alongside education while the latter are more concerned with services such as waste, recycling and utilities.

The report calls on civic leaders and officials to improve their ability to deliver effective urban infrastructure and work in partnership with key stakeholders to extend their influence, cut costs and supplement their own abilities.

“The debate concerning the future of cities has been dominated in recent years by the concept of “smart”, viewed especially from the perspective of information network and big data use to improve the efficiency of infrastructure and services”, writes Juan Bejar of FCC Group. “However, excluding some examples, this perspective has underestimated the capacity of cities’ own citizens and the role they can play in using technological advances to participate in the local decision-making and become stakeholders in their urban environments.”