Ash Researchers Lay Out Case for Increased Investments in Intelligent Civil Infrastructure

August 18, 2021
Ash Researchers Lay Out Case for Increased Investments in Intelligent Civil Infrastructure

Cambridge, MA – In a new paper published by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a research center housed at Harvard Kennedy School, Professor Stephen Goldsmith and his co-authors Betsy Gardner and Jill Jamieson argue that intelligent infrastructure should be a priority for both policymakers in Washington and state and local governments officials developing infrastructure spending plans. In Toward a Smarter Future: Building Back Better with Intelligent Civil Infrastructure Smart Sensors and Self-Monitoring Civil Works, Goldsmith, Gardner, and Jamieson illustrate how smart infrastructure plans that integrate digital technology, sensors, and data can help bridge the country’s infrastructure deficit by mitigating risks and improving the conditions and structures that shape our daily lives.

 

To enable local government to quickly identify issues with infrastructure before they become acute dangers, the authors make the case for incorporating data analysis with intelligent infrastructure, which integrates digital technology and smart sensors in order to monitor the country’s roadways, buildings, and bridges. Goldsmith, Gardner, and Jamieson cite the example of sensor systems and other intelligent technology that can identify and mitigate many of the public safety threats posed by deteriorating infrastructure caused by climate change. They also argues that better utilizing intelligent infrastructure is critical for addressing past and future infrastructure inequities. “As America looks to rebuild its civil infrastructure, intelligent infrastructure can be used to help remedy past wrongs, reconstruct a more just urban environment, and improve the health and economic well-being of those who have been systemically disadvantaged by our past and current investments and programs,” the authors write.

 

For policymakers, the paper urges leaders at all levels of government to consider the transformative potential of intelligent infrastructure. Federal officials, they advise, should look beyond roads and bridges and consider intelligent infrastructure as a system: upheld, connected, and integrated by data. Through grants, incentives, and authorized funding for these smart systems, the federal government can effect monumental change that will improve how all residents experience their daily lives. At the state level, budgeting with intelligent infrastructure in mind will encourage innovative approaches to local infrastructure. And on a municipal level, cities and towns can invest in comprehensive asset management systems and training for local workers to best utilize the intelligent infrastructure data.

 

About the Ash Center  

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs, and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens.

Contact Information

Daniel Harsha
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
Daniel_Harsha@hks.harvard.edu

Sarah Grucza
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

Sarah_Grucza@hks.harvard.edu