What is inclusive infrastructure?
Inclusive Infrastructure is infrastructure that is designed and developed to create positive social outcomes and drive economic empowerment. It ensures every member of a community, regardless of their background, has equal access to essential services and the opportunity to participate fully in society.
Creating social equity through inclusive infrastructure is quickly becoming a key consideration for governments of both developed and developing economies and is supported through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as international conventions. In addition, social inclusion is a key component in the definition of Quality Infrastructure – an ongoing priority of the G20. Private sector organisations are also increasingly recognising their corporate social responsibility to collaborate to deliver genuine inclusivity in infrastructure projects.
Why is equal access to infrastructure important?
Providing equal access through inclusive infrastructure is both a moral and a financial imperative. Infrastructure is a large area of public investment and is a constant in our daily lives, so its benefits should be shared by all. Additionally, projects increasingly need to demonstrate shared values with investors and other stakeholders to be considered bankable.
Inclusive infrastructure can deliver the following benefits:
- Reduced poverty and income inequality
- Enhanced social equity and stability
- Increased affordability and accessibility
- Increased gender equity
- Improved technical literacy and knowledge sharing
- Reduced geographic divides
- Increased job creation and equal access to labour market opportunities
- Increased small business opportunities.
How does inclusive infrastructure drive economic empowerment?
Inclusive infrastructure plays a pivotal role in driving economic empowerment by giving all members of society more equal access to essential services and opportunities.
For example, accessible and affordable transportation systems can connect underserved communities to urban centres, giving residents access to employment and educational opportunities, and ultimately reducing income disparities. Similarly, access to fast and reliable internet can reduce social and economic isolation and support greater educational attainment, while greater electrification can drive economic participation and provide a higher standard of amenity and safety.
Inclusive infrastructure can provide support for businesses using inclusive procurement policies, including setting targets for women- and minority-owned businesses participating in a project’s supply chain. It can also empower communities by giving them a greater say in how infrastructure is designed, delivered, and operated.
Inclusive infrastructure and the Sustainable Development Goals
Formulated in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of seventeen interlinked objectives that serve as a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future’. Whilst inclusive infrastructure touches on several of the SDGs, it relates most closely to SDGs 5 and 10 as outlined below.
- SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Inclusive infrastructure helps professionals and organisations mainstream gender across the entire infrastructure value chain.
- SDG 10: Reduce income inequality within and among countries. Inclusive infrastructure can reduce income inequality by providing greater access to economic opportunity for previously underserved groups.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals
How can inclusivity in infrastructure be delivered?
Through our research, the GI Hub has identified six actions areas for delivering inclusive infrastructure. Each action area is broken down into recommended practices. Outlined below, these provide a practical, evidence-based framework to help practitioners maximise the impact of infrastructure investment on reducing inequality and promoting shared prosperity.
The six action areas and their associated practices are:
- Stakeholder identification, engagement, and empowerment:
- Developing robust data collection methods to identify stakeholder groups
- Establishing engagement objectives, frameworks, and processes to empower stakeholders and address opportunities and barriers
- Governance and capacity building:
- Establishing inclusive leadership and governance systems
- Understanding the needs of vulnerable groups
- Policy, regulation, and standards:
- Integrating transparent inclusivity into policy, strategy, and regulation
- Developing inclusive standards with specific design codes, guidelines, and enforcement mechanisms
- Assessing the socioeconomic returns of infrastructure projects
- Project planning, development, and delivery:
- Applying a project lifecycle approach to inclusion across all project stages
- Incorporating better-understood aspects of inclusivity, as well as less-understood aspects like economic inclusion and safety
- Private sector roles and participation:
- Applying incentives to align with government inclusivity objectives
- Encouraging private sector involvement in inclusive infrastructure projects
- Implementing inclusive procurement and hiring practices
- Adopting new technology in the design and development of projects
- Affordability and optimising finance:
- Using public resources in line with country specific policies, strategies, and regulations
- Applying quantitative and qualitative social criteria that target inclusiveness in business case preparation
- Appraising the socioeconomic returns, inclusivity, and affordability of tariff structures, subsidies, grants, or output-based aid mechanisms.
Inclusive Infrastructure is a way of using one of our biggest levers as a society to improve things for everyone. It shares the benefits of infrastructure in such a way that all members of society can participate fully. To help professionals from across the infrastructure ecosystem to build the knowledge and skills required to successfully plan and implement inclusive infrastructure, the GI Hub offers comprehensive professional training that is based on the six action areas and supported by global case studies. Learn more about the Certificate in Inclusive Infrastructure.