Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Reconsidering the varying faces of infrastructure and their sometimes competing imperatives 6: an orienting outline of what is to follow here

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning, UN-GAID by Timothy Platt on March 22, 2019

This is my 7th installment to a series on infrastructure as work on it, and as possible work on it are variously prioritized and carried through upon, or set aside for future consideration (see United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID), postings 46 and following for Parts 1-5.)

I began this series with analyses of two admittedly largely failed infrastructure development and redevelopment initiatives that have received wide ranging news coverage in recent years, as of this writing:

• The US government’s efforts to help remediate immediate disaster impact in Puerto Rico and rebuild from it, coming out of Hurricane Maria in 2017 (see Part 1 and Part 2)
• And efforts to maintain and extend the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) subway system (see Part 2 and Part 3, and supplemental posting Part 4.5 as added in as an initially unplanned for update on this too.)

I then continued on from there to consider two arguably very successful infrastructure development and redevelopment programs, noting and discussing how the meaning of the word “success” varies widely, depending historically on who got to more forcefully determine what that word should mean from when these projects were first developed and carried through upon. See Part 4 and Part 5.

My overall goal for this series as a whole has been to successively explore a progression of current and historic large scale infrastructure initiatives, with a goal of distilling out of them, a set of guiding principles that might offer planning and execution value when moving forward on other such programs. My initial intention in this overall effort, moving on from Part 5, was to turn to consider China and its complexities as a next step forward in developing the case study foundation that I would require for that. But I have to add that I have also expected to see need to add more case studies to this narrative, in order to reach my overall goals for this series as a just stated. So I digress from my initial plans for how I would proceed in this overall endeavor starting here, and with that need in mind.

I am going to very explicitly and directly discuss a complex and nuanced infrastructure story that has been central to China and that nation’s history and certainly since the rise of Mao Zedong. Noting that, I add that I will also at least make note of some of China’s earlier and even more ancient history as well. And turning to consider modern China, and the China of the past few decades in particular, I will discuss how its recent and current leadership have sought to use infrastructure building and even infrastructure revolutionizing and both within their own national borders, and as a tool of international statecraft and diplomacy, in order to build itself into a true globally leading superpower.

To put that assertion into perspective with what I have offered up to here, the Marshall and Molotov Plans as already discussed in this series (in Parts 4 and 5) were more about containment and consolidation, and the development of a balanced reliability for both sides: East and West that would allow for stability and growth and for both the United States and their allies and for the Soviet Union and theirs. China’s ambitions are wider and more open ended than that, as I will discuss in detail, even if much if not all of their effort has been politically shaped and motivated too.

But once again, I have said that I will add in at least selectively detailed and framed discussions of at least a few other significant infrastructure efforts as well. And in preparation for what I will offer here regarding China, I am going to at least selectively delve into two of them:

• US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and related efforts to help bring his country out of a then actively unfolding Great Depression,
• And a newly formed Soviet Union’s efforts to move from being a backward agrarian society, or rather a disparate collection of them that had all existed under a single monarchical rule, to become a modern industrial state.

Both offer specific explanatory insight into China’s history in this regard and certainly where that country’s modern history is concerned.

Then looking ahead, I will begin exploring the above outlined China narrative thread that I have proposed developing here, with a discussion of internal reorganizing and rebuilding efforts as China’s leaders have sought to move their country from the status of primitive agrarian society to that of technologically and industrially advanced world power. And then I will consider their more outwardly facing, globally involving efforts as those initiatives have fit into and supported that overall goal for them too.

I offer this posting as a brief orienting installment for what is to come here, adding that I will supplement what I have just outlined above as needed, with further case study examples and related details in order to clarify and flesh out this overall discussion. My overall goal through all of this series is and will be to facilitate development of an at-least starting outline of a set of more generally applicable principles for better selecting, shaping, planning and executing large scale infrastructure projects moving forward, as will become pressingly important in the coming century and certainly as unfolding realities such as global warming demand them. After presenting the more general approach that I am leading up to in all of this, I will consider that challenge as a source of infrastructure development imperative, doing so in light of my more general infrastructure development approach. And I will also, and in the same way discuss and consider our still very actively, globally emerging internet as an overarching infrastructure system too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. I also include this in Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And I include this in my United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID) directory too for its relevance there.

Addendum note update as added here on January 30, 2019:
I was not initially planning on updating my account of and discussion of the New York City MTA and its challenges here, even as this is a rapidly evolving news story as I write this series. So for example, I did not see specific need to update my note on how Governor Cuomo, with his political ambitions, has gotten his way in overruling the MTA board and its three year study on the best way to fix their subway system L line and that his plan will be followed instead, no matter how casually and quickly arrived at. (For an as-of-this-writing current news story on that, see: The L Train Will Stay Open. So What Happens to All Those Plan B’s?) But this unfolding story is not just about the ongoing consequences of this transit system infrastructure as it has become a political football. True, Governor Cuomo and I add New York City Mayor De Blasio both have presidential ambitions, but this is not all about them. It is also about lives and very poignantly it is about the life lost, of a 22 year old mother who died yesterday, falling down a flight of subway system stairs while trying to maneuver them with her young child and baby carriage.

This happened at one of the many subway stations that has never been made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as discussed in this series in its Part 3. See:

A Mother’s Fatal Fall on Subway Stairs Rouses New Yorkers to Demand Accessibility.

I can only hope that the title of this here-cited news piece proves accurate and for a lot longer than some single news cycle. I have noted how the deaths of MTA workers on the job, have come and gone without real public notice or reaction. When I write of infrastructure here and how it is and is not carried through upon, I am not just writing about abstract business or related systems. I am writing about real people and real lives, and in all of the case study examples that I have, will, or could include here. And the ongoing abject failure on the part of all politically contesting parties in this example, to make this system accessible or even safe, simply highlights that. The issues that I write of here are important, and in ways and to degrees that no one can safely overlook.

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