The role of the customer in infrastructure is increasingly becoming centre stage. Technology is empowering not only the customer voice through social media; new contestants are offering data enhanced products and services that are disrupting traditional models. This is helping to rapidly dismiss old assumptions that infrastructure users are passive and homogeneous, as opposed to being dynamic and highly differentiated customers.
While intuitively appealing to stakeholders, the ways and means of making customer-led infrastructure a universal working reality for the sector are unclear. This situation does not reflect stagnation or indifference to new initiatives; instead this Policy Outlook Paper has identified a rich diversity of practice, outcomes and maturity across all sectors of infrastructure in Australia.
Policymakers and industry in Australia continue to wrestle with the best way to proceed. On the one hand it is acknowledged more market efficiency is needed in infrastructure, while on the other there are calls for more government intervention, with national project lists based on bureaucratic processes that are accompanied with claims of market failure demanding even more public intervention.
Privatisation, corporatisation and more recently asset recycling continue to attract policy and investment experts from around the world who come to learn from Australia’s infrastructure experience.
It is imperative Australia continues to push the boundaries of reform and performance for infrastructure.
The next frontier of reform and transformation, however, is already here: namely the centrality of customers and the creation of infrastructure markets.
There appears to be a heightened political sensitivity to markets and private capital, especially in respect of Australia’s future energy security and building new infrastructure, as for example with Western Sydney airport, Snowy 2.0 and the National Broadband Network. While their full costs are still unfolding, customers and markets should remain an important means to efficiently meet Australia’s future infrastructure needs. They are both critical to and a necessary enabler of customer-led infrastructure.
The nation has been, and continues to be, well served by markets. However, many of these markets are outside the infrastructure sector.
John Grill Centre for Project Leadership, University of Sydney 2017