Urban Infrastructure: Exploring the challenges and opportunities of traditional and digital infrastructure in cities across the globe

Urban Infrastructure: Exploring the challenges and opportunities of traditional and digital infrastructure in cities across the globe


Infrastructure is vital for determining the success or failure of a city. Strong infrastructure results in a city that can easily grow to accommodate more people, allows for a highly mobile population minimizing economic time lost to travel, and makes high levels of tourism possible, boosting the influence of the city.

Infrastructure broadly breaks down into three categories: basic utilities such as water, sewage and electricity; the transportation network, both for internal travel and connections to other cities across the country and world; and digital infrastructure, which includes fixed internet provision, quality of mobile and fixed telephone connections, and mobile internet availability and quality. Each of these areas has its own unique implications for the viability of a city, consequences if undersupplied, and challenges in expansion.

External travel capacity is important both for logistics and for personal travel. With regards to logistics, the capacity of the transport network plays a sizeable part in determining the cost of shipping goods to or from a city, hence influencing prices for the end user. For personal travel, the quality of the transport network influences the distance people will be willing to travel to the city, impacting the number of tourist visitors (particularly domestic tourism), but primarily determining how much of the surrounding land falls into the city’s economic area. This in turn allows companies and brands within a city with a strong transport network to exert their influence over a greater area.

Transportation between cities is a vital aspect of any infrastructure system. Quality of these links is a key determinant of cost of goods transport, but also determines the effectiveness of a location as a national or regional hub and influences the quantity of internal visits for tourism or shopping. Nearby high capacity air links help facilitate international business, as well as making the city a more attractive destination to international tourists.

Digital infrastructure is the modern evolution of telecommunication infrastructure. It ranges from the physical structures used to provide internet access and mobile phone connections to integrated systems for monitoring local conditions to ensure efficient use of government resources. The digital infrastructure within a city goes a long way to determining the suitability of the location for global companies, or those seeking to enter foreign markets. Digital infrastructure also has a large impact on the quality of life for residents and tourists; in our increasingly connected world fast and reliable internet is vastly important for social interaction, finding places to go, finding directions, and much more.

Digital infrastructure is growing in importance, and offers the most opportunities. It is also the form of infrastructure most easily upgraded in large cities, however due to the speed of developments in this area, the most successful cities for digital infrastructure are going to be those that can react quickly and monitor the effectiveness of the new systems. Digital infrastructure plays an important role in reshaping the global marketplace through e-commerce and telecommuting, and is necessary for many of the productivity gains that are being produced by new technology. Finally, digital infrastructure alters consumption habits as advancements open up new opportunities; for instance expansions to mobile data provision allowing internet use while commuting.

The report Urban Infrastructure: Exploring the challenges and opportunities of traditional and digital infrastructure in cities across the globe provides insight into the effects of infrastructure on the growth potential of urban locations, and predicts future developments. The report is primarily concerned with three areas; internal transportation, external transportation, and digital infrastructure. The report considers the impacts of each of these areas on economic viability and development.


  • Limits imposed by infrastructure demands will lead to slower growth for the largest cities, where high costs cause difficulty improving supply to meet demand and local situations may preclude sufficient expansion.
  • Developments in infrastructure technology allow for more effective infrastructure and less disruptive construction techniques. These improvements have a greater effect on locations currently underserved by their infrastructure, and will improve their growth potential.
  • Improving digital infrastructure changes how consumers interact with businesses, creating new opportunities as behaviours shift.
Reasons to buy
  • Cities are large and varied markets with a plethora of opportunities for businesses. The effects of infrastructure on cities is easily overlooked, but has a significant impact on every aspect of urban function.
  • Through detailed research, 'Urban Infrastructure' provides insight into the current trends affecting cities and their citizens. By analyzing the effects on the urban landscape, this report provides a high level of clarity in order to aid business decisions.

Executive summary
Section 1: Traditional Infrastructure
Section 1, Traditional Infrastructure: Basic infrastructure
Section 1, Traditional Infrastructure: Internal transport
Section 1, Traditional Infrastructure: Long-range transport
Section 2: Digital Infrastructure
Section 3: Key findings and Recommendations
Acronyms and definitions
About the author
Contact information
List of Figures
EXHIBIT 1: Global Urban Population forecast, 2000-2025
EXHIBIT 2: Tokyo GDP versus flow of shipped cargo and air travel, 2006-2015
EXHIBIT 3: Tallinn GDP versus number of Professional, Scientific and Technical enterprises, 2006-2015

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