Managing Interdependencies in Infrastructure Systems for a Resilient Future

Day 3, 6 May 2022, 1330 - 1500 IST

Session Annotation

This session will unpack the manifestation and implications of interdependencies within and among infrastructure systems for a resilient future. Infrastructure systems are complex integration of sub systems. At present there is decisive push towards building more sustainable and resilient infrastructure that requires a critical assessment of how the interdependencies of infrastructure systems will hinder or facilitate this transition. The session will draw out experiences and best practices of managing interdependencies within a single, multiple, transnational, or global infrastructure system.   


Session Overview 

Even the simplest of infrastructure systems rely on a set of other infrastructure systems or facilities for their development, commissioning, and operations. For example, power infrastructure relies on the transportation of fuel (coal, gas, petroleum) for generation and telecommunication for grid management. In turn, transportation networks rely on electricity for signalling and operating trains, ports, airports, etc. The reliance of one infrastructure on other infrastructure depicts interdependence in infrastructure systems. 

Interdependence is the characteristic of a set of entities by virtue of which these entities can influence or can be influenced by other entities. Such interdependence constitutes a complex web of ‘direct relationship – when entities impact other entities in a visibly direct way’ and ‘indirect relationships – when entities impact other entities through cascading impacts on intermediate entities’. Due to these interdependent characteristics, critical infrastructure is often seen as ‘systems of systems’. Further, to mitigate the risks of climate change and disasters, these infrastructure systems need to integrate resilience. The integration will affect not just infrastructure systems but also their interdependencies.  

Due to the complexities of infrastructure systems, managing interdependencies is a challenge. In a disaster scenario, such interdependencies may exhibit chaotic phenomena and cascading impacts can become unpredictable. For example, the Suez Canal blockage in 2021 triggered by the ship Ever Given caused disruptions of the global supply chain and loss of billions of dollars. In 2018, an IT outage in British Airways resulted in global disruption of flights and thousands of passengers being stranded at airports. The wildfires in Australia disrupted several civil amenities. The pandemic of COVID 19 disrupted the global economy and way of life. These are just some examples of how interdependencies in infrastructure systems, with or without external hazards, will affect infrastructure resilience. 

This session of ICDRI 2022 proposes to bring together scholars on complexities of infrastructure systems, and stakeholders from aviation, ports, health, investment, to unpack the intricate issues of managing interdependencies of infrastructure systems to make our futures more resilient. The session will also deliberate on approaches, pitfalls, and lessons to inform the policy makers about managing interdependencies in infrastructure systems for resilience. 

Topics for Discussion: 

  • A transition towards more integrated and resilient infrastructure systems means we are creating a new set of interdependencies at several levels: intra-infrastructure level, inter-infrastructure level, and transitional level. What are some of the less understood concepts/implications associated with infrastructure interdependencies? 
  • Critical infrastructure interdependencies constitute a risk multiplier: they can themselves be a threat or hazard, affect the resilience and protection performance of critical infrastructure, and lead to cascading and escalating failures. How should we think about these challenges in the context of the transitions of infrastructure we are experiencing? 
  • How should actors of critical infrastructure work to increase disaster resilience to risks from interdependencies?
  • Increasing interdependencies also means, altering the stakeholder equation of liability for dependent infrastructure systems. How do such implications manifest in infrastructure development, operations, and investment?