RICK GEDDES: My name is Rick Geddes. And I'm a professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management here at Cornell University.
How has the pandemic changed my perspective? The main effect that it's had, of course, is my inability to interact personally with my students. Interacting personally with students is one of the best parts of my job. And I miss it enormously, particularly this time of year as the academic year is coming to an end in April and May and some students are graduating.
The second question is how will the COVID-19 pandemic impact my field of Study I'm the director of the Cornell Program and Infrastructure Policy or CPIP. And CPIP's main focus is on the delivery of heavy civil and social infrastructure. So heavy civil infrastructure includes bridges, highways, tunnels, seaports, airports, drinking water systems, wastewater treatment systems, energy systems, dams, levees, et cetera. While social infrastructure includes standalone facilities like schools, prisons, courthouses, hospitals.
And when I say the delivery, I mean, basically the whole set of things that the public owner, typically a public owner has to do. That is design, construction, operation, maintenance, financing, interacting with public stakeholders, environmental permitting, all of those tasks that a public owner of all that infrastructure has to do.
I think the COVID-19 pandemic is going to have an enormous impact on the delivery of infrastructure. I think technology is going to be a factor in the sense that we can include much more sensor technology in the delivery of infrastructure. And they can sense dozens of chemical qualities of the environment surrounding the infrastructure. But you can also set up the sensors to detect pathogens and other things that might affect health. So I think the interaction of health and infrastructure is going to be a huge impact.
And technology, I think, this is going to move the adoption and the interaction of technology in infrastructure forward.
We might also look at the effects of infrastructure and social distancing. So whether people will travel more in their own sort of cars or pods, driverless cars as that comes along, we'll be focused on much more, but just a whole set of areas of research that will expand, I think, health and an infrastructure.
Of course, hospital delivery is an obvious one. We can use innovative finance to renovate our hospitals to design and construct new ones. We have a lot of old hospitals in the United States. And ways of getting sort of every dollar value out of the existing infrastructure given the budgetary impacts of COVID-19 at the state and local level, not to mention the federal level. You know, I think innovative finance, a whole set of things countries around the world are doing, but the United States has been very slow to do, I think, will be impacting infrastructure delivery.
The next question I want to address is how do I think the COVID-19 pandemic will change the country and perhaps the world going forward? Wow, that's a tough one. I think the world is going to continue to globalize. I don't think global trade-- it might slow down. But I don't think it's going to stop. I think that will continue.
People like to travel to other countries. Of course, they'll probably be more precautions when crossing borders. They'll certainly be more testing. I certainly hope that people don't become more suspicious of others, and that we continue to integrate in a economic cultural sense with the rest of the world.
But I think we're going to see a lot of changes. I don't think we're going to go back to exactly the way we were before. People will be more conscious of pathogens, be more conscious of contagions. I think there'll be more preparation for another possible pandemic. And all these things will make people aware, you know, that this is a real thing.
And so I think that the country is going to have a different attitude towards viruses and pandemics going forward. It's going to change how we allocate our resources. But hopefully, we'll continue to work with others and continue in the way we were before more or less.
Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions. And I hope everybody stays healthy and that works as hard as they can to get to a new state of affairs. Thank you.
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The pandemic will have an enormous impact on the design, construction and maintenance of civil infrastructure, from highways and airports to dams and energy systems, says Richard Geddes, a Cornell University expert on infrastructure policy.
For example, sensors that can detect pathogens and other substances will be integrated into the design and construction of schools, prisons and hospitals, he predicts. Innovative finance will be leveraged to renovate the country’s many older hospitals, as a way to save money in the face of the economic downturn.
Global trade will slow, with more precautions and testing at border crossings. And we’ll see more preparations for future pandemics, he predicts.
Geddes is professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology. He is the founding director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy.