Insider Perspective

The global economy is increasingly digital. The internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) are changing the way individuals, businesses and governments operate. Their resilience to natural disasters, and their ability to recover in the aftermath, is thus critical to the resilience of the economy. This chapter discusses the impact of climate events on various types of digital infrastructure. It highlights key considerations for governments and digital infrastructure owners to make their infrastructure more resilient, while maintaining affordability of services. We find that digital infrastructure is vulnerable to various climate risks, but that technology choices and network design can improve redundancy and resilience of networks, by design. Certain infrastructures warrant greater ex ante investment in their resilience considering their criticality in the broadband value chain (submarine cables or landing stations) while others could follow repair and recovery options (mobile network antennas, poles, and towers).

The private sector’s motivations to invest in resilience are driven by (i) economic incentives to reduce the risk of their investments by mitigating against climate risk; (ii) serving their client’s needs, adhering to Service Level Agreements, and upholding their reputation; and (iii) serving the interests of their area of operation by providing a critical service during emergencies.31 This last motive ensures the public good provided by this privately-owned infrastructure, acknowledging its mission-critical nature for an economy.

The importance of telecommunications infrastructure, particularly submarine cables and landing stations is also increasingly highlighted in discussions around national security. In addition to action taken on cybersecurity and the protection of critical online infrastructure, the physical protection of the internet’s underlying infrastructure should also be a policy and industry-wide priority.

The private sector, as owners of much of the infrastructure, will need to take the lead in investing in resilience of their assets, while the public sector plays the role of a facilitator and develops the right enabling environment for investment in resilience of critical infrastructures. The public sector’s policy leadership on climate resilience of critical infrastructures is necessary in driving actions across sectors, and fostering a holistic approach to climate adaptation, resilience, and disaster recovery. Given below are some high-level recommendations for the building of greater resilience in global telecommunications infrastructure.

– Himmat Singh Sandhu & Siddhartha Raja

World Bank