4 min read

Tech Winners and Losers in the Infrastructure Bill

Now that the House has passed the Infrastructure Deal, the impact on technology adoption could be profound.

Credit: Louis Velasquez on Unsplash

Ellory Monks

Co-Founder, The Atlas for Cities

Published

08.11.21

Now that the House has passed the Infrastructure Deal, the impact on technology adoption could be profound. And while explicitly picking infrastructure technology winners and losers may be frowned upon since the Solyndra scandal, there are still plenty of unsaid winners and losers in the bill. 

One big group of tech losers in the $1 trillion Infrastructure bill: “Smart Cities.” What are the implications of this? If Smart Cities technologies are losers, what are the winners? 

In the entire Infrastructure bill, “smart cities” are mentioned only four times. The only dedicated funding for smart cities comes through a $500 million SMART grant program administered solely by the Department of Transportation (for the federal government) and tightly focused on transportation challenges, like connected vehicles, congestion and safety. This is a noteworthy departure from Obama-era policies regarding infrastructure technology, when the Smart City Challenge was a flagship program that was wide-ranging in scope and included several collaborating agencies. 

The near-omission in the Infrastructure bill is reflective of three important market trends: 

Tech for tech’s sake, without a foundational focus on people and communities, is oftentimes exclusionary and racist, and likely to be at odds with the Biden Administration’s emphasis on addressing systemic racism. (For example, the $1 billion included in the bill to reconnect communities divided by transportation infrastructure.)

Underlying infrastructure problems–notably lack of internet access, cybersecurity and an antiquated electric grid–are preventing greater access to and adoption of game-changing technologies often advanced on small scales in smart cities initiatives. Without addressing these underlying problems, smart cities technologies can actually exacerbate vulnerabilities.

“Smart cities” can be dumb – in its original inception, “smart cities” were cities that collected tons of data from sensors installed on everything. Over the last 10 years it’s become apparent that people and processes matter a lot more than data and technology and “smart cities” initiatives have largely rebranded to reflect that.

These dynamics have been at play for a decade, but the pandemic has brought these issues to the forefront

If smart cities technologies are out, what’s in? The short answer is technologies that address the market trends above. Those include hardware and software technologies that enable progress on: 

  • Broadband ($65B included in Infrastructure bill)
  • Cybersecurity: ($47B included in Infrastructure bill)
  • Resilience to extreme weather and cyber attacks ($50B included in Infrastructure bill)
  • Energy technologies, including smart grid technologies and advanced transmission ($73B included in Infrastructure bill)
  • EV charging ($7.5B included in Infrastructure bill) 

As a market segment, consulting services will continue to grow, simply because there’s so much money coming  from the federal government, with limited guidance, that needs to be spent quickly on things state and local governments aren’t used to spending on. 

When it comes to GovTech specifically, governments have moved away from flashy tech, having  been burned too many times. 

Look instead for technologies that:

  • Facilitate equitable community participation, like in the City of Lancaster, PA.
  • Make progress on existential threats many governments face, including health, climate change and affordable housing.
  • Are proven in other markets and are being modified for government.
  • Integrate seamlessly with existing and future technology systems. 

Look also for companies that:

  • Provide great customer support, even for off-the-shelf products.
  • Acknowledge local government concerns about data ownership in their business models.

It’s essential to understand how and why the money in the Infrastructure bill is being spent, and on what. The United States is embarking on a once-in-a-generation investment and its impact on technology will inevitably be profound. 

 

Guest Posts:
  • NOTE: ELLORY MONKS IS A GUEST CONTRIBUTOR AND ANY VIEWS OR OPINIONS REPRESENTED IN THE ABOVE POST ARE PERSONAL AND DO NOT REPRESENT THOSE OF 500 GLOBAL OR ANY OF ITS STAFF OR AFFILIATES UNLESS EXPLICITLY STATED. ALL CONTENT REPRESENTED ABOVE IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. 500 GLOBAL MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS AS TO THE ACCURACY OR COMPLETENESS OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THE ABOVE POST. NO LIABILITY CAN BE ACCEPTED FOR ANY ERROR OR OMISSIONS.  UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD ANY OF THE ABOVE CONTENT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL, TAX OR INVESTMENT ADVICE FROM 500 GLOBAL OR ANY OF ITS AFFILIATES. 500 GLOBAL DOES NOT GUARANTEE ANY FUTURE RESULTS FOR ANY DECISIONS MADE BASED IN WHOLE OR IN PART ON THE CONTENT OR INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS POST.
  • UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD ANY INFORMATION OR CONTENT IN THIS POST, BE CONSIDERED AS AN OFFER TO SELL OR SOLICITATION OF INTEREST TO PURCHASE ANY SECURITIES ADVISED BY 500 STARTUPS OR ANY OF ITS AFFILIATES OR REPRESENTATIVES. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD ANYTHING HEREIN BE CONSTRUED AS FUND MARKETING MATERIALS BY PROSPECTIVE INVESTORS CONSIDERING AN INVESTMENT INTO ANY 500 GLOBAL INVESTMENT FUND.

Ellory Monks

Co-Founder, The Atlas for Cities

Ellory Monks is the Co-Founder of The Atlas for Cities, a free online community for local government officials. The Atlas for Cities is a 500 Global portfolio company that was acquired by GovExec.

Recent news & articles

See all articles →
Republic’s Kendrick Nguyen on Democratizing Investing

Republic’s Kendrick Nguyen on Democratizing Investing

On December 2, 2021, 500 Global is convening the global venture capital community in Miami to its PreMoney 2021 conference for an interactive experience at the nexus of culture, technology, investment and global finance.
Read more →
Rosetta.ai Wants to Give Fashion Retailers a Boost with AI-Enabled E-Commerce Tools
AI
7 min read

Rosetta.ai Wants to Give Fashion Retailers a Boost with AI-Enabled E-Commerce Tools

As fashion e-commerce grows, it is important for brands to lean into online sales and create engaging shopping experiences.
Read more →
Leveling the Playing Field for Low Wage Workers
Reskilling
6 min read

Leveling the Playing Field for Low Wage Workers

Employers have clocked out on workforce investment by continuing to invest in outdated technology solutions for a workforce that has been changing rapidly.
Read more →
Clockster Is Creating Affordable HR Tech Solutions for SMEs and Service Industry Players in Asia
hrtech
7 min read

Clockster Is Creating Affordable HR Tech Solutions for SMEs and Service Industry Players in Asia

We’re seeing an opportunity for innovative HR tech in markets far and wide, as many companies globally still lack access to digital tools for HR and hiring.
Read more →