In the wake of the changes in the infrastructure sectors, the conventional governance models to safeguard the public values we associate with infrastructures have become obsolete. We assess and redefine public and private values in the light of European liberalization and we develop new governance models for safeguarding these values.
Ask anyone what public values are associated with infrastructures, and you will get answers such as: universal access, affordability, reliability, safety and sustainability. We are annoyed when a power failure occurs, when we get sky high cell-phone bills, when the Internet goes down, when gas leaks are reported in the neighborhood or when a smog alert forces us to stay indoors. And when these things happen on a regular basis, we tend to hold the public authorities responsible. But due to European liberalization policy, many utility sectors are now run by private companies, which tend to be only interested in public values if they generate a reasonable profit.
So how should we safeguard these public values? Can we trust technology to come up with the answers? Do we need more government regulation? Will the market provide its own solutions? Or will public values be best protected by negotiations between client organizations and service providers? And what exactly are 'public' values in the first place?
It is very interesting that certain values are considered to be public in one country and private in another. We argue that public values cannot be defined objectively and unambiguously. For instance, in modern industrialized countries access to the Internet gradually has become a public value, while in most underdeveloped countries even a simple telephone is a rare commodity. This issue is even harder to solve in the case of liberalized and privatized infrastructure sectors. So who is responsible to take the appropriate measures to safeguard these public values? And what measures should that be? What governance models are effective and how are all parties involved to be stimulated into cooperation? International empirical research is being done into 'best practices' in different infrastructure sectors. The findings will result in the design of new governance models for safeguarding the redefined set of public values.