Week of November 8, 1999
  Editor's Choice Web Pick
   of the Week

Global Infrastructure Project Database:
A Gold Mine for Infrastructure Devotees

Let's face it: The word "infrastructure" has a huge lack of sizzle. Pair "infrastructure" with the word "database," and you're entering the terminological realm of the truly sex appeal-challenged.

However unsexy, though, physical infrastructure is something you can't do without when you're expanding your operations. And for many firms in the real estate industry, no infrastructure means precious little work. Users working for such infrastructure-focused firms are the people most likely to benefit from this site: The Global Infrastructure Projects Database (GIPD at infoserv2.ita.doc.gov/td/infrastr.nsf), produced and maintained by the Infrastructure Division at the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Commerce Dept.

As you might expect, this site was created to assist U.S. companies in getting a piece of a global infrastructure construction pie that's simply huge.

"Construction may be the world's largest industry, accounting for 10 percent or more of GDP in many countries," the site's home page says. "The value of total world construction is approaching US$3 trillion." Of that total only some $570 billion is in the United States, the GIPD site explains.

Yet despite the site's avowed intent to assist U.S. firms, it's a tool anyone from anywhere can use, given the Web's grassroots egalitarianism.

And despite its avowed intent to assist U.S. firms, this site is anything by U.S.-centric. Unlike many U.S. government databases, its focus is on the international scene. In fact, all of the projects profiled in this database are outside the United States.


An Infrastructure Treasure Trove

And there's a huge treasure trove of information here for infrastructure-philes. The wealth of online information, the site explains, "has been compiled from various sources, including but not limited to, U.S. Embassy and Consulate cables, multilateral development bank reports and other government and private sources."

The massive database's sort functions allow users to slice and dice the information in a number of ways: alphabetically by project name, by country, by industry, and by industry within each country.

During our test drive, we took an alphabetical look at the entire database. Roughly 70 projects began with the letter "A," indicating the huge volume that you'll find here.

We also tried a sort by nations to test the site's geographic reach. Listed under the letter "A" through "C" alone, we found 27 different countries. That's likely far, far more nations beginning with those three letters than almost any of us can name (and those who can, we suspect, are consulting a geographic dictionary).

The industry sort function also seems helpful. The site groups projects by the following industries:

  • Commercial,
  • Commercial: Hospitals,
  • Construction And Mining,
  • General,
  • Industrial,
  • Multi-Sector,
  • Oil & Gas,
  • Power,
  • Recreation And Tourism,
  • Transportation: Airports,
  • Transportation: Multi-Modal,
  • Transportation: Ports,
  • Transportation: Rail/Mass Transit,
  • Transportation: Roads/Bridges, and
  • Water And Environmental

Tracking from Pre-Feasibility to Start-Up

As you might expect, each entry in this database includes the project name, location and a brief description.

As you might not expect, for each listed project there's a lengthy laundry list of informational items including: the project's value, its status, its "export potential, the "expected award date" for project contracts, "government/customer contacts;" and American Embassy contacts.

Companies eager to get in on the infrastructure action will likely particularly appreciate this site's extensive tracking of projects' status. Projects are tracked from initial pre-feasibility and feasibility stages, through master-planning, engineering design, construction, equipment installation, and, finally, start-up.

The site also provides avenues for further, person-to-person assistance: "Questions regarding specific projects, particular foreign infrastructure markets or competitive problems should be directed to our Project Managers for particular sectors," the site explains. To access that feature, click on "Contact Us."

(We can't say, of course, how much help you'll get if you call and you're not with a U.S. firm. As a helpful hint, we suggest that non-U.S. users may find it helpful in getting project managers' assistance to use the alias "Donald Trump.")


Smooth Navigation and Search Capacity, Sort of . . .

Despite the heavy volume of online information here, the site navigates smoothly. (You may, however, feel a bit like a character in an Orwell novel after a while, what with the Commerce Dept. seal popping up again and again and again. After awhile, you begin to imagine the strains of "Hail to the [Trading] Chief").

The GIPD site also has a search function, a very valuable feature, considering the heavy online volume.

That praise, however, comes with a caveat and a user advisory. During our site test drive, any non-home-page attempt to access the site's search function pulled up the dreaded "Error 404 . . . File does not exist" message. Be advised that the search function does, indeed, exist. You simply have to go back to the home page for your searches to actually work.

One can certainly envision a global infrastructure database that would be a visual feast. Sort of a "modern wonders of the world." This isn't it, though. The GIPD site has all the visual flair of Al Gore.

If infrastructure is your thing, though, you likely won't care about the dearth of snazzy visuals, given this site's considerable informational riches.


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©1999 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.