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Natural Language Processing (NLP): Unlocking Inclusivity and Equitable Futures in Capital Infrastructure Planning




The United States is on the brink of a transformative civil construction boom, thanks to the recently passed Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IJJA), which dedicates $1.2 trillion to vital infrastructure projects. The sheer amount of capital involved makes this a huge undertaking, with each construction project coordinated by public and private partnerships at a local and federal level. As we embark on this ambitious journey, Government can easily ignore the voices of our communities while deciding the future of America's infrastructure. Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) emerge as a powerful tools to revolutionize capital infrastructure planning, foster inclusivity, and drive an equitable future by engaging communities in decision-making.

Overcoming Challenges in Infrastructure Planning: The scale of upcoming infrastructure projects demands seamless coordination among public and private partnerships at various levels. Modern cloud technology and construction management systems must replace Legacy systems and outdated “pen and paper” methods to minimize project delays and ensure success. Central to this transformation is prioritizing public engagement, a crucial component often overlooked in traditional capital planning.

The Power of Public Engagement in Infrastructure Planning: Public engagement is indispensable to infrastructure planning in today's interconnected world. The pandemic has underscored the importance of transparency and the impact of public sentiment on project outcomes. With social media amplifying individual voices, traditional public opinion-gathering methods, such as leaflets, polls, and town halls, fall short. NLP offers a comprehensive and efficient approach to understanding and incorporating public sentiment into infrastructure planning.

Leveraging NLP to Foster Inclusivity and Public Buy-In: NLP, an advanced AI technology, excels at understanding words, context, and nuance, enabling it to engage in human-like conversations, gauge sentiment, and interpret emotions. This technology empowers project owners to capture public sentiment at scale, driving more inclusive decision-making. By hosting “digital town halls” in English and Spanish, NLP can ensure diverse representation, eliminate selection bias, and break down language barriers through real-time translations.

Harnessing NLP for Proactive Information Gathering and Collaboration: NLP's ability to swiftly gather and analyze public sentiment across various platforms is invaluable. By automating the process, NLP provides a well-rounded summary of public opinion, enabling project owners to make data-driven decisions. This capability is particularly crucial for long-term projects, as monitoring public sentiment over time can lead to more informed decision-making and adaptability. Beyond public engagement, NLP offers numerous benefits for stakeholders in infrastructure planning. Conversational AI applications like chatbots can improve communication among owners, consultants, supervisors, and contractors, reducing misinterpretation risks. Automating data entry tasks, meeting minute generation, and document management can further streamline operations and enhance collaboration.


Inclusivity is no longer an option; it's a necessity for building a sustainable and equitable future. NLP is a great leveler. By integrating NLP technology, project owners can ensure diverse representation, foster public buy-in, and make informed decisions that serve the greater good. NLP holds the key to a more inclusive and equitable future in capital infrastructure planning

Balaji Sreenivasan is the founder and CEO of Aurigo, the leading data management cloud tech for transforming the public sector (government agencies at both the city, state and federal level) in the replacement of legacy systems to achieve digital transformation for planning, building and operating capital programs (roads, bridges, rail and transit, water and energy utilities). Aurigo’s clients include major U.S. capital owners, including Utah and Nevada’s Departments of Transportation, and the cities of Houston, Seattle, and Las Vegas.