New infrastructure web site gets startup cash from IFC

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 7, 2000 à‚– The International Finance Corporation has contributed to the startup of a new Internet portal, InfrastructureWorld.com, that links sponsors, developers, and service providers of infrastructure projects worldwide.

IFC’s US$10 million investment will ensure full inclusion of developing countries, where the portal offers potentially dramatic savings through a more transparent, informed and competitive bidding process.

InfrastructureWorld, a neutral Business-to-Business (B2B) Internet portal, provides access to investors, service providers and “best-practices” templates and guidebooks to equip those bidding for, or awarding, infrastructure projects. It provides a significantly more transparent process which can be monitored at each step. The portal covers infrastructure development for the energy, electric power, transportation, telecommunications and information technology, as well as the water and wastewater sectors.

The portal stands to provide significant results in terms of cost savings, enhanced deal flow and greater transparency, particularly in developing countries à‚– the users that IFC is targeting with its participation à‚– where currently there is often little competition.

Assaad Jabre, IFC Vice President, Operations, said the initiative could make a critical contribution in bridging the digital divide that disadvantages developing countries so greatly. “IFC sees two major areas in the developing world where investment will achieve much more than simply financial returns: investment in infrastructure and investment in technology-based business. InfrastructureWorld.com links both in a powerful step that will give people in developing countries the basis of better lives and stronger economies,” he said.

InfrastructureWorld.com asked IFC to take part in strategy development and to join its board of directors because of its long experience in investment in the developing world. IFC will help InfrastructureWorld.com improve the standards and frameworks used to develop infrastructure projects.

“We are delighted that IFC is joining with us to invest in an electronic platform that will help revolutionize the infrastructure development business,” said Cordell W. Hull, Chairman and CEO of InfrastructureWorld.com. “InfrastructureWorld.com will be the premier portal for the global infrastructure business, helping firms develop and build projects – faster, better and more economically.”

InfrastructureWorld.com offers a suite of integrated, web-based products to inform and connect the sponsors and developers of projects, as well as service providers around the world. The site provides targeted information, project management, data hosting, workflow collaboration and on-line transaction execution. Industry-specific information and advisory services are provided through iwKnowledge and iwService, which feature links to over 30,000 infrastructure-related web-sites.

The iwBusiness and iwFramework products provide templates, handbooks, links to service providers, secure data transmission and document hosting across the entire spectrum of development-period functions.

These functions include listing and hosting bids and seeking requests for proposals for services ranging from advisory work to financing, insurance, and total project and procurement packaging.

IFC conducted pre-investment testing of the concept with numerous developers and government agencies in developing countries who overwhelmingly reported that they expected such a portal could dramatically reduce a firm’s project bidding costs, and would bring in more proposals and enhanced competition in the bidding and privatization process.

IFC, a branch of the World Bank Group ( www.ifc.org) is to promote private sector development in developing countries, which will reduce poverty and improve people’s lives.

IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets and provides technical assistance and advice.

The World Bank Group has recently established a Global Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Department (www.ifc.org/ict) to promote the transfer of information technologies to the developing world. The department’s focus in the sector is on Internet infrastructure and B2B commerce, which have a multiplier effect in expanding the use of the Internet in developing countries.

In the infrastructure area, IFC’s Infrastructure (www.ifc.org/infrastructure) and Power (www.ifc.org/power) Departments, together with the World Bank Group’s ICT Department, have arranged more than $6.5 billion in project financing in the emerging markets since 1990.

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