We explain what infrastructure is, its types, examples and importance in areas such as economics, urban planning and information technology.
What is infrastructure?
Infrastructure is the set of services , technical means and facilities that allow the development of an activity . The word infrastructures comes from the Latin infra (“below”) and structus (“built”), and therefore this term is used to refer to a structure that supports another, acting as its base.
In its most frequent use, the infrastructures includes the set of public works, facilities, institutions , systems and networks that support the functioning of cities , countries and other forms of social organization.
As examples of infrastructures , we can point out: telecommunications systems, power plants, schools, financial institutions, hospitals, airports, bridges, dams , drinking water and energy distribution networks , the management of waste, waterways, ports, railways, highways, automotive traffic control, industrial parks and military installations in a country.
Infrastructure and superstructure
The word infrastructure became an important concept for Marxist thinking . For this current, infrastructures is the material basis of a society : the set of economic processes, productive forces and production relations that create and sustain the superstructure of a society.
According to Marxism, the superstructure is the set of legal, political and ideological elements that characterize a given society. This superstructure arises from the infrastructures and depends on it.
The way of production of a society (infrastructures) will result in different ideologies, beliefs, laws and cultural expressions (superstructure).
Hard, soft and critical infrastructure
- Hard infrastructure. They are the material or physical aspects of the infrastructure, such as highways, bridges, factories, ports and airports.
- Soft Infrastructure It is the human capital and the institutions that give added value to the physical aspects of the infrastructures. This added value is the set of knowledge , expertise, methods and regulations that optimize the operation of the hard infrastructures.
- Critical Infrastructure They are indispensable elements for the functioning of the State. These are systems or networks of such importance that their weakening, sabotage or destruction threaten the security of the State . For example: emergency services, nuclear reactors, communications and financial services.
Urban infrastructure is made up of all the structures, networks and services that allow the normal functioning of citizen life . The maintenance and management of public space, collective transport, waste collection, sewerage and lighting networks and security forces belong to the infrastructures of a modern city.
Urban infrastructures is characterized by its great complexity because every modern city is, at the same time, a place of habitation, work and recreation of large human masses.
It is estimated that in the near future 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities . This has raised the need to devise “smart cities” that optimize the uses of urban infrastructure resources.
The economic infrastructures is the set of facilities and services that support or facilitate the productive activity of a country or region.
For example, land , river or sea transport routes make economic activity feasible. Also, telecommunications, energy, irrigation systems and collection centers are elements of economic infrastructures.
Military or defense infrastructures refers to permanent buildings and facilities that allow military operations in a country. Barracks, barracks, communications centers, air bases, warehouses or ammunition parks, missile systems, maritime facilities, among others, belong to this category.
The network of hardware and software resources necessary for any company or industry that uses telecommunications and Internet services is called network infrastructures .
Usually a network infrastructures includes: computers , routers, telephony, cabling, operating systems , network security applications, computer protocols , among other elements. These resources allow connectivity, communications and internal management of these organizations.