Infrastructure is the fundamental facilities and systems serving a
country, city, or other area, including the services and facilities
necessary for its economy to function. It typically characterises
technical structures such as roads, bridges, tunnels, water supply,
sewers, electrical grids, telecommunications (including Internet
connectivity and broadband speeds), and so forth, and can be defined
as "the physical components of interrelated systems providing
commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance
societal living conditions."
The word infrastructure has been used in English since 1887 and in
French since 1875, originally meaning "The installations that form the
basis for any operation or system". The word was imported from
French, where it means subgrade, the native material underneath a
constructed pavement or railway. The word is a combination of the
Latin prefix "infra", meaning "below", and "structure". The army use
of the term achieved currency in the United States after the formation
NATO in the 1940s, and by 1970 was adopted by urban planners in its
modern civilian sense.
2 Related concepts
3 Ownership and financing
4.1 Engineering and construction
Civil defense and economic development
5 In the developing world
5.1 Regional differences
5.2 Sources of funding
6 See also
9 External links
A 1987 US National Research Council panel adopted the term "public
works infrastructure", referring to:
"... both specific functional modes – highways, streets, roads,
and bridges; mass transit; airports and airways; water supply and
water resources; wastewater management; solid-waste treatment and
disposal; electric power generation and transmission;
telecommunications; and hazardous waste management – and the
combined system these modal elements comprise. A comprehension of
infrastructure spans not only these public works facilities, but also
the operating procedures, management practices, and development
policies that interact together with societal demand and the physical
world to facilitate the transport of people and goods, provision of
water for drinking and a variety of other uses, safe disposal of
society's waste products, provision of energy where it is needed, and
transmission of information within and between communities."
OECD also classifies communications as a part of
The American Society of Civil
Engineers issues a US "Infrastructure
Report Card" every 2–4 years. As of 2017[update] they grade 16
categories, namely Aviation, Bridges, Dams, Drinking Water, Energy,
Hazardous Waste, Inland Waterways, Levees, Parks & Recreation,
Ports, Rail, Roads, Schools, Solid Waste, Transit and Wastewater.:4
Hard infrastructure is the physical networks necessary for the
functioning of a modern industrial nation. Soft
infrastructure is the institutions which are required to maintain an
economy, like health, and cultural and social standards of a
country, such as the financial system, the education system, the
health care system, the system of government, and law enforcement, as
well as emergency services.
Critical infrastructure distinguishes those infrastructure elements
that, if significantly damaged or destroyed, would cause serious
disruption of a system or organization. Storm, flood, or earthquake
damage leading to loss of certain transportation routes in a city, for
example bridges crossing a river, that would make it impossible for
people to evacuate, and for emergency services to operate, would be
deemed critical infrastructure. Similarly, an on-line booking system
might be critical infrastructure for an airline. These elements of
infrastructure are the focus of recovery efforts in the aftermath of
natural disasters.
The term infrastructure may be confused with the following overlapping
or related concepts.
Land improvement and land development are general terms that in some
contexts may include infrastructure, but in the context of a
discussion of infrastructure would refer only to smaller scale systems
or works that are not included in infrastructure, because they are
typically limited to a single parcel of land, and are owned and
operated by the land owner. For example, an irrigation canal that
serves a region or district would be included with infrastructure, but
the private irrigation systems on individual land parcels would be
considered land improvements, not infrastructure. Service connections
to municipal service and public utility networks would also be
considered land improvements, not infrastructure.
The term public works includes government-owned and operated
infrastructure as well as public buildings, such as schools and court
Public works generally refers to physical assets needed to
deliver public services.
Public services include both infrastructure
and services generally provided by government.
Ownership and financing
Infrastructure and economics
Infrastructure may be owned and managed by governments or by private
companies, such as sole public utility or railway companies.
Generally, most roads, major airports and other ports, water
distribution systems, and sewage networks are publicly owned, whereas
most energy and telecommunications networks are privately
owned. Publicly owned infrastructure may be paid for
from taxes, tolls, or metered user fees, whereas private
infrastructure is generally paid for by metered user fees.[citation
needed] Major investment projects are generally financed by the
issuance of long-term bonds.
Government-owned and operated infrastructure may be developed and
operated in the private sector or in public-private partnerships, in
addition to in the public sector. As of 2008[update] in the United
States for example, public spending on infrastructure has varied
between 2.3% and 3.6% of
GDP since 1950. Many financial
institutions invest in infrastructure.
Engineering and construction
Engineers generally limit the term "infrastructure" to describe fixed
assets that are in the form of a large network; in other words, hard
infrastructure. Efforts to devise more generic
definitions of infrastructures have typically referred to the network
aspects of most of the structures, and to the accumulated value of
investments in the networks as assets. One such
definition from 1998 defined infrastructure as the network of assets
"where the system as a whole is intended to be maintained indefinitely
at a specified standard of service by the continuing replacement and
refurbishment of its components".
Civil defense and economic development
Civil defense by country
Civil defense planners and developmental economists generally refer to
both hard and soft infrastructure, including public services such as
schools and hospitals, emergency services such as police and fire
fighting, and basic financial services. The notion of
infrastructure-based development combining long-term infrastructure
investments by government agencies at central and regional levels with
public private partnerships has proven popular among economists in
Singapore and China), mainland Europe, and Latin
Military infrastructure is the buildings and permanent installations
necessary for the support of military forces, whether they are
stationed in bases, being deployed or engaged in operations. For
example, barracks, headquarters, airfields, communications facilities,
stores of military equipment, port installations, and maintenance
Main article: Green infrastructure
Green infrastructure (or blue-green infrastructure) highlights the
importance of the natural environment in decisions about land use
planning. In particular there is an emphasis on the "life
support" functions provided by a network of natural ecosystems, with
an emphasis on interconnectivity to support long-term sustainability.
Examples include clean water and healthy soils, as well as the more
anthropocentric functions such as recreation and providing shade and
shelter in and around towns and cities. The concept can be extended to
apply to the management of stormwater runoff at the local level
through the use of natural systems, or engineered systems that mimic
natural systems, to treat polluted runoff.
In Marxism, the term "infrastructure" is sometimes used as a synonym
for "base" in the dialectic synthetic pair base and superstructure.
However, the Marxist notion of "base" is broader than the non-Marxist
use of the term "infrastructure", and some soft infrastructure, such
as laws, governance, regulations, and standards, would be considered
by Marxists to be part of the superstructure, not the base.
Communications infrastructure is the informal and formal channels of
communication, political and social networks, or beliefs held by
members of particular groups, as well as information technology,
software development tools. Still underlying these more conceptual
uses is the idea that infrastructure provides organizing structure and
support for the system or organization it serves, whether it is a
city, a nation, a corporation, or a collection of people with common
interests. Examples include IT infrastructure, research
infrastructure, terrorist infrastructure, employment infrastructure
and tourism infrastructure.
In the developing world
According to researchers at the Overseas Development Institute, the
lack of infrastructure in many developing countries represents one of
the most significant limitations to economic growth and achievement of
Millennium Development Goals
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
and maintenance can be very expensive, especially in such areas as
landlocked, rural and sparsely populated countries in Africa. It has
been argued that infrastructure investments contributed to more than
half of Africa's improved growth performance between 1990 and 2005,
and increased investment is necessary to maintain growth and tackle
poverty. The returns to investment in infrastructure are very
significant, with on average thirty to forty percent returns for
telecommunications (ICT) investments, over forty percent for
electricity generation, and eighty percent for roads.
The demand for infrastructure, both by consumers and by companies is
much higher than the amount invested. There are severe constraints
on the supply side of the provision of infrastructure in Asia. The
infrastructure financing gap between what is invested in Asia-Pacific
(around US$48 billion) and what is needed (US$228 billion) is around
US$180 billion every year.
Latin America, three percent of
GDP (around US$71 billion) would
need to be invested in infrastructure in order to satisfy demand, yet
in 2005, for example, only around two percent was invested leaving a
financing gap of approximately US$24 billion.
In Africa, in order to reach the seven percent annual growth
calculated to be required to meet the MDGs by 2015 would require
infrastructure investments of about fifteen percent of GDP, or around
US$93 billion a year. In fragile states, over thirty-seven percent of
GDP would be required.
Sources of funding
The source of financing varies significantly across sectors. Some
sectors are dominated by government spending, others by overseas
development aid (ODA), and yet others by private investors. In
order to facilitate investment of the private sector in developing
countries' infrastructure markets, it is necessary to design
risk-allocation mechanisms more carefully, given the higher risks of
In Sub-Saharan Africa, governments spend around US$9.4 billion out of
a total of US$24.9 billion. In irrigation, governments represent
almost all spending. In transport and energy a majority of investment
is government spending. In ICT and water supply and sanitation, the
private sector represents the majority of capital expenditure.
Overall, between them aid, the private sector, and non-
exceed government spending. The private sector spending alone equals
state capital expenditure, though the majority is focused on ICT
infrastructure investments. External financing increased in the 2000s
(decade) and in
Africa alone external infrastructure investments
increased from US$7 billion in 2002 to US$27 billion in 2009. China,
in particular, has emerged as an important investor.
Asset Management Plan
Infrastructure as a service
Infrastructure asset management
Infrastructure at Dictionary.com
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Infrastructure Policy in Developing
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Infrastructure Financing: Institutional
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Infrastructure Financing: Institutional
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Infrastructure.
Look up infrastructure in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Body of Knowledge on
Next Generation Infrastructures international research programme
Report Card on America's Infrastructure
See also: Architecture
Municipal solid waste
Water supply network
Infrastructure asset management
Maintenance, repair, and operations
Air traffic control
Bus rapid transit
Mobile data terminal
Sustainable urban infrastructure
Akashi Kaikyō Bridge
Bus rapid transit
Bus rapid transit systems
Controlled-access highway systems
Electric power transmission
Hong Kong International Airport
Kansai International Airport
Offshore wind farms
Port of Shanghai
San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge
Three Gorges Dam
Clip and scotch
Rail fastening system
Track transition curve
Railway electrification system
Motive power depot