The Importance of Infrastructure

Infrastructure is what you pay no attention to until it doesn’t work. People generally assume that electricity will come out of the socket in the wall, the roads will be open and water will come out of the tap. Well, that’s generally true in what is sometimes called the “developed world.” It is less so in places where reliability of infrastructure is not so assured. In some sense, the creation of infrastructure is the beginning of movement towards an increasing economy as it becomes the foundation for growth. In its largest sense, infrastructure includes education, legal institutions including governance structures, financial services and a wide range of other processes that mutually reinforce and facilitate economic improvement.

In our 21st Century, electrical power, communication services, housing, water, sanitation, medical services, education and a host of other elements make up the infrastructure of our societies. In a remarkable development that began 50 years ago, the Internet has become one of the key communication infrastructures for upwards of 4 billion people. The remaining roughly 4 billion people are indirectly dependent on the smooth and reliable operation of the Internet and the World Wide Web that layers on top of the basic Internet service. Countless applications now thrive on this infrastructure which has, itself, expanded to include mobile communications and applications. Smart phones have become a key part of daily living for billions of users. Some applications of simpler feature phones are now Internet-enabled thanks to voice recognition and generation. Oral and aural interaction overcomes some literacy barriers in addition to proving hands-free interaction with Internet-based information resources.

The reliability of the Internet is dependent, in part, on the reliability of its underlying communication technologies including fiber optic cables (terrestrial and undersea), mobile communications (2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G), Wi-Fi access, point-to-point radio and laser links, and, of course, the packet switching technology of routers, domain name servers and the vast computing resources of “the Cloud.” The Internet is made up of hundreds of thousands of interconnected networks of vastly varying scale. Some are just household local area networks and some are globe-girdling backbones. They have to be interconnected to form the Internet and one of the key components of interconnection is the Internet Exchange Point where many networks can be interconnected efficiently and at high speed. Internet Exchange Providers are the glue that link many networks together.

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