Title: Infrastructure: A nebulous and overworked construct?

Authors: Donald M. Lamberton

Addresses: Urban Research Program, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia

Abstract: Recent research on infrastructure investment has focused on a narrow public sector version including transportation facilities, water and sewer lines and communication systems, in part because of measurement problems. Policy debate and popular discussion have taken the same track, infrastructure proving a powerful metaphor, especially in its advertising manifestations, while being a nebulous and overworked construct. A wider view brackets roads, bridges and ports with, for example, property rights. The OECD definition takes in an economic category of networked services and a social category of facilities that provide community services such as education, health and leisure, and law and order. In the case of telecommunications, customers are presented with a patchwork of interconnected, but not fully inter-operable, transmission networks. Research and debate tend to fall short of the expansive NTIA meaning of infrastructure that included fully integrated physical components, information itself, applications and software, network standards and transmission codes, and the people involved. If infrastructure includes what has been found necessary to the functioning of the economy, there are major omissions: e.g. information stocks; organizational capital; and human capital. Unlike Marx and Engels, we do have ||the time, the place [and] the opportunity to allow for the other elements involved in the interaction to come into their rights||. There are implications for inter-operability: research findings of declining public sector infrastructure are misleading as investment in the other elements, by both public and private sectors, must be examined; significant complementarities are ignored; significant sequences or lags between economic actions are ignored; potential productivity gains and growth rates generally are overstated and funding requirements understated; management tasks and policy processes are too narrowly conceived; consumers| surplus derives from the complex combination of technical, economic, social and legal conditions.

Keywords: infrastructure investment; telecommunications; information; organisational capital; interoperability.

DOI: 10.1504/IJTM.1996.025509

International Journal of Technology Management, 1996 Vol.12 No.5/6, pp.696 - 703

Published online: 22 May 2009 *

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