Infrastructure

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. Infrastructure is composed of public and private physical improvements such as roads, bridges, tunnels, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, and telecommunications (including Internet connectivity and broadband speeds). In general, it has also been defined as "the physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions".

San Francisco Ferry Building at night

There are two general types of ways to view infrastructure, hard or soft. Hard infrastructure refers to the physical networks necessary for the functioning of modern industry. This includes roads, bridges, railways, etc. Soft infrastructure refers to all the institutions that maintain the economic, health, social, and cultural standards of a country. This includes educational programs, official statistics, parks, and recreational facilities, law enforcement agencies, and emergency services.

The word infrastructure has been used in French since 1875 and in English since 1887, originally meaning "The installations that form the basis for any operation or system". The word was imported from French, where it was already used for establishing a roadbed of substrate material, required before railroad tracks or constructed pavement could be laid on top of it. The word is a combination of the Latin prefix "infra", meaning "below" and many of these constructions are underground, for example, tunnels, water and gas systems, and railways and the French word "structure" (derived from the Latin word "structura"). The army use of the term achieved currency in the United States after the formation of NATO in the 1940s, and by 1970 was adopted by urban planners in its modern civilian sense.


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