Digital Infrastructures

Digital Infrastructures

Digital Infrastructures

Digital Infrastructures

Synopsis

Examines & discusses the digital infrastructure behind technological networks in water supply & wastewater management, electricity, surface transportation & telecommunications, using examples from around the world.

Excerpt

Rae Zimmerman and Thomas Horan

In a world that continues to increase in size and complexity, the dependence on information technologies (IT) that drive our life support systems is growing rapidly. Few other technologies have spread as rapidly. This book addresses the pervasive influence that it has had on infrastructure, namely transportation, water supply and wastewater management, energy, and telecommunications, and its users. This is especially timely in light of the growing need for critical policy, management and technological choices about the reliability and security of it and infrastructure systems, and in particular what was deemed critical infrastructure by the President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection in 1997 (US Department of Commerce, Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office 1997) and again in 2003 by the White House (White House 2003).

As a point of departure, it is clear that digital technologies have enabled our core infrastructures to expand geographically and in terms of functional capability; for example, our transportation systems are now managed through regional information systems that can monitor conditions on different roadway systems and across transportation modes. Indeed, our cities and towns are now fundamentally dependent on technology to provide a range of monitoring, diagnostic, and control information that allows our society to function smoothly with little or no interruption and under a wide range of conditions. Users increasingly have enhanced options to interact with infrastructure, as a result of the expanded infrastructure capabilities it can provide.

But, as Edward Tenner (1996) bluntly put it: "things bite back." For infrastructure managers, the implication is this: when it is incorporated into the design of infrastructure systems for high performance, it can beget new problems with infrastructures and create unintended consequences.

The technology sword indeed has two edges: one edge facilitates unprecedented infrastructure performance and the other edge allows for dramatic

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