The Paradox of Intelligent Infrastructures

Posted: 2 Apr 2013

See all articles by Martha Garcia-Murillo

Martha Garcia-Murillo

Syracuse University - School of Information Studies

Jorge Andrés Vélez

Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona

Date Written: March 31, 2013


There is significant debate among scholars and policymakers about the size and role of government. In the last few years, due to the economic crisis, international organizations are forcing governments to cut their expenses in order to balance their budgets. There are nonetheless some government expenses that are indispensable to a national economy such as infrastructure.

In this paper we argue that many nations have move beyond the provision of basic infrastructures and need to procure the development of intelligent infrastructures through the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs).

Fifty years ago it was essential to provide sanitation and water to prevent illnesses; electricity to support overall economic activity from manufacturing to retail and transportation to facilitate and expand commerce. Today ICTs can support the development of intelligent infrastructures that can improve the well-being of a nation, what scholars have called “beyond GDP” metrics of development.

Current infrastructures are, for the most part, dumb; they don’t generate information that could be used to make decisions regarding maintenance, replacement or upgrades. Intelligent infrastructures use sensors and communication technology to delivery relevant parties and key stakeholders information that can facilitate decision making while reducing operational costs. Highways for example can send information about congestions and wear. Electricity can provide information about demand, loads, and outages. Water pipes can alert about unusual levels of usage and breakdowns.

Intelligent infrastructures rely on ICTs but governments, experiencing both internal and external pressure to cut costs, may be impairing the investments that these intelligent infrastructures require-the infrastructure paradox. It is our belief that by reducing investments in intelligent infrastructures they are potentially incurring higher costs down the road and depriving their countries the opportunity of further improving their societies’ well-being.

This study is a statistical analysis of a panel of approximately 150 countries for a period of 5 years to determine how government expenses (or lack thereof) affect infrastructures, and how the deployment of intelligent infrastructures affects the well-being of a nation (using “beyond GDP” metrics)

Keywords: Infraestructures, ICT

Suggested Citation

Garcia-Murillo, Martha A. and Vélez, Jorge Andrés, The Paradox of Intelligent Infrastructures (March 31, 2013). Available at SSRN:

Martha A. Garcia-Murillo (Contact Author)

Syracuse University - School of Information Studies ( email )

220 Hinds Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244
United States
(315) 443-1829 (Phone)
(315) 443-5806 (Fax)

Jorge Andrés Vélez

Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona ( email )

Edificio B
Department Empresa
Barcelona, CO Catalunya 08193

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