What’s critical about critical infrastructure?

0
What’s critical about critical infrastructure?

The 2016 storm that blacked out South Australia had everyone talking about a critical infrastructure failure/ © David Mariuz/AAP

Our cities and regions depend on the critical nodes and arteries that together comprise urban infrastructure systems. This includes energy, food, water, sewerage and communications.

The positioning of critical infrastructure is crucial to our understanding of the world we live in and how we see ourselves. It’s our means of survival as Homo urbanis.

This means key questions around critical infrastructure need to be better considered. How is it critical, when and for whom?

Beyond espionage, sabotage and coercion
Critical infrastructure has received much attention in recent years. The reasons include concerns about exposure to terrorist attack, disruption by disasters, rising awareness of the interdependent nature of urban infrastructure, and changes in ownership and responsibility for infrastructure assets.

The Australian government defines critical infrastructure as:

… those physical facilities, supply chains, information technologies and communication networks which, if destroyed, degraded or rendered unavailable for an extended period, would significantly impact on the social or economic wellbeing of the nation or affect Australia’s ability to conduct national defence and ensure national security.

This definition expands traditional thinking to include network and information infrastructure. However, the emphasis is on national security and defence issues such as espionage, sabotage and coercion. Infrastructure is defined as critical on the basis of what is at threat should it be destroyed or disabled, and how much that matters.

Yet what is critical about critical infrastructure is not just a matter of national security threats. It is also the key linkages between this infrastructure and human and environmental system vulnerability, integrity and equity. […]