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Public infrastructure: definition, classification and measurement issues

  • Computer Science
  • Economics


Beginning from the end of the 1980s many studies analysing the relation between infrastructures endowment and economic development have been realised. A general consensus is achieved around the idea that basic infrastructure facilities are important features related to economic performance, although both magnitude and causality direction are debated. A peculiar feature of these studies is that, across them, different empirical and theoretical entities are referred to infrastructure. Although the vast body of literature on infrastructures economic impact have been largely reviewed less attention have been paid to the term infrastructure per se. This article, aiming to provide a helpful instrument to critically interpret the existing literature, zooms in on infrastructure definition and then reviews different categories of infrastructures utilised in literature, namely: personal, institutional, material, immaterial, economic, social, core and not-core, basic and complementary, network, nucleus, and territory infrastructures. The final part deals with problems related to infrastructures measurement describing some financial-based measures and physical-based measures highlighting that both measures - due to economic and strictly computational problems - present pitfalls so that, in turn, both types of measures have critical aspects to be considered when interpreting results concerning infrastructures.

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