Good infrastructure is a key factor in achieving sustainable development. It makes more resources readily available for use, it connects people and grants previously isolated towns, access to basic services, such as health-care, sanitation, electrical power and education. Furthermore, investments in transport, irrigation, and energy and communication technology pave the way for industrialization and technological development.
Quality infrastructure is also key in the achievement of environmental, political and social objectives and the creation of well-paid, quality jobs (Global Goal 8). Whereas poor or non-existent infrastructure affects productivity, diminishing it by up to 40%.
An example of this, found in this UN article, is the renewable energy industry. Roughly 2.3 million people work in this industry, in countries where data on the matter is available. This number is expected to reach 20 million by 2030 due to a current increase of interest in cleaner electricity sources. Moreover, industrialization in general is a massive job generator. Statistically, one job in manufacturing creates 2.2 jobs in other sectors, and this industry employed an estimate of half a billion people in 2013.
It is safe to say that without good infrastructure there is no progress, as it allows connecting places that were seemingly remote in the past. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contemplates the building of resilient, quality infrastructure to promote industrialization and innovation in its goal #9
GLOBAL GOAL 9: BUILD RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE, PROMOTE INCLUSIVE AND SUSTAINABLE INDUSTRIALIZATION AND FOSTER INNOVATION
- Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all.
- Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product.
- Increase the access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets.
- Upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes.
- Enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, including encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of research and development workers per 1 million people and public and private research and development spending.
Investment in quality infrastructure can be costly, especially for developing countries that do not have the means to invest in massive engineering projects. International cooperation and support are vital in the technological advancement and industrialization of the aforementioned countries. This is to be done following two guidelines provided by the Agenda:
- Facilitate sustainable and resilient infrastructure development in developing countries though enhanced financial, technological and technical support to African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and Small Island Developing States.
- Support domestic technology development, research and innovation in developing countries, including by ensuring a conductive policy environment for, inter alia, industrial diversification and value addition to commodities.
- Significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020.
Incorporating these two guidelines into national strategies and foreign policy would lead to the industrialization of the developing countries in sectors such as the textile and agricultural industries. They would also benefit middle-income countries that have a burgeoning basic and fabricated metals industry. The industrialization of these countries would promote sustainable economic growth and the generation of millions of jobs.