The Global SoS Network

Streamlining Collective Intelligence Towards Sustainable Development [Beta version]  


Public infrastructure consists of all the facilities, hospitals, police and fire stations, streets and sidewalks, and other structures and artifacts along with the organizations required for the operation and/or the upkeeping of those facilities or services, allowing a society to have the comfort and amenities of modern life. If a country has a good infrastructure, it can grow economically, otherwise, it cannot grow economically in a sustainable manner, which is the logic behind infrastructure-driven development .

The UPU Addressing the World Initiative provides a good example of an institution that has placed sustainability of public infrastructure at the forefront by improving address systems -a seemingly trivial component of infrastructure. The overriding characteristic of infrastructure is that for it to be sustainable, it has to be maintained, but sustainable infrastructure is a very expensive endeavour, and resources for the creation, operation and maintenance of public services and the acompanying infrastructure are usually not available in developing nations.

The Global SoS Network has determined the reason for the lack of resources for basic public services and the maintaining of infrastructure in the Global South is the lack of effective and comprehensive billing systems, which depend upon the existence of adequate postal services. In turn, these can only operate wherever there are complete and updated sets of address systems. It is impossible to operate effective utility and public-service billing systems without the existence of  adequate postal services. Effective billing systems permit utilities and tax agencies to create income streams with which to finance and deliver basic public services, and to develop and maintain the social and biophysical infrastructure, following Prof. Pieterse's hierarchy towards the elimination of slum urbanism. 

The lack of adequate postal services means that, for example, the cost of garbage pick up, disposal, and of sewer-line installation and wastewater treatment  cannot be shared among users. The result is people living next to mounds and ever hills made up of garbage, of children playing along open sewers, and of inland and coastal waterways wallowing in refuse.

For a revolting bit of shock research into the extent of the issue, the reader can google images for "open sewer," "waterway slum," "garbage slum," and perhaps "open sewer India." Continuing our function also as stewards of the discretion of the reader, we will not supply a hyperlink to the following web page: The Brazilian Slum Children Who Are Literally Swimming in Garbage.

The financing of low-cost housing development is also thwarted if housing development agencies cannot bill for monthly rent -even if subsidized- to residents of public housing units. The very visible consequences of the lack of any cash flow from public-housing investments are a) housing managers that cannot satisfy the demand for low-cost housing, which leads to b) the creation and explosive growth of shantytowns throughout the developing world -exactly the slum urbanism that Professor Pieters articulates.

Then there is the brownish liquid that tries to pass as potable water, plus the intermittent and even daily rolling blackouts that substitute reliable electric service, and in general, all utilities and public-service operations. For instance, the dearth of adequate postal services affects tax collection thus civil-service wages. It is difficult for the different levels of government to collect taxes when the postal service is inadequate, so as to be able to pay reasonable salaries to public servants such as garbage collectors, police, firefighters, medical care personnel, teachers, etc.

Sometimes, developing-nation governments -and international development agencies-  apparently try to resolve the infrastructure situation by employing meager existing resources, or some local projects under the umbrella of blanket subsidies for the patching-up of specific utility or infrastructure services. But when local managers continue to provide services without receiving adequate income streams to sustain the effort, the public service and infrastructure just deteriorate.

Roads, bridges, sewer and storm drainage systems, drinking water works, landfills, schools, hospitals, police protection, etc., cannot be maintained for lack of resources, and the initiatives -the overall effort- just seem intractable uphill struggles. The result of lack of good public infrastructure is lower investments, decrease of productivity and thus lower incomes as people try to scrape a living where there are no good roads nor sidewalks, schools, or low-cost housing, etc.

The Global SoS Network coincides with Professor Pieterse when he identifies slum urbanism as a vicious circle that, in addition, the Millennium Challenge Corporation describes as "...poor maintenance of infrastructure, and then rapid deterioration makes initial investments unwise -even as it makes a second or third round of investment essential." So costs of trying to develop nations just grows. Government income stagnates because of the difficulties to increase tax revenues, and the overall effort becomes dysfunctional or offers minimal positive results at the global level.




It has been established that incremental increases of national productivity are the stepping stones to wealth and prosperity. SoS Engineering (SoSE) can help achieve continuous increase of national productivity because it can help the diferent fuctions of legislative SoS work synergetically to help increase productivity.

But productivity increases are not automatic. It takes good public services that improve the quality of life. Once business managers see that the quality of public services are increasing, then they become motivated to invest in technology to increase productivity.

When productivity increases, then workers produce more with equal or less effort. This means that businesses can increase salaries without increasing the price of their product and services.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation states that "Indeed, the importance of raising incomes for the poor can only be understood in the context of the additional needs that will be met -food, clothing, schooling, health care.