What is the National Information Infrastructure?

The National Information Infrastructure (NII) is a complex network providing people with access to telecommunications and a wide array of media. In addition to being used as a specific term in the United States to talk about communication infrastructure initiatives, people may also use this term informally to talk about any national-level organization of information infrastructure in the world. Such systems are designed to secure information access for people across a nation while also creating the mechanisms for technological advancement.

There are several aspects to the National Information Infrastructure. One is the physical hardware components including cables, servers, and other equipment used in telecommunications. The other is the supporting software used to access the system, ranging from web browsers used by individual people to the software used to run Internet servers. These must integrate as seamlessly as possible for effective information access, and there is need to support a number of different hardware and software platforms to allow the network to grow with time.

In 1991, the High Performance Computing and Communication Act was passed in the United States, setting up a framework for establishing the National Information Infrastructure and creating priorities for telecommunications access. Advocates believed that telecommunications had considerable potential for everything from managing electronic medical records to providing people with real-time teleconferencing ability, and they felt that developing information technology was an important priority for the United States.

A number of concerns were also raised, including worries about protecting intellectual copyright in electronic media, as well as privacy considerations for people on the envisioned network, where public and private information could be stored and readily accessed. Access in rural areas was also a cause for concern; many communities in the United States lacked the physical infrastructure to support high speed Internet, leaving residents of those areas behind when it came to technological advancements.

Numerous government agencies are involved in setting policies involving the National Information Infrastructure, along with agencies providing grants and other forms of assistance to make technology more available. As the applications of technology increased and shifted, other issues, like making the Internet accessible to blind users, began to arise, illustrating the need for ongoing innovation and evolution in technology infrastructure. Programs like the National Information Infrastructure also have to shift to keep up with competing networks and technology sectors in other nations, as talented individuals may be wooed away to countries with better infrastructure, where they experience more support for their work.