Without functioning infrastructure, a society lacks the foundation for a good life, productive economy and industry. Infrastructure doesn’t just mean roads, bridges and rail networks but also Internet access, the supply of water and electricity as well as public transport. These facilities are key to communities’ ability to access medical care and healthy food, among other things, as well as playing an active role in society. Businesses, too, depend on infrastructure – for instance, in the shape of reliable Internet and safe roads to transport their products.
Developing countries are eager to industrialize and grow productive economic sectors that will create jobs and lasting prosperity. Investment in infrastructure, such as transportation, irrigation, energy as well as information and communications technology, is critical to accelerating sustainable development, strengthening communities as well as improving health and education outcomes. However, those countries that have already industrialized did so at a high environmental cost. For countries in the Global South to benefit from robust industry and infrastructure, innovation and research into renewable energy, for one, require selective subsidies. Without technology and innovation, industrialization will stall. And without industrialization, there can be no development.
In 2017, developing countries received a total of USD 59 billion in official development assistance for economic infrastructure. Even so, industrialization in the least developed nations is still progressing too slowly. There are significant differences in industrial productivity between rich and poor countries. Manufacturing in the world’s least developed countries currently generates an added value of only USD 100 per capita, compared with over USD 4,500 in Europe and North America. The reason for this is the lack of access to adequate financing, without which companies struggle to innovate, improve efficiency, tap into new markets and ultimately grow. Such growth in turn drives job creation and better standards of living for all.
According to an OECD study, Germany ranks sixth among the most sustainable industrialized nations. Germany is a particularly strong player in the green tech market – i.e. in developing and producing technologies to protect the environment and harness renewable energy. Nevertheless, Germany, too, has a long way to go, especially as headway in the energy and mobility transitions is slow and high-quality infrastructure is unevenly distributed. Today, not only are there still households and regions without access to fast broadband Internet, but the fiber connections that many other countries take for granted are also the exception to the rule. Poor infrastructure is one reason businesses move away from underserved regions, triggering population decline and unemployment. There are 19 regions, primarily in eastern Germany and the Ruhr district, facing high structural risks due to a lack of infrastructure, poor economic performance and population decline/migration.
Each year, Germany’s Federal Statistical Office calculates investment in research and development as a share of gross domestic product (GDP). In 2019, spending on research and development totaled EUR 110 billion, equivalent to 3.2 percent of GDP. While that makes Germany the second most innovative country in the world, the government is targeting growth in private and public spending on research and development of at least 3.5 percent of GDP by 2025. In addition to pursuing sustainable innovations and green technologies, the country also needs to help developing and emerging economies gain access to existing knowledge as well as new research and advances.
Greater investment in high-tech products is needed to drive efficiency. Another focal area is expanding cellular services in order to improve connections between people. Minimizing carbon-dioxide emissions released during production is equally key to success. While many countries have cut emissions over the past decade, the rate of that decline has varied around the world.