Physical infrastructure refers to the basic physical structures required for an economy to function and survive, such as transportation networks, a power grid and sewerage and waste disposal systems. Viewed by some developmental economists as part of a three-pillar system, along with human capital and good governance, physical infrastructure is a prerequisite for trade and other productive activities. In a functional sense, a society's physical infrastructure facilitates the production of goods and services.
Anthropological research has demonstrated the importance of infrastructure to social development. Infrastructure shapes human society and, in turn, society shapes the infrastructure in ways that will enable its growth. The term came to prominence in the United States during the 1980s when a significant amount of policy discussion centered around the "infrastructure crisis." It was thought to have been caused by poor maintenance and a lack of funding regarding public works projects.