The term “Critical infrastructure” is usually employed to describe assets which are essential for the effective functioning of any society or economy. These assets are identified as the basic facilities, services and installations critical to the social and economic well-being of any State. They represent utility assets or ‘public works’ which are indivisible from the efficient operational activities of any society. It is universally accepted that any nation’s health, wealth and security depend upon the production and distribution of certain goods and services. The array of physical assets, functions and systems across which these goods and services move are considered critical infrastructures. Such infrastructures are identified as the most critical to any society and are prioritized based on the level/impact of risk associated with their loss to attack or disaster.
Examples of critical infrastructure are globally accepted to include the following amongst others:
- ? Electricity generation, transmission and distribution;
- ? Gas production, transport and distribution;
- ? Oil and oil products production, transport and distribution;
- ? Communications systems
- ? Water supply
- ? Agriculture, food production and distribution;
- ? Public health (hospitals, ambulances);
- ? Transportation systems (fuel supply, railway network, airports, harbours, inland shipping);
- ? Financial Services(banking, clearing and exchanges services);
- ? Security services (police, military and civil defence).
It has been noted that in view of the pivotal role played by these assets in assuring the seamless operation of any society, the current global trend is for governments to put in place aggressive programs or agencies to oversee the protection of such Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). These protection strategies are aimed at according CNI physical and virtual protection from both man- made, physical events and acts of nature that could disrupt their provision.
CNI are complex and often interconnected, which means that a disruption in one may often lead to disruption in others. Such disruptions may be caused by any number of factors e.g. poor design, operator error, physical destruction due to natural occurrences (flood, earthquake, etc.), or physical destruction due to intentional human actions (terrorist attacks, theft, vandalism, untoward interventions etc.). Protection strategies are thus measures which are taken to guard against and/or quickly respond to these threats. Such measures are designed primarily to improve reliability and safety of CNI. They are also focused on ensuring the continuity of CNI in the face of such threats