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Last edited 20 Sep 2021
The term 'digital' can be defined as; 'A branch of engineering knowledge and practice that deals with the creation and practical use of data or computerised devices, methods, systems and processes'. Ref The Gemini Principles. Centre for Digital Built Britain. December 2018.
Digital infrastructure comprises the physical resources that are necessary to enable the use of data, computerised devices, methods, systems and processes. Digital infrastructure has become indispensable to the functioning of society and the quality of life of its citizens.
The Internet is a network of interconnected servers which form an electronic communications system spanning private, public, academic, business and government. There are thought to be around 3.4 billion internet users globally. It is sometimes called ‘the Net’ or simply referred to as ‘cyberspace’.
Internet users can gain information from other internet users usually through ‘websites’ comprising information that is categorised over one or more ‘pages’. In 1991, there was just one website – that of CERN in Switzerland; today the number is over a billion and growing.
The internet is decentralised, which means it is not centrally controlled or owned by anyone. However, access to the Internet is usually gained through a commercial internet service provider (ISP), and from them, access to the physical network of connections, servers and data centres.
Broadband is high-speed internet access comprising hard-wired connections that link users with the Internet. It is the physical connection between a device and servers and may include the use of a router which allows various devices to have Internet access (noe generally wire-free (Wi-Fi)). Broadband typically enables high-capacity transmissions over a wide frequency range enabling vast amounts of data to be transmitted.
 Mobile networks
Also known as cellular networks, these use various frequencies to provide wireless broadband internet and communications for data, voice and messaging. Each ‘cell’ in the network typically contains a receiver/transmitter (usually a tower or high mast) covering an area of land. The cells are interconnected to each other and to telephone switches or exchanges.
 Communications satellites
Satellites orbit around the earth and transmit information for internet, cellular and other networks eg, SatNav. They allow information to be beamed from one area of the earth’s surface to another without the inefficiencies usually associated with short-, medium- and long-wave wireless signals or hard-wired transmission.
Data centres are buildings (or spaces within buildings) in which data can be stored on servers, computers, hard discs and other devices. Data storage is now often a rentable commodity, and it is crucial to maintain a service that is seamless and reliable. Data centres therefore feature ancillary systems such as back-up components and power supply systems.
These include laptops, desktops, tablets, mobile phones and so on.
 Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the application of unique identifiers to physical objects that enables them to be connected to a network allowing the transfer of data to and from those objects. For more information see: Internet of things.
 Applications (‘apps’)
An app is a software application that exists for the benefit of individual users, allowing them to perform a variety of functions, play games, access internet-based services eg, access train timetables or the local weather and so on.
 API integration
 The Cloud
The Cloud is not a physical entity, but a network of servers, each of which has a different function and which delivers a specific service, such as the storage of personal data, large files and photographs (usually for a fee over a certain storage limit) and access specific services such as photo editing and computer graphics. The Cloud also allows the storage of computer programmes thereby obviating the need to store them on personal devices. This has enabled laptops and other devices to access a broad range of computing power without the need for large inboard memory and computing power.
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