Roads and Bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind Our Digital Infrastructure

Our modern society runs on software. But the tools we use to build software are buckling under increased demand.

Nearly all software today relies on free, public code, written and maintained by communities of developers and other talent. This code can be used by anyone—from companies to individuals—to write their own software. Shared, public code makes up the digital infrastructure of our society today.

Everybody relies on shared code to write software, including Fortune 500 companies, government, major software companies and startups. In a world driven by technology, we are putting increased demand on those who maintain our digital infrastructure. Yet because these communities are not highly visible, the rest of the world has been slow to notice.

Just like physical infrastructure, digital infrastructure needs regular upkeep and maintenance. But financial support for digital infrastructure is much harder to come by.

In the face of unprecedented demand, the costs of not supporting our digital infrastructure are numerous. No individual company or organization is incentivized to address the public good problem alone. In order to support our digital infrastructure, we must find ways to work together.

Sustaining our digital infrastructure is a new topic for many, and the challenges are not well understood. In this report, Nadia Eghbal unpacks the unique challenges facing digital infrastructure, and how we might work together to address them.