The connectivity of infrastructure networks and the urban space of São Paulo in the 1990s


This article explores the strategic importance of information systems for social control of networked services on urban and regional scales, and the nature of the information required for that purpose. The standard indicators of infrastructure coverage – by and large based on the number and encompassment of connections – no longer respond to the real conditions of supply and consumption. The technological and managerial innovations in flow control and dispatch, along with the effects of combined access to multi‐mode networks, render the evaluation of services’ connectivity considerably more complex than it used to be in the past. Private domination over the supply structure of these services tends to make the political struggle for equitability more dependent on the technical reliability of information than it could have been under the model of state supply. Networked services’ management has evolved to a more demand‐oriented structure, but this structure has so far reproduced the structural inequalities of Brazilian society in favor of powerful stakeholders, e.g. large consumers. The potential for more democratic control associated with this new balance between supply and demand in networked services can only evolve if more vulnerable social groups have access to sound technological and managerial information. To support this idea the article shows the importance of connectivity indicators in determining the effective access to networked utilities in the Metropolitan Area of São Paulo, in contrast to the traditional indicators of services’ coverage.