Looking at QI from a psychological angle
Quality infrastructure is not an end in itself. Instead, its raison d’être is to support companies in the production and trade of goods and services that are ultimately intended to contribute to the well-being of people.
Human well-being depends on the satisfaction of human needs. According to the US-American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1974), and human needs can be represented in a hierarchical structure (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Simplified hierarchy of needs
Although human needs are universal, they change continuously according to the personal and social development. Cultural and geographical factors also play a role.
Figure 2: The dynamic hierarchy of needs
In a market economy, many needs can be satisfied by consuming products and services. The costs and prices of goods also play a role. As technological development progresses, the prices of basic foodstuffs, for example, fall so that citizens have more purchasing power to buy products to satisfy higher needs. The figure 2 shows how the basic and security needs to be dominated in an early development phase decrease during personal development. The same principle applies to the dynamics of the individual and societal distribution of needs as purchasing power increases.
A refrigerator satisfies human needs.
The example of a durable consumer good, such as the refrigerator, illustrates how quality infrastructure services contribute to satisfying changing needs, especially at the level of the basic needs.
A refrigerator, colloquially fridge, is a commercial and domestic appliance consisting of a thermally insulated compartment and a heat pump (mechanical, electronic, or chemical) that transfers heat from the interior to the external environment so that the interior is cooled to a temperature below room temperature.
Refrigeration is an important food storage technique all over the world. The purpose of a refrigerator is to cool food and thus make it last longer. This means that the human need for nutrition can be satisfied at a lower cost. The lower temperature lowers the rate at which bacteria multiply, so the refrigerator reduces the spoilage rate. A refrigerator maintains a temperature a few degrees above the freezing point of water. Overall, the fridge contributes to satisfying the basic need for food and freeing up resources for satisfying other needs.
With the development of refrigeration technology and mass production, the cost of refrigerators fell continuously. Today, every household in Germany has a refrigerator. In Mexico, for comparison, this is 88% of households.
To purchasing a refrigerator, energy costs are an essential selection factor. In this respect, particular emphasis is now placed on energy efficiency. Labels inform consumers about household appliance energy efficiency and other performance criteria. This is part of consumer and environmental protection and responds to information needs.
The electrical operation of refrigerators also poses risks to the safety of the users. Safety standards must be observed in refrigerators’ manufacture, maintenance, and operation. Corresponding safety regulations and tests meet the need for safety. In this area, the state also assumes a protective function that allows it to regulate markets accordingly.
Every technology is associated with undesirable side effects. The first refrigerators were operated with chloromethane (methyl chloride, CH3Cl), ammonia or sulphur dioxide; this caused problems with the storage of moving parts in the compressor and, in the event of leaks, the escape of toxic gases or deflagrations. From 1930, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were technically produced and soon used as refrigerants in refrigeration machines. This avoided the problems mentioned above. In the 1980s, the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica was discovered, and the scientific proof was obtained that CFCs were depleting the ozone layer.
Today, living in an intact environment is recognized as a human need. Here, too, the states assume a regulating protective function. In the Montreal Protocol, the signatory states committed to no longer using CFCs. The use of CFCs is now banned, which has led to the development and use of new refrigerants.
Even higher-value needs can be satisfied by buying a refrigerator. For example, the industry produces freezers that make fresh ice cubes at the touch of a button or smart fridges that send us a push message on our smartphone if we have left the door open or if certain food items need to be replenished. Refrigerator technology is responding to new trends such as sustainability and digitalization, and manufacturers are continuously developing it further.
The refrigerator example shows how QI services contribute to well-being at different levels of the needs pyramid. It is striking that the provision of QI services accompanies the changes in needs themselves. First, QI supported the safe functioning of the appliances, which made their mass production possible in the first place. This made it possible to satisfy basic needs for durable and healthy food.
The presence of refrigerators in almost all households, in turn, freed up resources to satisfy other needs. With sophisticated technology and design, advanced refrigerators can even be seen as a symbol of prestige and lifestyle.
Beyond satisfying individual needs, the QI also supports energy efficiency and the avoidance of environmentally harmful gases. In this way, the QI contributes to protecting the planet and humanity.
Overall, however, the contribution of QI to the satisfaction of individual and collective needs always depends on the requirements set by public, private-sector, and social actors. In this respect, QI services are a helpful instrument for achieving set goals.
This text was produced as part of a study for the Global Program for Quality Infrastructure (GPQI). Our thanks go to the GIZ GPQI programme in Mexico for its support.
 https://www.destatis.de/DE/Themen/Gesellschaft-Umwelt/Einkommen-Konsum-Lebensbedingungen/Ausstattung-Gebrauchsgueter/_inhalt.html (Retrieved 05/12/22).
 https://www.reporteindigo.com/reporte/inegi-ocho-de-cada-10-hogares-en-mexico-no-cuentan-con-servicios-como-netflix-o-spotify/(Retrieved 05/12/22).