The societal impacts of information and communication technology in the 21st century - Information Technology Essay Example
PART 1. INTRODUCTION
Chapter 1.1. Introduction to the Study
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Information technology today has had a very pervasive effect on people’s daily lives and will continue to have such an effect in the years to come (Hall and Ritchie, 1997). We are surrounded by information technology, whether we are at work, at school, at home, or at our community, and even take it for granted as a natural part of our day-to-day activities. The huge advances in the development of information technology in the past decade has resulted in a highly global community, with the growth of IT resulting in a huge impact on different aspects of civil society (Independent Sector, 2001), information technology investments and productivity (Subirana et al., 2003), social life (Meadowcroft, 2005), and economic life (Stiroh, 2001).
Information technology (IT) can be defined as “the technology used to store, manipulate, distribute or create information” (Meadowcroft, 2005). The type of data is not important – what is important in this definition is that IT pertains to any mechanism or method which is capable of processing information or data. These mechanisms include, but are not necessarily limited to, computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), among such common examples, but may also extend to concepts such as e-businesses, or Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP).
Without a doubt, technology has served to bring all of mankind together (Brenner, 1998). IT has enabled people around the world to access information about another country, society, or citizen, by a mere click of a button. Current events, travel, health information, technological advances, inventions, innovations, science, and the like have become virtually borderless. The presence of technology in our daily lives governs most of human activities, from the houses we live in, the cars we drive, the computers we use at work and at home, the mobile phones we use, and even the devices we use to entertain ourselves. According to Brenner (1998), the presence of technology in fact is so prevalent in our lives through the gadgetries we use at home and at work to stay informed and entertained.
The working definition of IT provided herein will help to provide direction as to the scope of the discussions of this thesis. The dissertation will seek to examine how these IT mechanisms, modes, processes, and methods affect society in general. In trying to understand the effect of IT on society, the dissertation will break down the study into examining these effects on three broad dimensions: 1) the effect of IT on the way we work; 2) the effect of IT on how we live; and 3) the effect of IT on society in general.
Chapter 1.2. Thesis Statement
The dissertation will have the following primary thesis statement:
“The development of Applied Technology and the Management of the Information systems during the 21st century has had a global impact on humankind, particularly in aspects of social and economic life.”
To supplement the discussions on the primary thesis statement, the dissertation will also have the following secondary thesis statement:
“A review of present and future trends in electronic technology will provide insight on its impact on human society, especially with regard to the confrontation of human values as it is presently influenced by electronic technology versus possible changes in our approach towards future technology so that the latter will ultimately benefit different aspects of social and economic life.”
Chapter 1.3. Research Objectives
In support of the thesis statement presented in the previous section, the presentation of data, discussions, and analysis of this dissertation will be premised on the following research objectives:
§ To provide a brief summary of some of the primary technological developments that have taken place in IT.
§ To examine the influence of these developments on how we work, how we live, and on societies in general.
§ To identify the advantages and disadvantages of developments in IT in different aspects in society and human life.
§ To investigate what drives the market for IT developments, and its impact on society in general.
Chapter 1.4. Methodologies
Section 1.4.1. Qualitative Research Methodology
The dissertation will make use of the qualitative research methodology, which involves the analysis of data such as words (from articles, books, and/or interviews), pictures, or objects (such as artefacts) (Creswell and Plano Clark, 2003). For purposes of this dissertation, the data to be analysed will be primarily derived from academic papers, white papers, government reports, online databases, websites, journal articles, and books.
Qualitative research will be used as opposed to quantitative research which tends to focus on the collection and analysis of numerical data, such as statistics, and draws conclusions by using random sampling techniques to draw inferences from a sample population. Surveys and questionnaires are the most typical types of data-gathering methods used for the qualitative research methodology (Yin, 2002). This dissertation will not be making use of surveys and questionnaires, and will not look into statistical variables. Thus, the qualitative research methodology was selected as the research approach for this dissertation. The objective of this study is to examine the impact of IT on society in general, on how we work, and on how we live. To achieve these objectives, it is necessary to gather data from related literature. For these reasons, the dissertation will use the qualitative research methodology.
Section 1.4.2. Secondary Research
In attempting to meet the research objectives of this study, it is necessary to make the distinction between primary research and secondary research as sources of data. Primary research pertains to original or first-hand data from interviews, surveys, and questionnaires. It involves the study of a subject through first-hand observation and investigation, such as through the analysis of a literary or historical text, or through conducting surveys or interviews, as mentioned. Primary sources also include statistical data, historical documents, and works of literature or art, and other original documents like manuscripts and other unpublished works (Creswell and Plano Clark, 2003).
On the other hand, secondary research involves data which has been previously published, usually by somebody else, or second-hand data. It involves the examination of studies that other researchers have already made a subject of and written about before. Secondary sources interpret primary sources, and thus can be described as one step removed from the event, issue or phenomenon which is the subject of the study. These secondary sources include books and articles about certain issues, historical events, debates, or literary works (Creswell and Plano Clark, 2003).
This dissertation will mainly make use of secondary sources, and will only refer to primary sources as supplementary sources of data, if applicable. Secondary research was selected as the main source of data since these cost less than primary research, and time constraints and fiscal limitations have prevented a full-blown investigation involving surveys, questions, and interviews. It is also difficult to use primary sources since these, being records of events as they are first described, are often without any interpretation or commentary (Creswell and Plano Clark, 2003). Thus, secondary sources will be used as the data from which the discussions and analysis of the research objectives will be based.
Section 1.4.3. Research Strategies
There are several different research strategies under the qualitative research method, which is the research approach selected for this dissertation as previously mentioned. In particular, this dissertation will make use of the following research strategies: the descriptive research strategy, content analysis method, and collection and analysis of other archival, administrative, and performance data.
Subsection 184.108.40.206. Descriptive Research Strategy
The descriptive research strategy falls under the case study method, which is a common research approach falling under the qualitative research methodology. The descriptive research strategy is used to develop a descriptive theory at the start of a research study, since this strategy provides historical insights as to what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. The purpose behind the descriptive research strategy is to describe something through conclusive research (Yin, 2002). This is accomplished through gathering data from multiple sources in order to bring out the details that are relevant for the objectives of this study. The data will be taken from sources such as academic papers, white papers, government reports, online databases, websites, journal articles, and books.
Subsection 220.127.116.11. Content Analysis Method
This research strategy involves content analysis of pertinent documents, and is a non-intrusive form of research (Yin, 2002). It involves the review of documents, memos, and other written information. The examination of these documents – such as journal articles and white papers – will allow for a determination on what data should be used and integrated in the analysis and discussion of this dissertation.
Subsection 18.104.22.168. Collection and Analysis of Other Archival, Administrative, and Performance Data
Similar to the content analysis method, this research strategy is also a non-intrusive form of research. In this strategy, information that has been previously collected, or secondary data/secondary sources, will be reviewed to gain a better understanding of the topic (Creswell and Plano Clark, 2003).
Chapter 1.5. Scope and Limitations of the Study
In trying to understand the effect of IT on the different sectors of society, it becomes necessary to evaluate both the negative and positive influences of these technologies. One obvious positive influence of IT is that it has lead to an improved quality of life, whereas negative effects deal with issues of security and privacy (Hall and Ritchie, 1997). It is often difficult to predict or analyze the current and potential influence of IT in a smaller-scale setting, as individual and even country-wide needs and responses always vary.
However, on a grand-scale setting – with regard to the impact on society in general – it becomes easier to predict the influences of IT as a shared experience or phenomena across many countries.
This study will not attempt to evaluate the impact of IT on particular individuals, groups, particular business sectors, but will base its analysis instead on individuals, groups, or sectors in general. In this general analysis, country-specific and product-specific examples may be provided, but the discussions will attempt to erase categorization or borders, and will seek to make its hypotheses applicable on a more global scale.
After all, the backbone of this dissertation is that IT has created a virtual, borderless global community, thus, the hypotheses and conclusions of this dissertation will likewise be promised on a more global approach
Chapter 1.6. Organization of the Thesis
Part 1 presents a background on the study, the thesis statement, research objectives, research methodologies, and scope and limitations of the study. Part 2 discusses hardware and software developments in IT. Part 3 examines the relationship between ICT and economic growth. Part 4 covers the impact of IT, its advantages and disadvantages, and its impact on education, food and nutrition, health, lifestyle, and on the global community. Part 5 includes the conclusions and recommendations of the study.
PART 2. DEVELOPMENTS IN IT
Chapter 2.1. Hardware Developments
A brief history on the development of the computer hardware is best traced back to binary numbers and Boolean logic. As far back as 1666, Gottfried Leibniz developed the binary mathematical system as opposed to the conventional decimal system at that time. In 1939, John Atanasoff built the first prototype binary computer, using zeroes and ones which are called binary digits, although Konrad Zuse has been argued by other researchers as having created the first computer in 1941. Claude Shannon, Konrad Zuse, George Stibitz, further infused binary numbers with Boolean logic. At that time, conventional binary computers could be likened to a light switch – you could just either turn it on or turn it off. By infusing Boolean logic, the computer’s circuits were then able to perform logical and mathematical functions (Redshaw, 1996). Every single thing that an individual can view from his or her computer monitor – whether it is a picture, or an email – is represented by binary digits from inside the computer’s circuits. These are called analog circuitries, which televisions, radios, tape and video recorders, and telephones also made use of in the past before the dawning of the digital age (Murray, 2000; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2006).
While early low-level binary computers provided for more speed and better resolutions as compared to analog computers, the binary system was susceptible to human error. The advancement of computer technologies today has adapted to the Internet boom, with streams of data being transmitted over long distances, and the emergence of a process known as “quantum computing” (Murray, 2000). The succeeding sections of this Chapter will discuss advances in fast binary systems and quantum computing.
Section 2.1.1. Advanced Computer Hardware
Subsection 22.214.171.124. Current Trends
Fast Binary Network Address
The conventional binary computer has been adapted to accommodate the Internet boom. One method in particular is the fast binary network address, invented by Pronita Mehrotra and Paul D. Franzon for the North Carolina State University. The fast binary network address sought to address the ever-increasing number of hosts in the Internet by seeking to improve the performance of routers. When an individual seeks to search for data online, the Internet Protocol (IP) router searches through a database called a routing table which involves an immense number of destination networks and hosts. Such a search takes longer since there is such a large database wherein which the router has to work through before finding the destination network. Conventional binary systems in particular have problems searching for large address sizes. The fast binary network address seeks to minimize search time without necessarily increasing the size of the routing table by “using a routing table with a path or parent node information stored in each routing table entry” (United States Patent No. 6934252, 2005). Specifically, the new systems uses a routing table with a parent node information stored in each routing table entry. Every entry corresponds to a network address prefix, and the system allows for prefixes with variable lengths. In addition, every entry in the routing table stores path information, and a forward address information with a number of parent nodes corresponding for the current search entry (United States Patent No. 6934252, 2005). This allows for a faster search of even very large address sizes, and generally makes computer-based Internet searches much faster than it ever was before with the conventional binary system.
In the past, computers were merely switched on and off, and they performed their functions only when they were switched off. Current trends today however has opened up the prospect of “quantum computers” that perform functions even when they are switched off. This process involves the application of quantum bits (or qubits), and basically means that your computer can perform virtually the same applications and operations whether switched on and off (Jones, J., 1998; West, 2000).
At the forefront of quantum computing is a technology which has come to be known as UCSB. Lead by David Awschalom and a team of researchers, quantum computing does not make use of binary system for data transmission. Data is sent by first storing in qubits which allows for a practically endless number of values, beyond the one’s and zero’s in a binary system. This makes a computer operating on a quantum system infinitely more powerful, efficient, flexible, and faster than a conventional binary computer system (Krasnow, 2004; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2006). The speed of calculations of quantum computers as compared to conventional binary computers does not merely speak of three or four times faster, but translates to a million times faster than conventional binary computers (Krasnow, 2004). It is, quite literally, a “technological quantum leap” since it allows for people to calculate complex problems to come up with solutions at present day which may otherwise take a couple of millions of years to figure out (Boyle, 2000). What is even more amazing – or jarring, depending on what perspective one takes – about quantum computers is that they can calculate for these solutions and produce answers to these complex problems even when they are not actually running (New Scientist Magazine, 2006). Quantum computing has the potential of quite literally producing an actual thinking computer.
In addition, quantum computing can unscramble even the most complex encryptions and break even the most complicated codes, and conversely can be used to make codes which can ensure maximum security. Quantum cryptography ensures that the utmost privacy of communications, and any possible eavesdropping would result in the automatic shutdown of the transmission of secret or private messages sent online. In addition, quantum cryptography allows for entanglement, wherein two quantum objects no matter how widely separated are so connected or entangled that you would be able to determine the state of one object by the state of the other object. This allows for what is being known as “quantum teleportation” where what is teleported is information, from one quantum object to another, but not the transportation of the objects themselves (Boyle, 2000).
Subsection 126.96.36.199. Social Impact Characteristics of Computers
As a general rule, IT professional unanimously agree that computer technology has had and will continue to have a profound impact on society. However, there may be conflicting views as to why computer technologies have an impact on society in the first place. For purposes of this study, it becomes imperative to clearly delineate certain characteristics of computer technologies which may have an impact on society. A clearly defined listing of characteristics will assist in evaluating why and even how computer technologies have an impact on societal life. As such, this dissertation will adapt the social impact characteristics identified by Liffick (1995). These social impact characteristics may likewise serve as a basis for evaluating the designs of new technologies, in order to understand and identify the potential social effects of these new products.
The following characteristics as identified by Liffick (1995) will be used for this study as the root of the impact of computers, and corollary, other new technologies, on society:
§ Ubiquity. This characteristic pertains to the fact that computers are present everywhere in every aspect of a person’s life. Whether such technology is encountered directly, through actual computers such as desktops or laptops, or indirectly, in transactions which are essentially processed through computers, such as answering machines, supermarket scanners or VCRs. These devices are encompassed in the term “computer technology” since the information, transactions, and activities generated from these devices are channeled or processed through a computer system (Liffick, 1995).
§ Magnification. Computers can “generate, collect, and store an ever-increasing amount of raw data” (Liffick, 1995). The result of this is that there is a continuously increasing amount of information available from the data generated from computers. However, the converse is also through – just as there is an increasing amount of information which becomes available to users, these very same users are also increasingly prone to computer errors and viruses.
§ Accessibility. The growth of the World Wide Web makes any type of information available virtually anywhere in the globe, as long as you log on and have access to the Internet. The Internet in fact has been typically described as “information superhighways” (Liffick, 1995) since by simply logging on, a huge number of individuals, wherever they are, can access an equally huge and equally diverse amount of information. The accessibility of information is not however limited to the Internet – other forms of media such as videos, audio files, text messages, allow people access to unprecedented sources of data.
§ Reproducibility and Distributability. That information superhighways have allowed all kinds of information and data to be accessible to anyone in the world has also allowed people to reproduce this data – even without permission by the creators, owners, writers, or artists who originally made such data available, whether over the Internet, or through MP3 files, and the like. For instance, the movie, music, and television industries have been plagued by the proliferation of bootlegged songs, videos, movies, and TV series. Since songs, videos, movies, and TV series are in digital forms, people can simply duplicate these digital forms even without permission or authority to do so. According to Oz (1994), the concepts of hypertext and hypermedia has allowed for non-linear accessibility to information through computers – and now the Internet – which has, in turn, increased the reproduction and distribution of these digital forms.
§ Lack of Accountability. With regard to computer errors in particular, it has become very difficult to pinpoint the individual responsible for any particular error. Computerized systems may crash, malfunction, reboot, or basically fail us sometimes when we need them most. According to Nissenbaum (1994), with voice-mail messaging system alone, it is very common to lose messages even if the individual person involved followed the standard procedure for recording and retrieving such messages.
§ Temporality. Computers allow for information to be retained for long stretches of time, and allows for information to be available immediately, at the click of a button.
§ Spatiality. Computers, through the Internet, have bridged the gap between long distances, wherein people do not have to travel far and wide to get information which would otherwise normally be available in a particular country, office, place or building.
§ Surveillability. Computer technology has likewise allowed for surveillance to become easier and more efficient, with surveillance data from cameras, recorders, microphones, credit cards, and practically all types of transactions being transmitted and encrypted into a computer system.
§ Shifting of Relationships/Changes in Intercommunication Protocols. Liffick (1995) points out accurately that this characteristic is the most difficult one to track. How computer technology has shifted relationships and changed communication styles between people and groups is something that has not been easily measured in previous research.
§ Illusion of Precision. People often perceive computers as being error-free simply because they are machines and removed from human error. In truth, computer hardware involves a large set of numbers susceptible in error during conversion into binary forms – especially in the case of conventional binary computers (Liffick, 1985). Yet, since the computer generated the calculation, value or solution, people willingly accept them as accurate even if such is not the case (Liffick, 1995).
These societal impact characteristics, though originally intended to be applied to computer technologies by Liffick (1995) will likewise be applied to the analysis of other technological trends presented in succeeding sections of this dissertation. These characteristics will especially help in evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of current and potential applied technologies and information systems.
Section 2.1.2. The Rise of the MP3 Player
Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG), Audio Layer III, or MP3, was originally developed by a German company called Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in the 1980s. The same company developed the first ever MP3 player in the 1990s, way before the rise of the Apple iPod. The first prime-time MP3 player was created by Tomislav Uzelac in 1997, and was called the AMP MP3 Playback Engine. MP3 technology allows for the compression of audio files without much impairment to its sound quality. Portable MP3 players allow people to listen to music through those compressed audio files. Early MP3 players contained small hard disks that stored MP3 files downloaded from a computer, and transfers these files into the player. The individual can listen to the music files on his or her player by selecting a specific song or randomly playing the song list (Bellis, no date; Jones, C., 2000).
When the AMP engine became mainstream over the internet, Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev created the Winamp in 1998, by taking the AMP engine and adding a Windows interface to it. Winamp was immediately offered as a free music player, and spontaneously produced the MP3 boom. Copyrighted music were being offered online for free by various MP3-related software and search engines. The most prominent of these software was Napster, which allowed any person online to connect and download any song or kind of music they wanted over the internet, in a matter of minutes, by connecting users to other users’ hard drives (Jones, C., 2000). In other words, through file-trading, music lovers could share their music files in their hard drives with that of other music lovers from other parts of the world, as long as they all logged into Napster. The file-sharing network came under attack by recording companies and recording artists, such artists such as Metallica and Madonna who have experienced their songs being made available over the Internet even before they were official released. In 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit against Napster, which resulted in the latter’s temporary shutdown. In 2002, barraged by a series of lawsuits and infringement accusations, Napster was forced to declare bankruptcy. However, despite the criticisms against Napster, it nevertheless paved the way for a slew of file-sharing software such as Kazaa, Limewire, iMesh, Morpheus, and BearShare (Jones, C., 2000; McCourt and Burkart, 2003).
Unfortunately, the MP3 technology experienced a steady decline in popularity in recent years with new innovations in the digital music industry by Microsoft and Apple Computer. In particular, people have started to shift away from file-trading network to services such as Apple’s iTunes Music Store.
In 2004, research has shown that people were disposing of their MP3 files as fast as they were downloading them, with an estimated lost of about 742 million MP3 files from US hard drives between August 2003 and July 2004 alone. In that same period, research reported an increase of 537 million Windows Media files in US hard drives. The digital music formats offered by Microsoft and Apple allowed people to build a more permanent digital music collection, most especially through the proliferation of iPods (Borland, 2004).
Compared to its competitors, Apple enjoyed a lion’s share in the new wave of digital audio players. The main strength of the iPod is that it is extremely easy to use (ExtremeTech, 2005), and apart from storing music files, some versions also allow for movie and video storage, while most iPods work simultaneously as a flash drive. In 2005 alone, Apple is reported to have sold more than 28.2 million iPods, with the latter resulting in the sixfold increase of Apple’s share price since 2001 (Goldsmith, 2005).
The iTunes Music Store provides for a catalog of over a million songs being sold at 99 cents per song. Users can simply purchase the song and create their own personal playlists in their iPods where they can likewise transfer music files from CDs. However, research has shown that music lovers still prefer to transfer songs to their iPods from CDs, as opposed to downloads (Goldsmith, 2005).
Yet despite the popularity of the iPod, Apple has nevertheless suffered from fiscal setbacks. The number of songs purchased in iTunes remained small, despite the fact that between April 2004 and January 2006, iTunes services grew seven times in capacity and efficiency, while the number of sales made dropped by 58%. The decline of music downloads over the Internet has not been limited with iTunes alone, due to the proliferation of illegal downloads available online still (Avery, 2006; Bernoff, 2006). People simple prefer to copy songs from CDs, and merely use iTunes to supplement their playlists (Duncan, 2006).
These figures have not hindered Apple from continually improving its iPod services however. One of their latest innovations involves the nekFIT, which allows an iPod user to wear their iPods behind their necks, making it convenient for walking or jogging or any other physical activity where they need their hands free (Duncan, 2007).
Section 2.1.3. Communications Developments
Subsection 188.8.131.52. Personal Digital Assistants
A PDA, or a personal digital assistant, is a handheld device which performs a host of functions similar to a combination of a small portable computer and mobile phone. Although it is basically operated by a stylus, it may also be used with an attachable keyboard. Apart from saving one’s to-do lists, appointments, and calendars, a PDA may be used to download email messages, to surf the net, or even to receive fax messages. Apple Computer once again has been one of the industry leaders with this device, with their Palm Pilots (Webopedia, 2006) and the iPaqs.
Bluetooth technology has in recent years been applied to PDAs as well, with Nokia launching Wibree, which “work alongside Bluetooth short-range wireless connections but use just a fraction of the power” and can likewise link electric devices such as mobile phones and PDAs to hardware devices like headset, computers and printers, even low-power jewelry watches and health sensors (Reuters, 2006).
As it is, the range of PDAs available to the public is very diverse, includes games-centric platforms which allow users to play games on their PDAs, such as Nokia’s NGage and the Tapwave handheld console based on the Palm operating system. Multi-tasking MP3 players and smart phones however may pose a challenge to the PDA industry, with everything handheld being basically labeled as a “PDA” – pertaining merely to its size, not necessarily its functions. More and more mobile phones carry similar functions with PDAs, and have camera features which PDAs generally don’t have (Zetie, 2003; Electronic Gaming Business, 2003).
Some security issues however have arisen from owning a PDAs. A survey commissioned by Pointsec Mobile Technologies, carried out by Infosecurity Europe surveyed over 280 employees, and reported that IT security measures set up by companies may prove to be futile attempts when a third of the employees surveyed wee in the habit of leaving important business information and access codes and details unprotected in their PDAs (Adegoke, 2003).
Subsection 184.108.40.206. BlackBerries
BlackBerries are handheld devices created by Research In Motion (RIM), a Canadian company. It includes the typical PDA applications like to do lists and calendars, but has telephone capabilities. Its strength perhaps is that it can send and receive email anywhere as long as it has Wi-Fi access and has been more popular for people in the workforce, employees, or people who basically move around for their work, as they can access their email anytime through their BlackBerries (Squidoo, 2007). The BlackBerry in fact has been described as an “enterprise-wide productivity tool” for companies as it is widely used (and purchased) by individual employees (Malykhina, 2005). Some popular models now include the Treo, the Sidekick, the BlackBerry itself, and the Queue (First Coast News, 2006).
Subsection 220.127.116.11. “Smart” phones
The smart phone is a cross between a mobile phone and a PDA. It has been described as the fastest-growing gadget in IT today, with 12 million smart phones shipped in the second quarter of 2005 alone. It poses a huge threat to the PDA since it performs all the usual PDA functions, and allows the users to go online to surf and check their emails. Newer smart phones model operate through Wi-Fi access already, such as the Nokia N95 (Gizmo Café, 2005).
The strength of smart phones are its rich data applications – combined with the traditional functions of a mobile phone as a communications device. A regular phone may allow the user to access his or her email, but what sets the smart phone apart is that apart from this function, it is actually more of a PC than a mobile phone since it is programmable. It has an open operating system which allows the user to add and remove applications just like a PC-user (Best, 2006).
Unfortunately, similar to the PDA, security is an issue with smart phones, as other people may access important information stored in the smart phone when these are misplaced and lost (Best, 2006). Pertinent company information and even websites may be accessed through an individual’s smart phone, and poses a serious security threat to businesses worldwide.
Subsection 18.104.22.168. VOIP
Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, is basically a phone Internet service. It allows for routing of voice conversations through the Internet. In other words, it allows people to make phone calls over their computer as long as they plug into a hardware-based VOIP phone or a software-based SIP phone program (3CX, 2007). The quality of the calls may vary – in some cases it may be choppy, such as when the program is running several programs all at once at the time the call is made or being made.
One limitation in the VOIP services is that it doesn’t work on 1-900 numbers and likewise does not normally connect to 911 emergency calls. It is cheaper however, especially if the user has a lot of overseas or international telephone calls.
Section 2.1.5. Wireless Technology
Wi-Fi, or Wireless Fidelity, is a way of getting Internet access through wireless technology. It can be done by having access to a Wi-Fi hotspot, which is any location wherein wireless technology is available for use to consumers. It is especially popular for laptop users who may be working in public places like coffee shops, parks, airports, or other public places. PDAs and smart phone also make use of Wi-Fi. It differs from Bluetooth because while both are wireless technologies, they function under different protocols and specifications, and unfortunately, devices using one or the other are not interchangeable. WiFi however is faster than Bluetooth technology, but requires more power (WiFiHotSpotList.com, 2007).
Subsection 22.214.171.124. Benefits
The most obvious benefit with Wi-Fi is that it allows people to have Internet access from outside their home or workplace – as long as the area where they choose to access their laptop or PDA is a Wi-Fi hotspot. It is convenient since it allows one to instantly get in touch with one’s family and friends not only from within the same geographical region, but from other states or countries as well. It is also a convenient way to stay in touch with office correspondence, as emails may be accessed anywhere as long as it is a Wi-Fi capable area.
It’s greatest benefit perhaps is that it allows an individual to work anytime, anywhere, in a Wi-Fi zone. One’s work, study or research need not be limited to the office or home, and may be enjoined while sipping a cup of coffee or getting some sun in a public park. It allows the individual to literally bring his or her work with him, even to the airport, as long as there is Wi-Fi access.
Subsection 126.96.36.199. Security Issues
The biggest security threat to Wi-Fi technology is that it has been described as an “unsecured wireless network.” Using your laptop in a Wi-Fi hotspot may compromise real-time traffic, as other people who likewise have Wi-Fi access in that same public place can see what websites or Internet pages you are viewing, access shared files or folders in your laptop hardrive, or even your log-in information and credit card information to certain unsecured. Hackers are known to lurk around Wi-Fi hotspots to pounce on people who unwittingly have their file sharing functions on and unsecured. The Internet connection of the Wi-Fi user is open for connection by total strangers having similar access, and may be used to send illegal information, such as spam (Geier, 2006; Bradley and Waring, 2007).
Chapter 2.2. Software Developments
Section 2.2.1. E-Business
The common misconception is that an e-business is an Internet company or simply one that buys and sells products online. E-business or electronic business, evolved from the concept of e-commerce, or electronic commerce. It pertains to a company that mixes a combination of old-fashioned business strategies with Internet usage and IT. It does indeed involve transaction business electronically, and may involve transaction between a company and its buyers, the company and its vendors, the business and government agencies, or internal corporate transactions. It may involve a wide variety of corporate functions, such as sales, advertising, marketing, and customer services. It may also involve secondary functions in the company such as accounting, human resources, and supply chain operations (Washington Small Business Development Centers, no date).
E-business has been greatly used to introduce a product or company to a very wide target audience. It is like a business card or corporate brochure available online. People would no longer need to actually travel to an office or department store to check or view the products these businesses are selling. Purchases can be made online through shopping carts and credit card payments. It allows the company to redefine business relationships with its vendors and partners, as well as to improve its customer relationships and services, as well as to reduce supply and demand costs (Ebusiness-Incorporated.Com, no date).
An example of a successful e-business is Dell Computer, which sells products online through its website. These orders are sent directly to its assembly factory and to the company’s suppliers of hard drives, modems, and other hardware. The company thus gets up to date information about their orders, and can quickly organize production and delivery to ensure it has the necessary parts to keep the production line rolling. Receipt by the customer of the end product thus is much faster as the production line is instantly organized upon receipt of the online order. Customers can even follow the progress of their order online as well, and reduces time and resources wasted on follow up calls and fax inquiries. The online orders also allows Dell to keep track on market demands and shifts in customer preferences as to their products.
Section 2.2.2. Operating Systems
The OS, or operating system, of is a program which basically manages all other application programs in a computer. It decides in what order the programs will be run, and allocates time for each application. In addition, it manages the stream of data coming in and out of the computer via hardware devices such as USB drives. Mainframes run on operating systems as well, just like personal computers, and the type of OS used depends on the PC or mainframe purchased. All computer platforms require an OS, most hardware and software available come with a built-in OS such as Linux, Windows 2000, or Mac OS X (SearchSMB.com, 2007).
2007 has been described as a pivotal year for operating systems, with the Mac OS X giving Microsoft Windows a run for its money. The Apple OS has begun offering Intel chip-based PCs much cheaper than their previous models, and their cutting-edge designs have made them more appealing to users than Windows. Software is now also being sold over the Internet, with Microsoft having plans to offer the Vista OS online in an emerging process which has been tagged as “virtualization.” Hardware and software vendors such as IBM, Microsoft, and VMWare are just some of the forerunners of virtualization, with different software offering business intelligence, office productivity, and service-oriented architectures or SOAs (Montalbano, 2006).
Section 2.2.3. Online Data Storage (20-25 years from now)
Online data storage involves storing information and data online. It is similar to having a safety deposit box, but in this case, the “items” are deposited and stored online. The data and information stored online is encrypted for the safety and security of the “depositor” and is usually automatic, so that the person who stored such data online can go about his daily business without worrying about the data. It is especially important since data storage in a computer’s hard drive has a more limited storage capacity, and there is always the risk of the hard drive crashing and losing all the data. Small companies and businesses can especially benefit from online data storage because it allows them to keep a wide range of past files and information in store for possible reference in the future (Remote Backup Systems, 2007).
The future looks promising for online data storage. Owyang (2006), a high-profile web strategist, identifies the following key current and future benefits to be expected from online data storage:
§ Online data storage is offered, especially personal online data storage such as Amazon’s S3 to be currently offered to developers, small businesses, and even to medium-sized businesses.
§ Platforms will allow users to manage the data they store in two ways: either it may be stored privately, or published for other people to access within the same platform, at the option of the person causing the data to be stored.
§ Smaller businesses may benefit and reduce costs from outsource online data storage, rather than spending on internal systems infrastructure.
§ The future of online data storage will also encourage sharing, so APIs will eventually be developed to allow data sharing with other online platforms.
§ Customers will be able to access the data they stored anywhere, and Owyang (2006) predicts that by 2010, all media will be 50% consumer created.
§ Global information will be harnessed and organized by engines such as Google. Companies such as YouTube, and Blip already allow for storage of video clips which people can access from anywhere in the world.
§ The prediction is that online data storage services will become incredibly cheap, that storage companies will most likely end up paying customers to upload their data into the service’s site, in exchange for advertising and marketing exposure.
§ Individuals will become media outlets themselves, as they become “producers” of their data which, once uploaded and allowed to be made public by the individual, will be accessed by a limitless number of people worldwide (Owyang, 2006).
PART 3. THE GLOBAL MARKET
Chapter 3.1. The Influence of Market Forces on IT Development
From a business perspective, IT development decisions in big businesses vary from those in small businesses. In large and medium-sized businesses, ¾ of companies are reported to rely on IT specialists, with only ½ of small businesses surveyed worldwide relying on IT specialists and strategists for IT expansion. Business investment in IT development also differs among countries. For instance, companies in the US, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg are more likely to maintain in control of the company’s IT purchasing decisions, whereas reports show that Italian companies tend to leave this responsibility to its finance managers. On the other hand, from the perspective of the IT vender, market recognition and sales is mainly driven by direct partnerships with large corporations (Computer Industry Report, 1994).
Determining market demand for IT innovations necessarily involves an understanding of the factors influencing the decisions of IT consumers and purchasers in each country. Past research has indicated that small-business owners in the US primarily depend on colleagues and computer and software consultants in making decisions about IT products and innovations which they should purchase, while in Japan and Germany, investors rely on computer-system vendors and trade press for updates and information on current developments. In the UK, value-added IT resellers have a huge influence on the IT purchases in the country, whereas in Italy, computer service firms carry a lot of clout in influencing what the IT market decides to buy (Computer Industry Report, 1994).
The consumers themselves naturally play a very important role in determining market demand for IT innovations and new products. Take the case of the Apple’s iTunes, which did not perform as profitably as initially expected, as the consumers showed a declining interest in purchasing music downloads online. IPod users still prefer to either download for free from oftentimes illegal music downloading sites, or to transfer songs from CDs they purchase. In 2005 alone, iTunes purchased downloads declined from 25% to 15% that year, whereas global CD sales only declined by 6.7%. The response of the consumers indicate simply that digital downloads – particularly those over legal download sites where people have to pay to download a song – have not really caught on. It could be partly attributed to the fact that pirated CDs are widespread, especially in Asia, and songs from these pirated CDs are in turn uploaded online to be downloaded for free by users all around the world. In the case of pirated CDs, not only iTunes suffers, but actual record companies as well. On the one hand, downloading individual tracks has allowed consumers to save money by simply getting their favorite songs, rather than buying an entire CD where they may not particularly care for the other songs in the album (Goldsmith, 2005).
Statistics show that illegal downloads have caused a loss of revenues for the music industry which amounts to billions of dollars. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, annual sales for records and albums have declined by 23% from 1999 to 2005, resulting in a whopping $11.2 billion loss for the music industry. Even though iTunes has reported an increase in profits in 2006, these profits are still not sufficient to offset the losses suffered by the recording industry as long as illegal downloads remain available to consumers online. Since music lovers still prefer free downloads or burning songs from existing or recently purchased CDs, it is unlikely that market demand for sites such as iTunes will increase in the next year or so (Avery, 2006).
The influence of consumer behavior on market demand of certain technological gadgets can also be seen in the consumers’ response to smart phones. The US is reported to have a lower percentage in upgrading and replacing their phones, unlike in Europe and Asia where consumers have a higher rate in replacing and upgrading their mobile phones. US consumers are reported to be more willing to spend on upgrading their PCs rather than their cellular phones. This may explain why US mobile phone users may find it difficult to switch carriers and to switch phones, since the US mobile phone user is basically locked to the phone in either one of the three main wireless networks: GSM, used by T-Mobile and Cingular; CDMA, used by Verizon and Sprint; and IDEM, used by Nextel. Europe offers mobile phone warehouses where customers can select from a wider variety of different services, whereas in the US, the wireless operator is also the hardware vendor for the mobile phone. Smart phone users in the US also still typically maintain a PDA. But US consumers will have difficulty changing phones unlike their European counterparts, since US mobile phone users cannot simply take their SIM card from one phone and use it to another. This may serve a significant challenge to smart phones in the US (Partizio, 2006).
Chapter 3.2. ICT and Economic Growth
According to a study by Tom Lee, Gholami, and Tong (2005), the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in the global economy can be seen from the amount of money countries all around the world have poured into developing their respective ICT infrastructure. The study conducted a series of time analysis tools of 20 different countries to determine empirical evidence of the productivity of a country’s ICT infrastructure investments. The results of the study indicated that ICT does indeed contribute to economic growth in a large number of developed countries and newly industrialized economies (NIEs), but unfortunately, not for developing countries
(Tom Lee, Gholami, and Tong, 2005).
A review of related literature also indicates that cross-national responses to new IT products and innovations may vary greatly. For instance, a new technological device introduced early in one country (called the lead country) may be more successful once introduced to subsequent countries (called lag countries) after a certain time lag between introduction of the product in the two sets of countries. This is because the consumers in the lag countries learn beforehand about the new gadget or product from the lead country before it is actually introduced into their own countries. This makes diffusion of the product in such lag countries much faster (Ganesh and Kumar, 1996). Thus, introduction of a product into a lead country, such as the US or China, will result in eventual awareness to other countries even before the product is formally introduced into such countries.
A study commissioned by the World Economic Forum, called the Global Information Technology Report 2005-2006, provides particularly relevant insight as to the economic impact of ICT on different countries. The selected countries come from different economic sectors – some are developed countries, others NIEs, while others are developing countries. IT innovation and creativity was recognized by the study as important elements of business success in the selected countries.
TABLE 1. COUNTRY-WIDE IMPACT OF ICT
Productivity growth (macro-level)
Growth at the macro-level accelerated after 1995 primarily due to sectors which used or produced IT intensively.
No comparable acceleration in sectors which used IT intensively, despite increase in productivity of sectors which produced IT.
Productivity growth (micro-level)
Significant increase of productivity for companies which used or produced IT intensively due to greater decentralization.
Productivity growth in Europe may be partly attributed to the higher productivity of US multinationals located in Europe, since the US firms have stronger work incentives and better management practices.
Opportunities for Growth
Allows effective leveraging of cost and factor advantages, and the evolution of new, dynamic strategies to drive productivity growth.
Mexico lagged behind since the 1990s in terms of IT development.
Development of innovative products, increased access to resources and services, and addressing the poverty or income divide issues plaguing the country.
Challenge to develop high value-added industries to evolve knowledge-based economies.
Recognition of the close relationship between ICT policies and economic and social development.
To make the transition from merely manufacturing to what has been described as “mindfacturing.”
Addressing of existing bottlenecks to technological expansion in India as part of a national reform agenda.
To break away from implementing a passive economy trade strategy and financial liberalization.
Complementing the role of ICT with market reform, development of strong infrastructure systems, and effective investment in social and educational improvement.
To develop sufficient policies to increase IT competitiveness and connectivity.
Emerging ICT powerhouses – Successful IT strategies beneficial to the country’s economic growth
Close government collaboration with the private sector and encouragement by the government of the private sector to compete in international markets.
As the world’s 5th most competitive economy, Taiwan has utilized ICT to transition from poverty and underdevelopment, compensating for its lack of natural resources; it has instead built its competitive advantage on its human capital.
Substantial government investments in application of IT in education, investment incentives for foreign investors, maintenance of a ratio of research and development (R&D) to GDP higher than that of any other industrialized country, implementation of incubator and venture capital programs to convert R&D into high competitive sectors in the country.
Most noteworthy is the Taiwanese response to improving its educational sector, by attracting its large pool of experienced researchers, engineers, and managers abroad back home. Unique institutional agreements such as the quasi-government Institute for Information Industry functions as a think tank and research center for both government and business, while government-constructed science parks supports innovation and incubation of new ideas.
Implementation of important reforms for macroeconomic stability, controlling inflation, and implementing wide-ranging IT reforms to reduce the scale of the public sector, and supporting the modernization of the economy.
The government has played an instrument part in Taiwan’s ICT economic success since it has laid in place strong mechanisms for the economy, science, and government, and like Israel, has collaborated closely with the private sector, with heavy investments in IT education, research, and infrastructure.
Immense support for ICT R&D and innovation, and recognition of the significance of the relationship between ICT and Israel’s overall economy.
Due to government support and encouragement, a very dynamic and entrepreneurial Taiwanese private sector has evolved, composed mostly of small to medium-sized enterprises. The country has earned a reputation for being a leader in adoption and widespread use of ICT, by stimulating innovation in local soil.
(Source: Dutta, Lopez-Carlos, and Mia, 2006)
The bottomline is, it is important to recognize the close connection between ICT and economic growth. The failure of developing countries to recognize this connection and to participate in the global information economy will simply further widen the economic and technological gap between developing and developed countries (Dutta, Lopez-Carlos, and Mia, 2006).
Chapter 3.3. Development Facilities Worldwide
IT and ICT facilities are continuously being developed all around the world, and serve as a backbone for certain centralized functions in many countries. In the US alone, there are more than 100 R&D laboratories dedicated to diverse areas of IT discipline. Each laboratory has a database containing all the data and information generated from these facilities. An inter-organizational computer network would be highly beneficial in dissemination of the research conducted, and would reduce duplication of studies. In other areas, the Pentagon has relied heavily on IT particularly for border surveillance. Radar, anti-air craft guns, guides missiles, and many other computer-aided equipment operate automatically in response to the environment, including enemy attempts to attack US soil (Mammootty, 2001).
In other areas of IT around the world, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva, provides support and assistance to more than 110 nations worldwide in order to develop their e-business capabilities. E-commerce service centers combined with UN subsidies to developing countries in terms of training, hardware, and expertise, is expected to boost global e-business to staggering levels. This is especially beneficial to developing countries to increase their online trading operations and to develop trade partnerships and financial services between developed and developing countries (EBusiness-Incorporated.Com, no date).
Locally in the US, RIM, the makers of BlackBerry, has introduced the BlackBerry Enterprise Server through third-party service providers, which allows small firms, state and local jurisdiction with limited budgets, to avail of hosted solutions. There are no upfront costs, thus allowing the agencies to avail of BlackBerry services for their employees. This will allow smaller companies and agencies to perform the same management functions as their bigger organizational counterparts (Grimes, 2006).
Electronic Data Exchange, or EDI, facilities are also being developed worldwide, providing a huge boost in the operations of food and car-making industries globally. EDI communicates data between suppliers and retailers such as supermarkets, and allows the former to replenish inventory and stocks in huge volumes. Bar-code registers provide basic information for the retailers or supermarkets to adapt to changing market conditions and to likewise monitor employee and customer theft of their products on the shelves. For instance, the British Safeway Supermarket launched a web-based integrated value chain. This allows any supplier to access the supermarket chain’s database online to see how each of their products are selling in any Safeway outlet, in turn allowing them to adjust production and delivery according to consumer trends, and to ensure that the supermarket is always supplied with their products. The website also promotes the supermarket to customers, who in turn can learn about special discounts and promotions, while at the same times gathers data on consumer preferences to enable more target market-specific promotions (EBusiness-Incorporated.Com, no date).
PART 4. IMPACT OF IT
Chapter 4.1. Advantages of IT
One of the most obvious advantages of IT is that it simply allows people to do their work faster and more efficiently. Everything is available online with a click of a button. People can access information to help them prepare their homework, papers, work reports and documents. Marketing, sales, and customer support may all be conducted online as well, among a host of other business functions such as accounting, and thereby greatly reducing manpower, resources, travel, and asset allocation expenses. The drudgery of gathering and collecting data is immensely reduced, and allows for more time for data analysis and discussion. Work productivity is thus improved.
Specifically, computer technologies have allowed for the following benefits: completion of complex jobs at greater speed; capacity to make automatic decisions; work without fatigue; simultaneous execution of different tasks; precision in results; large memory storage which thereby unburdens the individual from manually remembering pertinent data; capacity to work in inaccessible areas, or areas outside the formal work or office setting; more effective utilization of human efforts, and thus reducing overall cost of production for a company.
Advantages of computer technologies have in fact been apparent since the turn of this century, where each employee had to log in 60 hours of work each week. With the Internet revolution and technological advancements, this has been reduced to 36 to 40 hours of work per week, and the 6-day working week has been replaced by the 5-day working week. The individual thus has the opportunity to enjoy free time to indulge in other intellectual, literary, cultural, and social activities (Mammootty, 2001).
Other IT advantages may be seen in technological gadgets as well, such as iPods and other MP3 players. These devices allow people to mix and match their favorite songs, kinds of music, and artists, without relying on the fixed line-up of songs or artists provided by record companies, and allows for a more diversified appreciation of music (Jones, C., 2000).
In the case of e-businesses, company have the advantage of increasing profits as the e-business is able to access an immensely larger customer base over the internet which they may not otherwise have physical access to in their area. It greatly reduces business expenses as transactions are conducted online, allowing the company to save its resources for other matters which may not otherwise be conducted online. It also provides for convenience to the customer, who no longer has to waste time and energy traveling to a particular business in order to avail of its services or products. The customer also has access to a wider variety of products, as competing products and services may be more easily accessed and compared online, rather than physically going to each and every business to compare and examine what each has to offer. Online transactions also allows the company to promote its firm and its product on a more global scale, and more importantly, to track customer preferences based on online orders, and to provide 24-hour online customer support (Razor Solutions Limited, 2004).
Online data storage on the other hand provides for the benefit of allowing individuals and companies to maintain backups of their important information and data without necessarily filling up their hard drives at home. Since information is stored online, there is always copies of data and backups there, which is more accessible, less expensive, and more easily organized, than actual physical copies of the data. This allows individuals and companies to access previous data which may be used for future purposes (Brajeshwar, no date).
Chapter 4.2. Disadvantages of IT
A glaring disadvantage of IT is that it is quite addictive. The wealth of information one can view, download and examine online is virtually unlimited. It can have a negative impact on the individual’s family life and social relationships, as the digital society has reduced face-to-face interaction, It also exposes the individual to total strangers online, and has increased the number of pornography and internet predators. Students have been able to access papers online, or to get book summaries, without necessarily having to read the books assigned in school. The Internet has further negative impact on the reading capabilities of young people, as they prefer to go online to surf, chat, or play games, rather than to sit down and read a book.
IT has also resulted in infringement. Although downloading songs online is quite common today, bootleg and illegal downloads have resulted in copyright infringement of original works. This is not merely limited to the music industry, but has affected the television, movie, and even literary sector as well. A study by Leicester University in the UK has also showed that listening to songs through iPods, MP3 players, and over the computer, have resulted in dulled music appreciation. People no longer have an emotional attachment to songs simply because they can easy get hold of the songs they like. The study monitored 346 people over a 2-week period, and reported that music listeners today are more passive than music lovers in the 19th century, where music was more valued because it could only be heard through live performances (TMCnet.com, 2006).
Gadgets such as PDAs and smart phones may provide great convenience to an person constantly on the go, but it also poses serious security threats. A person who picks up such a gadget left behind or lost by another individual may easily access company and personal information stored by the latter in the PDA or smart phone. And since PDAs and smart phones basically help us to organize our lives, pretty much everything about our lives are stored in such devices.
In the same vein, Wi-Fi technology allows for convenience to anyone who wises to work or communicate in certain places outside the office or home. It is especially useful for travelers or people who do not have a fixed office location. However, Wi-Fi hotspots allows an unprotected user to be exposed to other Wi-Fi users in the same area to access their hard drives and shared folders. This results not only in the passing of illegal information, infringement (should original documents or publications be stored in one’s hard drive for instance), but even to fraud and identity theft.
Chapter 4.3. Impact on Education
Without a doubt, IT has allowed students to be exposed to a huge amount of information online. Some of this information may be beneficial to the student, as they learn more not just about their own country and what is happening within it, but about other countries as well. There is a wealth of information and data waiting to be researched for a student wherein travel is not necessary to gain an understanding of the global community.
Data stored in computers may far outlive the relevance of textbooks, which have an average lifespan of 5 years before it needs to be updated to respond to changing times and changing situations in the environment. IT contributes to the production of school textbooks in two ways: 1) books produced contain up-to-date information at it is easier to edit and revised online, and is virtually impossible with a hard copy of a book; 2) computer-aided printing speeds up production of textbooks. Technology also provides for audio visual aids, video tapes, closed circuit TV, and satellite transmission for a more wide dissemination of ideas and information (Mammootty, 2001).
Teachers and instructors have also begun offering their course outlines and assignment instructions or guidelines online. Lectures may be offered online as well, making it unnecessary for students to take notes during class.
The negative impact of IT on education however is that it may result in lazy students. Everything a student needs is online – the student can even simply order a paper online, as the proliferation of essay-writing services over the internet has allowed an individual to simply send specifications and instructions of the paper requested, and to pay someone else to write the actual paper. The barrage of information online can also reduce the student to being passive observers, or something similar to movie viewers. There is no longer any need to think, analyze or sort out the data themselves – someone else’s analysis, interpretation, and thoughts may simply be viewed online and adapted as one’s own.
The amount of time a student may spend online can also take away from the time he or she spends actually going over his textbooks, or even interacting with his family. MP3 players, like computers, can result in long solitary hours for an individual, who may be connected with other people online, but be detached from the people physically around him, such as his family.
Chapter 4.4. Impact on Nutrition and Health
IT has provided a global database on food and agriculture, and has allowed people around the globe to access information on a host of areas, such as soil and its characteristics, fertilizer availability and distribution, water resources, meteorological characteristics, crop pattern, livestock, water resources, and grain collection and distribution. These functions are performed by various international organizations, and are accessible to individuals and agencies in different parts of the world (Mammootty, 2001).
In the health sector, IT in particular has had a huge impact. The computerization of the Medicare system has greatly reduced or even eliminated the amount of possible human error. Pathological testing, scanning, and monitoring of body conditions of a patient is now being done through computerized testing and surgical equipments. Data storage of patient information is now also computerized, greatly reducing the amount of time nurses and doctors would have otherwise spent manually inputting such data. IT has also allowed disease data to be more accessible for research and analysis, and for health practitioners to gain information about the best medicine available for a particular disease. The efficiency of computerized medical systems has allowed health givers to devote more time to the patient by the reduction of their administrative responsibilities. This has resulted in an improved health care system greatly beneficial for patients (Mammootty, 2001).
Even mobile phones have contributed to digital healthcare, aside from computers. The National Program for IT in the UK, for instance, has adapted inexpensive, existing technologies to help provide for a more effective healthcare environment involving home security systems. These systems are enhanced to provide for personal monitoring between the health practitioner and patient even if the latter is at home, through mobile phones modified to analyze blood sugar readings to monitor conditions such as diabetes. Health caregivers can send SMS or text messages to appointments to remind them about appointments as well, thus greatly reducing the time a doctor may waste when an appointment is missed or cancelled, thus allowing the latter to attend to another patient. Web-camera consultations at home has also allowed healthcare practitioners to monitor patients in their own homes (The Royal Society, 2006).
Chapter 4.5. Impact on Lifestyle
As far back as the 1990s, Liffick (1995) identified a shifting of relationships and changes in intercommunication protocols among individuals as one of the societal impact characteristics of technology. This has been one of the more difficult characteristics to measure and track down, particularly as to how IT has changed communication between people or groups of people. For instance, email usage has eliminated usual visual and verbal cues individuals normally use when communicating face-to-face. Internet-based communication also conceals certain characteristics, such as one’s race, sex, religion, gender, physical disability, social and management status (Grudin, 1994; Perrole, 1987). On the one hand, this may be regarded as a positive thing as one deals with a person online without being colored by prejudices, bias or discrimination. On the other hand, it prevents us from truly knowing who it is we are really communicating with online. People online may and often show representations of themselves, as the Internet provides for a safe haven wherein an individual can edit, check, and re-read what he or she wishes to share about himself online. This makes for rather shallow, or even outright fraudulent and dangerous connections, and may potentially be dangerous particularly when the other individual forms an emotional attachment to a person online.
In addition, the huge number of people an individual can meet online allows one to meet people with similar interests and dispositions. Online chatting and social networks such as myspace.com can be highly addictive, with individuals spending hours online getting acquainted or even stalking other people online. This takes time away from actual face-to-face interpersonal communication with people who are actually physically around us, such as friends, family, neighbors, and the immediate community.
People may also become completely attached to their iPod, MP3 player, PDA, or BlackBerry, such that they are constantly typing away or checking these devices. This may result to obliviousness to one’s physical environment, and may cause an individual to isolate himself in his own little world even when he happens to be in a public place surrounded by other people. According to a study by Rutgers University, BlackBerries and other handheld devices are as “addictive as drugs” resulting people who become so absorbed in the technology that their lives before distorted. It may also result to lack of privacy, as an employee can be on call 24/7 by merely contacting his or her BlackBerry or mobile phone. The Rutgers study shows that 90% of BlackBerry users regard that device as a lifesaver, with 10% reporting that they would be actually devastated should their BlackBerry be taken away from them, and almost 20% reporting that they would not be able to cope with their workload without their BlackBerry (First Coast News, 2006). It can make getting away from the office almost impossible since it is so easy to get in touch with someone. This may result in people constantly having work on their mind, or being consumed by work, to the detriment of their family and personal life.
Chapter 4.6. A “Smaller World”
The Internet allows people to access not just information and data from and about other countries, but people from other countries as well. It creates a smaller world as ideas, thoughts, opinions, and even emotions travel across the entire world over the World Wide Web. The Internet has practically resulted in a borderless community, a virtual community where there is no boundary and where anything is accessible by a mere click of a button.
As mentioned earlier, technologies such as audio visual aids, video tapes, closed circuit TV, and satellite transmission has allowed for an unprecedented dissemination of ideas and information. The IT technology has made distant education particularly effective. For instance, in India, educational institutions concentrated in urban areas have either large mainframe computers or micro computers, leading to mass migration of students and their families from rural areas to the cities in order to avail of better quality of education. This leads to tough competition for admission into urban schools and has left the rural areas underdeveloped, as students who study in the cities tend to stay there rather than go back home to their rural provinces or towns. Distance learning through terrestrial network in a number of Indian colleges have allowed students from rural areas to receive quality education comparable to their urban peers. With satellite networks, students no longer need to travel long distance to receive an educational degree (Mammootty, 2001).
The concept of a smaller world has also allowed businesses to treat their markets as a global audience, and to transact businesses beyond their geographical limitations. It would not thus be uncommon to find a teenager in Taiwan sporting the same watch or pair of sneakers as a teenager in the US.
The most positive impact of this smaller world perhaps is that it will hopefully result in more tolerance for people worldwide. As we gain more information and access as to how people live in other parts of the world, and gain an understanding of cultures apart from our own, it will hopefully help us to open our minds to citizens of other countries.
PART 5. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Chapter 5.1. Conclusions
The societal impact characteristics of technology, as discussed in Chapter 2 of this study, pertains to how the very characteristics of technology may have a negative and positive impact on social and cultural life. To reiterate, these characteristics are as follows: 1) ubiquity; 2) magnification; 3) accessibility; 4) reproduction and distributability; 5) lack of accountability; 6) temporality; 7) spaciality; 8) shifting of relationships/changes in intercommunication protocols; and 9) illusion of precision.
IT is present everywhere – it is something we cannot escape and run from simply because our lives are surrounded by technology. From our mobile phones, to our PC and laptop at home and at work, to our digital audio devices, IT is inevitable in our personal and professional lives. It is accessible anywhere and everywhere with internet or Wi-Fi connection, and allows us to access virtually any type of information online as well, allowing for the further reproduction, distribution, and innovation of such data retrieved and gathered.
The internet has bridged the gap between long distances, between countries and societies, and allows for more efficient surveillance of people by agencies and other government institutions, as well as business organization through the mere input of one’s credit card information in an online purchase.
We receive an increasing amount of information and data through IT, and in turn this opens up to a host of risks and security issues as well, from hacking to Internet predators to plagiarism to identity theft to spam to fraud.
However, the IT market is expected to continue growing in giant leaps in the near future. The growth of e-businesses will also allow developing nations and less fortunate individuals to avail of inexpensive services, receive quality education, and to gradually participate in the global ICT community, as indicated in the discussion on NIEs such as Taiwan and Israel, and the opportunities for growth outlined for developing nations such as India and Mexico in Chapter 3 of this study.
It is important for countries to recognize that there is a close connection between ICT and economic growth, and that government support for the private sector, investors, and IT research and development will greatly improve the country’s sectors, such as business, education, health, and agriculture, as discussed in Chapter 4 of this study.
The positive effects of IT thus will far outweigh the disadvantages, as it breeds the way to developing a truly global community. Developers and innovators of new technologies should bear in mind the 9 societal impact characteristics enumerated and discussed by way of examples in this study. By taking note of such characteristics, developers can at least determine the potential impacts of new IT developments to society and determine its role as a social change agent.
Chapter 5.2. Recommendations
The study strongly recommends the following measures to minimize the negative impact of IT on society:
§ More stringent laws and rules to regulate access of students and minor over the internet, to avoid security issues, internet predators, and to encourage reading and the building of personal relationships with one’s family and friends. Isolation should be limited for a particular period, and parents must monitor the sites their children access online. The wide range of data that a child can access over the Internet requires that both parents and government agencies take steps in ensuring protection of minors online.
§ Improved personnel policies in the workplace which respects an employee’s time away from the office. BlackBerries and smart phones should not be used as devices to constantly keep employees at the employer’s beck and call. Office workloads must be set at regulated amounts so that it does not require the employee to constantly have “work” on the brain, and to get too attached to their workplace by obsessively monitoring their BlackBerries or mobile phones for updates or orders.
§ The Internet should be used as a true mode for building a global community, by bringing together groups of citizens united by shared values working for the public good, preferably by spanning international borders.
§ The Internet should likewise be used by businesses to strengthen relationships with its current customers, or to build a wider market base, and to improve customer service and communication.
§ The IT and technological devices should not be used as tools to isolate one’s self from the world, but must serve to enhance one’s life and to make work functions more efficient without removing one’s self from the reality of the immediate world around him or her.
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 Smart phones to be discussed in Subsection 188.8.131.52. of this chapter.
 Wireless Technology to be discussed in Section 2.1.5. of this chapter.
 Discussed under Subsection 184.108.40.206. of Chapter 2.