Introduction to Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the term that stresses the role of integrated communications, telecommunications, computers and computing devices, necessary enterprise software, storage devices, middleware, and the audiovisual systems which allow users to store, transmit, manipulate and access any information. In other words, ICT is the convergence of telephone networks and audio visual systems with computer networks through a single cable network etc.

The merger of Telephone Network and computer network by using a single cable network or link system provides large economic incentives due to huge cost savings. The term Information Technology was given by Jim Domsic of Michigan in November 1981.

  • Information: it is the knowledge obtained from reading, studying or research and investigation etc. In other words, information is a knowledge which is used for fulfilling our tasks. For example, warning the public about any forthcoming disaster requires transmission of information. Radio, television, internet, cable network etc., are the tools which facilitate the transmission of information.
  • Communication: it refers to the transmission of information and messages between individuals, groups or any entity through the use of mutually understandable symbols, science and semiotic rules. In other words, it is the exchange of information by verbal, written or any other medium such as telephone lines or computers etc. In the 21st century the new forms of communication such as the internet, email or video conferencing etc are becoming more popular.
  • Technology: it refers to the scientific knowledge, techniques, skills, methods, and processes which are used for creating products and processes for fulfilling human needs. Technology is one of the basic requirements for communication through ICT. Fax machines, telephone and cable networks etc., are the devices used for extending communication. Satellites, radio, cable networks and the World Wide Web (www) are powerful tools for spreading information.


Generation of Computers

Since the invention of the computer in 1946, five generations of computers have come into existence. The five generations of computers are:

  • First generation computers (1946-1959): In 1946, Presper Eckert and William Mauchly developed the first successful electronic computer ENIAC (Electronic Numeric Integrator and Calculator). The First generation computers used vacuum tubes for circuitry and magnetic drums for memory. They relied on ‘machine language’ is the basic programming language. Examples of first generation computers include ENIAC, EDVAC, UNIVAC, Z3 and IBM etc.
  • Second generation computers (1956-1963): In the second generation computers, vacuum tubes were replaced by transistors. These were superior to vacuum tubes and were faster, smaller, cheaper and used less electricity. Examples of second generation computers include IBM 1401, IBM 1620, MCR 300, RCA 301 etc.
  • Third generation computers (1964-1971): In the third generation computers, integrated circuits were developed and transistors were miniaturized and integrated on the silicon chips. This increased the speed and efficiency of computing and enabled machines to run several applications at once.
  • Fourth generation computers (1971- Present): Fourth generation computers are characterized by the advent of microprocessors. In 1971, Intel developed the first microprocessor Intel 4004 by positioning all computer components in a single chip.
  • Fifth generation computers: 5th generation computers are based on artificial intelligence which is still in development. Some of the technologies which are emerging include voice recognition system etc. Artificial intelligence technologies uses parallel processing and superconductors etc.


Components of Information and Communication Technology

  • Computer Technology: Computer technology lead to immense growth in the information transformation process and the developments in computer and communication technologies has enabled smooth management of information.
  • Communication Technology: the rapid growth in Communication Technology has revolutionized the ICT sector. Modern technology such as fiber optics, silicon chip internet, telephone, television etc., constitute an important component of the communication network.
  • Optical communication systems: optical communications are used in long distance digital networks which have revolutionized the telecommunication sector. Light is used as the career of information and optical fibers act as the medium of transmitting these light signals.
  • Satellite communication systems: satellite communication system has become one of the most popular and extensively used technology in the ICT sector. Satellite communication systems enable transmission of information even in the difficult geographical areas such as mountains etc.


Applications of ICT in Daily life

  • Education: ICT has enabled students, teachers and researchers to gain knowledge with the help of computers and the internet. Internet, digital libraries and electronic sources of information are becoming more popular among students all over the world. ICT has opened new opportunities in the education sector such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) etc.
  • Banking: ICT has become the center of the banking system. The rise of electronic banking services which includes services such as electronic fund transfer, automated teller machine (ATM), internet banking, Unified Payment Interface (UPI) etc., have been made possible due to the contribution of the ICT sector.
  • Industry: ICT has contributed in the industrial sector right from production, planning, control systems, supply chain and management etc. Buying and selling of bonds in the stock markets have been made possible only due to the contribution of the ICT sector. Research and development activities utilise the latest computer technologies and the information available from different sources such as internet etc.
  • Science and engineering: In present development in science and engineering largely rely on computers and telecommunication technologies. For example, Computer aided design (CAD) and Computer aided manufacturing (CAM) programs are used in many fields of engineering and manufacturing processes. It helps engineers in analysing and designing complex structures such as thermal power plants, automotive vehicles etc.
  • Business and Commerce: computers are used for managing the financial and business records, databases of workers and employees etc. Digital Technologies, sophisticated hardware, software and communication technologies are extensively used in day to day commerce and business transactions.
  • E-commerce: the online buying and selling of products and services through E-Commerce platforms have been made possible by the use of Information and Communication Technologies. Computers, internet, software and telecommunication technologies are utilised for connecting the customers and suppliers for carrying out e-commerce transactions.
  • Governance: Information and Communication Technologies have made governance easier, smoother, and citizen centric. The provision of e-government services such as online post matric scholarships, online filing of income tax returns etc., have been made possible through the application of Information and Communication Technologies.
  • Medicine: application of ICT in the field of medicine has immense possibilities. For example, MRI, in which the computer combines the pictures and produces 3D images of bodies organs. New Emerging Technologies such as robotic surgeries performed by specialists from remote locations utilise Information and Communication Technologies.
  • Entertainment: ICT has also provided a boom to the entertainment industry. Various entertainment options such as online games, streaming music, digital television broadcast, satellite radio, etc have been made possible with the help of internet connections via computers, mobile phones, cable connections or through Wi-Fi, 4G technologies etc.


Advantages of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

  • Faster communication: in the past, transmission of messages and news took a longer time to reach its destination. However, with the advent of the internet and other ICT options, communication became faster and more efficient. Messages sent via emails, messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram etc became faster and at an instant.
  • Lower cost of communication: use of internet became more cost effective than the traditional modes of communication such as postal service, courier service or traditional telephones. Large amount of data can be accessed at very low cost due reduction in the cost of internet services due to development of ICT Technologies such as 4G internet services etc.
  • Reliable mode of communication: internet and other ICT services have emerged as one of the most reliable mode of communication as the information could be accessed and retrieved at any time from anywhere. With the advent of new modes of communication such as video conferencing, email, databases, it has become easier to perform different business transactions.
  • Better data storage and file management: with the advent of ICT services such as cloud hosting etc., data storage, file management, storing backup business data have become more efficient and easier. It has reduced the amount of paperwork required for any work and has made transfer and access of data to remote locations more efficient.
  • Efficient sharing of information: ICT has made the sharing of information much more efficient and effective for all the people around the world. People can share news and information, exchange opinions through ICT services such as the Internet, online forums, discussion groups on WhatsApp, Telegram etc. All these developments are contributing to the development of a knowledge-based society.
  • Paperless environment: the advancement of ICT has led to the development of a paperless environment in which information can be stored and retrieved digitally instead of paper. Communication through emails, online chat and instant messaging services are contributing towards a paperless environment.
  • Effective business to consumer relationship: ICT services are now being adopted by the business houses which has improved their interaction with their consumers. This has lead to a strong business to consumer relationship resulting in business development. Customer care call centers are examples of the improved interaction with the customers.
  • Improvements in Innovation and research: ICT services are assisting in various research and development initiatives. ICT services are been widely utilised for innovation and research in various fields such as space technology, robotics, artificial intelligence etc.
  • Better entertainment: ICT has improved the options of entertainment for people all over the world. New modes of entertainment have emerged such as cable television, online video streaming, online games etc.
  • Improved social connectivity: ICT services have led to the emergence of various social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and various social networking applications such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram etc. All these have improved the social interaction among the people and now it is easier to connect with our friends and relatives through these social networking websites and apps.
  • Borderless world: the fast means of communication through internet offers fast information retrieval, accessibility and versatility. All these have created borderless sources for services, information and communication, and are contributing to the emergence of a borderless world.


Negative impacts of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

  • Social problems: the advent of ICT also had some negative impacts on the society. Nowadays a trend is emerging that online communication is getting priority over real time conversations. People are becoming more individualistic and introvert which is creating social problems in society.
  • Health issues: long exposure to computers may have negative impacts on health. Users can suffer from bad posture, eye strain, physical and mental stress etc. To deal with these issues ergonomic environment can be created such as an ergonomic chair for reducing back strain, and screen filter for reducing eye strain.
  • Implementation expenses: implementation of ICT is quite expensive and small scale firms are unable to afford this expensive technology which puts them in disadvantage. Even the Government of India's digital India mission has huge implementation costs.
  • Job losses: ICT Technology has substituted many positions which were occupied by humans. This is leading to huge job losses and has created unemployment in many sectors. For example, Google's driverless cars can cause job losses for the drivers.
  • Cyber crimes: the advent of ICT has also led to a serious problem of cyber crimes such as hacking, cyber snooping, cyber frauds such as the hacking of bank accounts, cyber blackmailing, hacking of government websites and other important websites etc. Hackers use the loopholes of technology for committing different cyber crimes. Managing and strengthening the cyber security is necessary for optimising the benefits of ICT introducing its classes.
  • Privacy: privacy of individuals and entities using ICT services has emerged as a major challenge. Personal information of users is connected through cookies, electronic profile, and spyware etc. Cookies are used for identifying users by webcasting, e-commerce and web applications. Electronic profile includes personal details such as age, address, marital status etc., which are preserved in a database and can be sold to the interested parties. Spyware collects user information without user’s knowledge by sneaking in like a computer virus.

Information and Communication Technology has changed the world like never before. It has enhanced the human ability to communicate more efficiently and easily. It has changed the lives of individuals, groups, and entities around the World. The emerging challenges due to ICT needs to be tackled properly to ensure that its benefits become inclusive for all and losses are greatly reduced to the minimum. The contribution of all the stakeholders including the service providers, users and the government is necessary to achieve this goal.

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