Abstract

The importance of information technology cannot be over emphasized. The world today runs on the wheels of this exceptionally important aspect of everyone’s’ live. This paper traces the history, growth and development of information technology. It will assess the importance of information technology, while discussing the concept of digital information technology. The role of information technology in the process of globalization and societal development and the negative aspects of Information Technology are also subject of discussion under the paper.

Introduction

Information technology is  defined as the an assortment of technologies which are used in the creating, acquiring, storing, disseminating retrieving, manipulating and transmitting of information. It is manifested through the processing of data, gathering information, storing collected materials, accumulating knowledge and expediting communication. Information systems that link with information technology are described as incorporated, user-machine “systems” for the provision of information to sustain operations, administration and policy decisions of an agency. The “system” makes use of computer hardware and software, manual procedures, models for analysis, planning control, decision-making and databases Consequently, Information Technology is an expression that defines company’s computing and communications infrastructure which may, include computer software and hardware, telecommunications and computer systems. Most information technologies are computer based and operate on a convergence of electronic and telecommunications devices. Today, the world revolves around information. Everyone wants to know everything, they want to be updated and be informed with global events. Every day in the morning, we turn on televisions and radios or read newspaper to update ourselves with the events happening around the world, we choose what we want to wear based on the weather reports. Business men trade shares based on the information gathered from the stock market, Wall Street and other foreign markets. The world today is essentially a global village due to the ability of individuals to communicate with anyone in any corner of the globe. A few decades back, it was paramount for one to report to their work places for them to be able to work, today, people work from the comforts of their homes. They can send and receive correspondence; they balance their books of accounts, conduct banking transactions, access newspapers and magazines and can even buy and sell goods with the touch of a button.

World security has been threatened and enhanced in equal measure.  The growth of technology has facilitated the making of advanced weapons of mass destruction, which has threatened global peace. In the same light, technology has introduced advanced security systems with its ability to trace data of an individual based on school transcripts, medical records, banking bills and even CCTV recording. Information Technology has played a critical role in this period of globalization and development. The growth of many countries is firmly hinged on the existence of stable systems of technology. In fact, it can safely be stated that the main reason why some countries are lagging behind in becoming strong economies of the world, it is due to poor systems of technology which cannot support infrastructural development. Information Technology as a concept has come from far at a rapid speed. It is necessary, therefore, to understand the impact of its historical, growth and development in the past few years to appreciate its role in the society today.

The history, growth and development of Information Technology

When tracing the history of Information Technology, it is essential to remember that technology is as old as human beings. According to Kazem and Robert, the relationship between mankind and technology has existed since human first walked on world. The phrase technology itself comes from the Greek word “techne”, and “logy” meaning, the act of making perfect what seems defective in character and the study of respectively. Information Technology fundamentally refers to the usage of computer software and hardware applications to manipulate data. In studying the history of Information Technology, one can go back far as the earlier existence of mankind, when the means of communication were not so developed or sophisticated. This history can be looked through the developmental stages of mankind, which were the pre-mechanical, the mechanical, the electromechanical and the electronic periods; for the purposes of this paper, the main focus is simply on the pre-mechanical period and try to understand the earliest form of communication and how they have developed with time (Kazem & Robert, 2000).

The pre-mechanical period was during 3000BC-1450AD. This period was characterized by the very basic skills of mankind. The method of communication was through speaking, sign language and through drawing pictures. However, with time, humans began to use writings to communicate with the invention of papers and pens. In around 600BC, books and libraries were discovered and were used by the Mesopotamian religious men. These became permanent means of storage for vital information. The first system of numbering was discovered by Egyptians around 875A.D. However, the first step towards real computerization was made with the invention of a calculator during this period. The calculator provided the most obvious understanding of the early computations. It set the path for technological advancements in data manipulations and information management systems.

The digital computer as we know it today was preceded by earlier machines and systems for handling information, such as nerve cells, cave paintings, beads on strings and human language; but in a deep break from the past, it now could transfer information from one part of the machine to another with flexible control over the software of its operation and thus it could execute a program.

The electronic age is the period that begun in the early 1940s to date. This was the period when the first electronic numerical integrator and computer (ENIAC) was invented. This was a high speed, digital computer capable of being programmed to solve a full range of computing problems. It mainly employed the use of vacuum tubes to do calculations. This invention paved way for more upgrades to the computer to become what it is today. Computers on a single chip started to appear in the early 1980s. During this time, the graphical user interface was developed. Basically, it is software that allowed users to look at screens and use clickable commands.

The growth and development of Information Technology has been steady and almost programmed to aid the day to day lives of the human race. A simple process that began as a result of necessity is today the centre piece of virtually every human activity. It begun with the conversion of natural resources to basic tools, the discovery of fire and the human ability to control it, aided the improvement of the available sources of food. The wheel came next, and this allowed humans to travel to great distances around the globe. This growth continued over the years, with the discovery of one thing leading to the invention of another and consequently improving the livelihood of the human population. The flow of information enabled and facilitated the growth and development of many countries, about 200 years, an event that had happened in another country could not have been known for months or even years. Today, news can pass across the globe in a matter of seconds. The existence of the press, the media, the telephone and the internet have reduced the physical barriers to communication and allowed humans to network on a global scale.

Information Technology today

In general, information technology has been presented as a new dimension in the world as it has brought about change at an amazing rate, it has also been equated with being modern and holds out a universal remedy in which future is perpetually better than the past. Information Technology has had radical impacts on its users, their work and the environment. It plays a crucial role in many if not all of an individual’s daily activities. In its various manifestations, today, Information Technology is capable of processing large data, gathering information, storing collected materials, accumulating knowledge and expediting communication. The value of information technology in today’s world can be summarized into three crucial roles that it plays in the society. Firstly, Information Technology can be seen to perform the function of aninitiator. It can be defined as an agent of change. Information technology can be used to bring about change in the society and allow man to solve problems or even have solutions for problems that may arise in future (Hartmut, 2009).

Secondly, Information Technology also performs the function of a facilitator. It serves the purpose of making the workload a lot easier. In this way, information technology has made the lives of humans easier. With the existence of developed systems of Information Technology, people are able to achieve much within a small fraction of the time. Thirdly, Information Technology performs the function of an enabler, it can be described as something that offering the capability or the required support to complete something (Srinivasan and Jayaraman, 1999). These three functions define the central role that technology occupies in many societies today. It is the backbone of development, the wheels upon which governments are run. A business without Information Technology can not survive the test of time.

Digital Information Technology concepts

In essence, the word Technology can be used to refer to artificial instruments and processes, or systems that enhance God-given capabilities. In this regard, the wheel can be seen as an enhancement of nations’ feet; thus, a mechanism of movement. Agriculture is an enhancement of the ability of man to produce, use and store food. The microscope and the electric light bulb extend the power of vision into unseen worlds. Such is the extent of development of Information Technology, of all forms of technology; Information Technology is perhaps the most important. The development of Information Technology has brought us to an era of digital information technology.

Digital Information Technology is the latest trend in the generation of Information Technologies. In the past, the developments of new forms of information technologies always rendered the existing forms of technology to become obsolete, thus, they were discarded or occupied lesser role in society. For instance, the arrival of the telephone replaced the telegraph and the television almost ended radios. Today, the emergence of digital Information Technology has made sure that the existing technologies are not rendered obsolete. Digital Information Technologies have the capacity to imitate the existing technologies. The electronic printed documents can mimic the conventional typeset ones. Digital audio recordings reproduce sounds like the analog, while to the receiver, wireless digital telephony works like the normal wired telephone service (Manuel, 1999).

Today, the world of Information Technology is going digital, and this has become a significant part of work and market places, they are influencing schools and even homes. The reason for the popularity of digital information technologies is the value-added features they offer. Electronic documents, can be automatically scaled for different media, for instance, the same document can be transformed into a printed hardcopy, or even posted on the internet and shared around the globe through other means of Information Technology like PDAs and mobile phones without the added trouble of formatting. We can address a number of existing digital Information Technologies.

Digital documents

Four decades ago, the only way one could get a printed document was via the use of typewriters, which required considerable training and skills. For one to publish a document or an article had to have the skills of typesetting, this in turn limited number of publications that were made. However, today, the typewriters are no longer in existence; they have been replaced by the electronic word processing. It is now possible to create, edit and format documents with improved flexibility and speed unthought-of before the arrival of computers. Unlike in the past when publishing was the province of the professionals, it now possible for anyone, including school children to publish a typeset book. This is because, digital documents are easier to create, store, transmit and manipulate (Jean-Paul, Mike & Jane, 2003).

Digital numeric processing

Earlier computers had a limited ability to perform numerical functions. Those that could were majorly used in defense and other governmental offices. They calculated ballistic tables for artillery, performed computations for developing the first atomic bombs, processed census information and could even predict presidential elections. Currently, the performance of such functions has become much simpler, easier and faster. The computers today have large storage capacity and faster processing speed. The existence of spreadsheets and statistical mathematical software has enabled digital numeric processing to be much easier. They have the ability to use graphical designs and visualization tools which enable them to convert large sets of data and other models for convenience and use.

Digital Photography

This is the concept of computer graphics in the generation of artificial images. The concept of computer graphics is widely used in the production of newspapers, magazines and other comic books. The concept of digital photography has taken dominance in the movie world with many movies relying on it for production of animated images and other photography.

Virtual Reality

This is the technological concept that drags users into the chimera of a three-dimensional world built graphical designs of animations through the concept of 3-D. Earlier versions of virtual reality had created virtual artificial rooms, where individuals from different areas of the world could interact and have a chat as if they were in the same room. Buildings could be created that had a natural feel and look to it. To date, the applications of virtual technology have been largely experimental rather than exploratory. However, future promises to be brighter. Virtual reality is achieving extensive uses specifically in the medical world, for instance, surgeons can be trained through the use virtual reality. Similarly, during critical medical operations, the use of virtual reality can come in handy when services of an expert in the field are required.

Digital Communications

Digital methods have helped in the development and improvement of communication. Digitizing voice and data have made transmissions faster. They have enhanced wireless ability in communication technology. Digital signaling methods have unlimited the series of the current devices and allowed increased figures of users in an already overcrowded bandwidth. In essence, the range of Information Technology development cannot be exhaustively covered in this paper. The development of Information Technology is such that every day there is a new technological aspect in the world, from the world of digital television to the ever changing and extremely important world internet connectivity through World Wide Web and emails. All these developments are meant to facilitate the livelihoods of human beings.

The Importance of Information Technology

In addressing the importance of Information Technology, it is crucial to approach the different sections of the societies, and try to identify the value that Information Technology has added to the society. Information Technology has an impact in all aspects of life, and the global economy is currently undergoing a fundamental transformation. The usage of these technologies is changing the rules of business, resulting in structural transformation of enterprises. This paper takes a look at the importance of Information Technology globalization, business, education and influence it has to the society.

Information Technology, Globalization and Societal Development

Globalization has become a common term used to refer to changes happening in the current world. This is because people around the globe are more connected to each other than ever before. Information and money is flowing more than ever. Goods produced in one part of the world are increasingly available in other countries, international travel is more frequent, and global communication is no longer scarcity. In defining globalization, sociologist defines globalization as a decoupling of space and time, emphasizing that, with instantaneous communications, knowledge and culture can be shared around the world simultaneously
(Manuel, 1999).

Information Technology has become ubiquitous and is changing the way people live their lives. It is an accepted truth that Information Technology is a driving force in the process of globalization. Advancement in internet-based tools, such as social networking websites such as Facebook and twitter plus web2.0 applications are changing the way people use and share information for personal, political and commercial purposes. Although globalization is multidimensional, it can be understood better starting with its economy facet. A global world is based on the notion that the very core of all the activities are so closely linked and performed on a planetary scale and thus bringing about a globally developed country.

Information Technology has facilitated the growth of the global economy and strengthened the economies of the developed countries. Through its growth, it has driven the innovativeness of individuals in using the available resources in the production of new products, which are more improved and updated. The innovativeness has led to new ideas and new ways of thinking across nations and cultures regardless of the geographic differences in locations. Today the world is considered as a global village due to the growth and development of technology. Information Technology has created effective channels of communication which are efficient and adept to the process of exchange of information and ideas.

Information Technology has certain characteristics that enable it to enhance societal change and bring about development and globalization. According to some information technologist, technology has a number of distributive features that make its potential to influence social change very significant. He develops four features that enable Information Technology to bring about social change and development. Firstly, Information Technology has a ubiquitous application; this allows individuals irrespective of the type of business or role they perform to apply Information Technology in many different ways. Information Technology is therefore, not restricted to one specific use. It is applicable in hospitals as wells manufacturing industries, and its application in one area does not restrict its use in another.

Secondly, it is the dramatic rate of cost decline and the price of processing data that data storage and transformation has increased dramatically. These have allowed the increased purchase of more technologically advanced equipments, thus facilitating increased rate in communication and globalization. Thirdly, Information Technology has the ability of having universal ownership; the increasing utility and ever lower costs of hardware and software means that they are now almost universally adopted. However, the availability of bandwidth to enhance rapid communication and transmission of data remains a problem. Finally, Information Technology is capable of exponential growth; rapid development and innovation has led to cost reduction and an increase in capacity (Claude, Andreas, Mike & Jean-Claude, 2009).

Societal change has been as a result of these growth and development in Information Technology leading the globalization, and thus creation of more advanced and informed societies. The systematic growth in technology has enabled the process of globalization. Just over 10 years ago, the concept of internet connectivity was simply a preserve of the scientists. The World Wide Web (www) had not been invented yet and the much software that is now in existence, and which enables individuals to surf the web pages had not been discovered. The use of desktops was left to the exclusion of the few and rich people in the society. Similarly, mobile phones were not common as they are in the last few years. However, today the situation has undergone an extraordinary transformation. When one takes a walk in the streets, the common image that is witnessed is that of individuals on their mobiles phones, calling, texting and even browsing. Many restaurants today provide wireless internet access for individuals to continue working and remain connected while they still having a good time.

The process of globalization has seen a rapid increase in the processing power of the digital technology, while there has been a decline in the cost of digital equipments. These have seen increased purchase of technological equipments like laptops, desktops, mobile phones, Ipads, PDAs and other gadgets that facilitate the process of communication.  The growth in computer usage has increased in many countries, leading to the growth and development of these countries; this has had a direct impact on the process of globalization and societal development. The reason as to why there have been such rapid advances in Information Technology, leading to spread around the globe, is that they have increasingly abridged the total cost of computing, today, it does not require a technically, well trained individual to operate a computer. An average educated person can now handle a computer that is fast enough to enable them perform basic tasks. The figure below reflects the increased trend in the purchase of computers in developing countries, which has facilitated the process of globalization.

Consequently, globalization is a new dimension in the economic world, providing stable and developed countries with improved infrastructural facilities through the powerful medium of new information and communication technologies. Indeed, the process of globalization directly hinges on the growth and development of Information Technology. The advanced societies today are so due to the existence of Information Technology. The world is indeed a global village due to this phenomenon (Manuel, 1999).

Disadvantages of Information Technology

Information Technology has brought with it a lot of good; it is the wheels upon which the world has used to grow to its current status. The industries today run on technology, the systems of information propel the production of goods and services enhancing production and quality as well as quantity. Businesses rely on Information Technology to remain competitive as well as retain their business relevance. Marketing strategies have changed with the changing world of Information Technology. New systems of sales and marketing have cropped up with the emergence of mass media technologies. They have made advertising cheaper, effective and efficient for businesses. The social world has also not been left behind. Social networking sites are in abundance today, connecting people from every corner of the world irrespective of their social status, educational background, political affiliations and religious connections, hence making the world a global village.

However, all these goodies have not come without some disadvantages to the world. The information age has brought increased poverty, misery, inequality and social exclusion. This is because; the advancement in technology has led to unemployment. While Information Technology may have streamlined the business process, it has also created job redundancies, downsizing and outsourcing. This has meant that the less trained and skilled employees in jobs have been replaced by computers and thus rendered jobless.

Another disadvantage that has come as a result of Information Technology has been witnessed in the form of globalization. The emergence of a globalised world has brought to the fore local and international tensions. The marginalization of undeveloped countries and the colonization in the technological sense has led to sharp divisions in international politics. Increased pursuit of dominance and the ever decreasing natural resources have also played centre stage to the process of globalization. For instance, the developed countries have moved to cement relations with the developing countries, which have untapped natural resources for instance oil, coal and natural gas. The decreasing availability of these resources in the world market has meant that their prices have gone up thereby increasing the livelihood of the citizens. The threat of the world running out of these resources has seen some countries that are considered to be developed get extreme measures to secure the remaining deposits in those countries that are considered undeveloped. This has consequently led to some frosty relations among nations (Brian & Stacey, 2010).

Similarly, the process of globalization has led to the increased spread in the western culture all over the world. The USA, which has been at the centre stage in the process of globalization, has a strong influence on global politics, market trends, pop culture and international relations. This has not been well received by many countries. The negative impact in Information Technology can also be reflected in the effect of the internet. Internet has come with excitement and many possibilities of the future; through it, people achieve their dreams and ambitions, people communicate to the entire world and also make lifetime relationships. They meet their life partners, and get their dream jobs and opportunities to reach the different parts of the world. However, the emergence of the internet in the last half of the 20th century has brought with it some negative aspects.

Internet possesses a lot of information about everything and anything. It has an omnipotent status in the sense that it knows so much that sometimes it is impossible to believe some information about some things actually do exist. In addition to this, one can also add content, any content on anything on the internet. This has put it at the disposal of the immoral individuals in the society and thus the excessive pornographic materials on the internet. Increase in pornography and the easier accessibility to it has led to moral degradation in the members of the society. The impact has been felt more on the youth populations who have more access to the internet and spend almost 60% of their time on the internet, leading to poor performances in schools and development of low moral standards in the society. In some instances, the increased rape cases in some countries have been blamed on too much pornography viewing (Hartmut, 2009).

Similarly, internet has led to cultural erosion of many cultures across the globe. Many individuals copy the western culture, and in the process, their own culture has been eroded. There are many other negative impacts of the internet that currently affect the society, however, the point is simply to understand that the process of Information Technology has come with a bag full of goodies but has brought with other problems that the society must address.

Conclusion

Information Technology has come along away to be where it is today. Its history is embedded in the history of mankind. It has grown step by step; guiding every single step that man took, sometimes taking control of the direction that the future take, but always remaining in control. Today, Information Technology is the centre piece of every economy; it is a piece of the puzzle that is missing in the undeveloped countries and the developing countries alike. The process of globalization has been carried by Information Technology to bring the world at a place where distances, oceans and boundaries do not exist in the world of communication, Information and Technology. The digital Information Technology has also made the universe seem like a small place, combining the past technologies and the present to come with a union that has transformed the world. Similarly, the disadvantages are there for all to see, and steps must be taken to narrow the gap. However, for what is worth, the world is a much better place with the existence of communication technology.

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