Information and Communications Technology - or technologies (ICT) is an umbrella term that includes all technologies for the manipulation and communication of information. The term is sometimes used in preference to Information Technology (IT), particularly in two communities: education and government. In the common usage it is often assumed that ICT is synonymous with IT; ICT in fact encompasses any medium to record information (magnetic disk/tape, optical disks (CD/DVD), flash memory etc. and arguably also paper records); technology for broadcasting information - radio, television; and technology for communicating through voice and sound or images - microphone, camera, loudspeaker, telephone to cellular phones. It includes the wide variety of computing hardware (PCs, servers, mainframes, networked storage), the rapidly developing personal hardware market comprising mobile phones, personal devices, MP3 players, and much more; the full gamut of application software from the smallest home-developed spreadsheet to the largest enterprise packages and online software services; and the hardware and software needed to operate networks for transmission of information, again ranging from a home network to the largest global private networks operated by major commercial enterprises and, of course, the Internet. Thus, "ICT" makes more explicit that technologies such as broadcasting and wireless mobile telecommunications are included.
It should be noted that "ICT" by this English definition is different in nuance and scope than under "ICT" in Japanese, which is more technical and narrow in scope.
ICT capabilities vary widely from the sophistication of major western economies to lesser provision in the developing world. But the latter are catching up fast, often leapfrogging older generations of technology and developing new solutions that match their specific needs.
A PC (personal computer) connected to the Internet has become a vital tool for communicating, during the past few decades since its proliferation among the masses. However, while this mode of ICT has achieved much, it has its limitations in the context of the world at large.
The Internet - The Internet has opened up many opportunities, from finding out information, conducting communications globally, e.g. through e-mail, voice mail, e-commerce or generally just having fun through on line chats or instant messaging. One often wonders: How did people manage before the time of the Internet? How much harder was it for people to communicate and find out information they need, quickly and easily? A PC connected to the Internet whether through a dialup connection, broadband or Wi-Fi has indeed made it a facile act for many people.
Teaching - PC--Internet based ICT is currently used within the English school curriculum. This kind of ICT (amongst others) is now seen as a core subject that is taught in some primary and secondary schools. The major advantage to this development is ICT has become a transferable subject. Computers or interactive whiteboards are now used across most school subjects as well as innovative schools using more technology like PDA's, Mobile (cell) phones and some games consoles. The interaction created by the use of this ICT makes lessons much more effective and allow children to learn in a way that they enjoy.. Recent initiatives such as the One Laptop Per Child program are contributing to this development.
Communications - Apart from Internet a PC allows communication of information through Compact Discs, pen drives, printers, whether laser or inkjet, flash memory cards and exchange of information within a local network through LAN. As communications scholars Gasher and Lorimer articulated "We depend on technology for our communications with others-whether they are just a house or two away or halfway around the world. In the second half of the twentieth century it became almost impossible to live without a television in our homes, much less without a telephone, and now we can hardly live without personal computers through which we gain Internet access and send and receive e-mail. The realty of new communications technology is that anyone is able to get in touch with anyone else, anywhere, at any time, for very little money-at least in the developed world." (Gasher and Lorimer, Communications Technology and Society: Theory and Practice) Work related aspects As well as benefiting school students to gather information for assignments, PC based ICT is often used in other jobs such as in the police, within libraries, in offices or even shops. It has also emerged as a source of employment in many emerging economies through Business process outsourcing or Knowledge process outsourcing from companies in the developed world. People now have the chance to conduct remote logon, in which they can access their work computers (For example in an office) from home. This has opened up many more opportunities for those that struggle to find time to leave their house to go to work, so they can now just work from home.
Previous information communication technologies have penetrated deep into the society and hence are often very cost effective; teachers in developing countries often use no more than a blackboard and chalk to pass on information about any subject to the students. Printed papers in the form of books, magazines or newspapers have become a part of daily routine of any educated citizen, as are broadcast media such as radio and television. The photocopy machine is widely used by students to access information from books they cannot afford to buy. The cost of a PC connected to the Internet is often prohibitive in developing countries. Power needs, physical space and connectivity issues are also factors that add to the challenge of getting these technologies to take root in developing countries. Limitations of PC-Internet based ICT are:
Language - At present most of the information available on the Internet is in English, a limiting factor at the very least.
Text/voice - Most information on the Internet requires action by the user as opposed to the passive nature of television and radio. As most of the Internet's information is textual, the user must be able to read it. Even more passive forms of Internet information such as video-sharing Websites require action (and reading) by the viewer for navigation.
Disruptive software - Internet users are often susceptible to computer viruses. Commercial anti-virus software is often prohibitively priced. Thin client technology is a small, but growing alternative.
Participation - Social networks and increased user-managed information stores have emerged in the early part of this century. Increased interaction between the content (whether it be delivered via Internet, television or radio) is leading to an information revolution.
Security - Internet safety is an issue that impacts every online user from small children to international corporations. When ABC went into public service broadcasting online in the early 1990s, the safety of their users was its top priority. The internet is an equalizer in that every user is vulnerable and in a sense, all at the same level. The emergence of weblogs, Internet forums and wikis is often grouped under the new technology umbrella term Web 2.0, and has helped to usher in a greater level of global participation.
ICT can become a revolutionary vehicle in developing countries, provided technological innovations emerge on the following lines.
Local content in local languages The need of the hour is to enable the intelligentsia to develop information sources that are exclusively for fulfilling the needs of local communities. The content on the Internet that can fulfil these conditions is minuscule at present. Conditions have to emerge in which people are enthused to contribute towards the development of information databases that is exclusively disseminated through local networks, in languages/dialects that are popular in the region. The various modes of ICT may need to be integrated with one another, so that a meaningful volume of information can be generated in the minimum possible time.
Template:Original research The ICT may not survive in its present form for long. Sooner than later developing countries would get over the PC mania prevalent now in the developed world, unless there is a remarkable change in the economy of owning a PC. Any technology that requires the masses to own a PC, in its present form, to access information is unlikely to be successful in the foreseeable future. Possibilities appear to exist, however, in the mobile phone technology, which is fast becoming very affordable by the masses, is voice based and can be integrated with the Information Technology at the server end of a computer network. For example, in the field of education  people can ask question through a mobile phone, a database of answers to such questions can be generated using the technologies used currently in Wikipedia and call centers and the text in these databases could be converted into voice, by developing text to voice technologies in the various languages. The person seeking information can be informed when the answer is available and better answers sought based on his/her feedback. The emerging 3G and 4G mobile phone technologies can indeed facilitate such developments. An alternative technology could be to integrate the mobile phone with the television screen, so that visual information can be viewed easily. Similarly, there is a possibility for developing interactive radio, on the lines of interactive TV.
- Information and Communication Technologies for Development and Poverty Reduction: The Potential of Telecommunications Edited by Maximo Torero and Joachim von Braun (2006), Johns Hopkins University Press
- Radio and Television, the ICT of yester years
- Web 2.0An article about Web 2.0 by Oreily, the originator of the idea
- History of Information Communication technology A brief account of the history of ICT
- What is information? an e-forum discussion
- ICT for school libraries
- Technology for communicating information Answers to several questions related to ICT
- ICT in African countries
- Information Technology and the Dream of Democratic Renewal