Information and Communication Technologies or ICTs as they are collectively called have made enormous strides. In a relatively short period of time of our planet’s history, its impact has been felt across the globe and through various strata of society. It would not be untrue to say that no one has been left untouched in some way or the other. However, the benefits have not been spread evenly andin fact, this has given rise to a new form of divide often called the “digital divide”.
Due to the lack of resources and particularly the economic might, the poor never attract the attention and thus never get to draw the full benefit from these emerging developments.What is ironic is that these very developments hold the key to massive transformative potential in the lives of People. Some NGOs and some Gandhians took initiatives and carried work (such as Grameen Gyan Abhiyan (GGA) and the benefits have certainly reached the unreached and touched the lives of some rural areas and made a remarkable positive impact. But still there is a lot that can be done.
In such rapidly changing environment, communication plays a much more important role today than ever before. IT resources have become an essential part of lifestyle and social assets. Thus, developing interpersonal, business, and relational skills become very critical for the Industry’s productivity and advancement in the information age. As such, the use of IT to facilitate communication, e-commerce, learning, and relationship building becomes utmost important.
IT is, in a nutshell, an enabler for our youth to learn, share, experience, transact and advance in careers. It is a seamless medium without any geographical, cultural or age boundaries. The digital content available on internet double almost every 2 years!
‘Potential’ for development There are five major uses of IT: Seeking information for the purpose of teaching and learning; Communication; Research; Entertainment and Shopping (e-commerce). It is important to note that IT can generate multiple benefits in various sectors so as to provide better usage of natural resources, enhance economical status, improve education & employment, assist in improving the health care and so on. Thus IT is an inevitable tool for progress & prosperity leading Industry and Social life to any level of excellence. To discuss a few:
Academics: There is existence of a relationship between IT use and academic performance. IT, especially the Internet, has become crucial source of research and educational tool in almost all institutions around the globe. Adoption of IT in its fullwill result in improved students’ motivation, level of confidence, communication & technical skills, collaboration, and sense of independence.
Business: Adoption of IT tools like that of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) in the Industry, has changed the rules of the game and has made more easy to tackle the Competition by the progressive units.
Banking Industry& Financial Services have greatly been benefited by changing the interface between them and the Customers, thus paving way for excellence in servicing their Customers.
Social importance: Using IT for communicationin fact, has opened doors for new relationships and has immense effect over social life, cultural norms, studying or learning and a host of other issues, thus reducing the globe to a small Village.Be it matrimonial/dating websites or social networking sites like Facebook, the opportunities to explore and exchange are enormous.Everyone has an opportunity to express their opinion and concern and participate in governance and policy making like never before.
Administration & Governance: Govt. is very much like a large multi-location enterprise andwe can apply IT tools in the same lines of a real time enterprise that uses Internet tech. to drive out manual business processes, to eliminate guess works & wastages, thus reducing Costs of Operations. This can lead to efficient delivery of Services to people on time with greater transparency in the System.
‘Impact’on Society: ICT encompasses a broad range of media used for educational and entertainment purposes including television, computers and cell phones. What started out as a computing tool used by scientists and business houses, is now a must have tool for all.
Positive impact: One of the most prominent uses of ICT is in its application on development of higher order thinking skills.It offers youth opportunities for empowerment and education, particularly in societies where resources are limited. The employment Opportunities for the Youth have become ten-fold. Youth get autonomy from families with access to vast virtual social networks that provide more instantly-gratifying, but less personal interactions.
Negative impact: While the Internet offers youth the opportunity to instantaneously seek information using a variety of search engines, interact with others virtually, meet with members of the opposite sex through a variety of chat programs (ICR, ICQ, MSN, My-Space, Sitcom, Facebook, etc.); the addiction to it through spending prolonged periods of time over its IT programs leads to wasting much valuable time, building shallow and harmful relationships, and, eventually, causing rather than alleviating, users’ depression, loneliness, social isolation, and withdrawal among other things.
One will see both the positive and negative impacts of technology on workplace stress as well and discover some of the underlying ethical issues to be addressed by various Organisations.
Major ‘Concerns’on ICT usage:
The emerging forms of interactive communications (such as the Internet), allow us to capitalize on the resource, ‘the minds of the people’ all over the globe.At the same time, we should be mindful that the technology itself is never the reason to change things;rather it is how people choose to apply this technology.
Reading is an essential tool for lifelong learning; but the technology is slowly taking a steady control over individual lives and the reading habit is fast vanishing into thin air.
Instead of Playing on the grounds, riding bikes… the Youth sit hours together on internet! Instead of interacting with parents &grandparentswho could help them build strong Cultural & Moral background, they chat on mobile phones.
Some of the far reaching impacts are on psychological health.In particular, high usage of computers and mobile phones are associated with symptoms of stress, depression and sleep disturbances in young men and women.
What ‘needs’ to be done:
It is the prime responsibility of government & major Private Business heads to address issues like: promoting regional coordination of the Internet in rural areas, establish pilot projects, use Communication for developmental approach, assist stakeholders in advocating for Internet service provision and telecommunication infrastructure throughout the strata of Indian territory.
However, as there is a great danger of experiencing“the mobile and/or Internet addiction disorder”, we need to wisely use IT with some kind of self-control so that it does not disrupt our daily schedules and cause us to neglect our duties towards important relationships.
We need to focus on human outcome, not on‘technology’; get Involved with the New Technologies at a faster rate;adopt a learning-to-learn approach; understand the major issues of Concern; ensure low-cost access for all;Youth should claim “citizen’s right” to information; maintain an informed & balanced approach; Support community learning centres and give Youth the Power they Need!
A look into the ’Future’: Today, the fundamental question is whether we will share this “ICT magic” with everyone, or only with a privileged few. The answer depends on the decisions we make and the actions we take from this moment on. We must come to understand that access to Computers &the Internet and free and unrestricted flow of information for everyone are one of the vital keys that will either open up or lock the doors of opportunity for our People, and Youngsters in particular.
We are also fully aware that misuse of IT tools and addiction to it are leading to destructive behaviours affectingthe Youth – various methods of controls to restrict the access to Internet need to be developed and implemented effectively to different categories of Youth.
We have no doubts that with the active cooperation of all like-minded People and the govt., Indian Youth shall en-cash the Opportunities created by ICT revolution, rightfully and excel in all fronts!