Impacts of Information Technology on Society in the New Century

In the past few decades there has been a revolution in computing and communications, and all indications are that technological progress and use of information technology will continue at a rapid pace. Accompanying and supporting the dramatic increases in the power and use of new information technologies has been the declining cost of communications as a result of both technological improvements and increased competition. According to Moore’s law the processing power of microchips is doubling every 18 months. These advances present many significant opportunities but also pose major challenges. Today, innovations in information technology are having wide-ranging effects across numerous domains of society, and policy makers are acting on issues involving economic productivity, intellectual property rights, privacy protection, and affordability of and access to information. Choices made now will have long lasting consequences, and attention must be paid to their social and economic impacts.

One of the most significant outcomes of the progress of information technology is probably electronic commerce over the Internet, a new way of conducting business. Though only a few years old, it may radically alter economic activities and the social environment. Already, it affects such large sectors as communications, finance and retail trade and might expand to areas such as education and health services. It implies the seamless application of information and communication technology along the entire value chain of a business that is conducted electronically.

The impacts of information technology and electronic commerce on business models, commerce, market structure, workplace, labour market, education, private life and society as a whole.

1. Business Models, Commerce and Market Structure

One important way in which information technology is affecting work is by reducing the importance of distance. In many industries, the geographic distribution of work is changing significantly. For instance, some software firms have found that they can overcome the tight local market for software engineers by sending projects to India or other nations where the wages are much lower. Furthermore, such arrangements can take advantage of the time differences so that critical projects can be worked on nearly around the clock. Firms can outsource their manufacturing to other nations and rely on telecommunications to keep marketing, R&D, and distribution teams in close contact with the manufacturing groups. Thus the technology can enable a finer division of labour among countries, which in turn affects the relative demand for various skills in each nation. The technology enables various types of work and employment to be decoupled from one another. Firms have greater freedom to locate their economic activities, creating greater competition among regions in infrastructure, labour, capital, and other resource markets. It also opens the door for regulatory arbitrage: firms can increasingly choose which tax authority and other regulations apply.

Computers and communication technologies also promote more market-like forms of production and distribution. An infrastructure of computing and communication technology, providing 24-hour access at low cost to almost any kind of price and product information desired by buyers, will reduce the informational barriers to efficient market operation. This infrastructure might also provide the means for effecting real-time transactions and make intermediaries such as sales clerks, stock brokers and travel agents, whose function is to provide an essential information link between buyers and sellers, redundant. Removal of intermediaries would reduce the costs in the production and distribution value chain. The information technologies have facilitated the evolution of enhanced mail order retailing, in which goods can be ordered quickly by using telephones or computer networks and then dispatched by suppliers through integrated transport companies that rely extensively on computers and communication technologies to control their operations. Nonphysical goods, such as software, can be shipped electronically, eliminating the entire transport channel. Payments can be done in new ways. The result is disintermediation throughout the distribution channel, with cost reduction, lower end-consumer prices, and higher profit margins.

The impact of information technology on the firms’ cost structure can be best illustrated on the electronic commerce example. The key areas of cost reduction when carrying out a sale via electronic commerce rather than in a traditional store involve physical establishment, order placement and execution, customer support, strong, inventory carrying, and distribution. Although setting up and maintaining an e-commerce web site might be expensive, it is certainly less expensive to maintain such a storefront than a physical one because it is always open, can be accessed by millions around the globe, and has few variable costs, so that it can scale up to meet the demand. By maintaining one ‘store’ instead of several, duplicate inventory costs are eliminated. In addition, e-commerce is very effective at reducing the costs of attracting new customers, because advertising is typically cheaper than for other media and more targeted. Moreover, the electronic interface allows e-commerce merchants to check that an order is internally consistent and that the order, receipt, and invoice match. Through e-commerce, firms are able to move much of their customer support on line so that customers can access databases or manuals directly. This significantly cuts costs while generally improving the quality of service. E-commerce shops require far fewer, but high-skilled, employees. E-commerce also permits savings in inventory carrying costs. The faster the input can be ordered and delivered, the less the need for a large inventory. The impact on costs associated with decreased inventories is most pronounced in industries where the product has a limited shelf life (e.g. bananas), is subject to fast technological obsolescence or price declines (e.g. computers), or where there is a rapid flow of new products (e.g. books, music). Although shipping costs can increase the cost of many products purchased via electronic commerce and add substantially to the final price, distribution costs are significantly reduced for digital products such as financial services, software, and travel, which are important e-commerce segments.

Although electronic commerce causes the disintermediation of some intermediaries, it creates greater dependency on others and also some entirely new intermediary functions. Among the intermediary services that could add costs to e-commerce transactions are advertising, secure online payment, and delivery. The relative ease of becoming an e-commerce merchant and setting up stores results in such a huge number of offerings that consumers can easily be overwhelmed. This increases the importance of using advertising to establish a brand name and thus generate consumer familiarity and trust. For new e-commerce start-ups, this process can be expensive and represents a significant transaction cost. The openness, global reach, and lack of physical clues that are inherent characteristics of e-commerce also make it vulnerable to fraud and thus increase certain costs for e-commerce merchants as compared to traditional stores. New techniques are being developed to protect the use of credit cards in e-commerce transactions, but the need for greater security and user verification leads to increased costs. A key feature of e-commerce is the convenience of having purchases delivered directly. In the case of tangibles, such as books, this incurs delivery costs, which cause prices to rise in most cases, thereby negating many of the savings associated with e-commerce and substantially adding to transaction costs.

With the Internet, e-commerce is rapidly expanding into a fast-moving, open global market with an ever-increasing number of participants. The open and global nature of e-commerce is likely to increase market size and change market structure, both in terms of the number and size of players and the way in which players compete on international markets. Digitized products can cross the border in real time, consumers can shop 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and firms are increasingly faced with international online competition. The Internet is helping to enlarge existing markets by cutting through many of the distribution and marketing barriers that can prevent firms from gaining access to foreign markets. E-commerce lowers information and transaction costs for operating on overseas markets and provides a cheap and efficient way to strengthen customer-supplier relations. It also encourages companies to develop innovative ways of advertising, delivering and supporting their product and services. While e-commerce on the Internet offers the potential for global markets, certain factors, such as language, transport costs, local reputation, as well as differences in the cost and ease of access to networks, attenuate this potential to a greater or lesser extent.

2. Workplace and Labour Market

Computers and communication technologies allow individuals to communicate with one another in ways complementary to traditional face-to-face, telephonic, and written modes. They enable collaborative work involving distributed communities of actors who seldom, if ever, meet physically. These technologies utilize communication infrastructures that are both global and always up, thus enabling 24-hour activity and asynchronous as well as synchronous interactions among individuals, groups, and organizations. Social interaction in organizations will be affected by use of computers and communication technologies. Peer-to-peer relations across department lines will be enhanced through sharing of information and coordination of activities. Interaction between superiors and subordinates will become more tense because of social control issues raised by the use of computerized monitoring systems, but on the other hand, the use of e-mail will lower the barriers to communications across different status levels, resulting in more uninhibited communications between supervisor and subordinates.

That the importance of distance will be reduced by computers and communication technology also favours telecommuting, and thus, has implications for the residence patterns of the citizens. As workers find that they can do most of their work at home rather than in a centralized workplace, the demand for homes in climatically and physically attractive regions would increase. The consequences of such a shift in employment from the suburbs to more remote areas would be profound. Property values would rise in the favoured destinations and fall in the suburbs. Rural, historical, or charming aspects of life and the environment in the newly attractive areas would be threatened. Since most telecommuters would be among the better educated and higher paid, the demand in these areas for high-income and high-status services like gourmet restaurants and clothing boutiques would increase. Also would there be an expansion of services of all types, creating and expanding job opportunities for the local population.

By reducing the fixed cost of employment, widespread telecommuting should make it easier for individuals to work on flexible schedules, to work part time, to share jobs, or to hold two or more jobs simultaneously. Since changing employers would not necessarily require changing one’s place of residence, telecommuting should increase job mobility and speed career advancement. This increased flexibility might also reduce job stress and increase job satisfaction. Since job stress is a major factor governing health there may be additional benefits in the form of reduced health costs and mortality rates. On the other hand one might also argue that technologies, by expanding the number of different tasks that are expected of workers and the array of skills needed to perform these tasks, might speed up work and increase the level of stress and time pressure on workers.

A question that is more difficult to be answered is about the impacts that computers and communications might have on employment. The ability of computers and communications to perform routine tasks such as bookkeeping more rapidly than humans leads to concern that people will be replaced by computers and communications. The response to this argument is that even if computers and communications lead to the elimination of some workers, other jobs will be created, particularly for computer professionals, and that growth in output will increase overall employment. It is more likely that computers and communications will lead to changes in the types of workers needed for different occupations rather than to changes in total employment.

A number of industries are affected by electronic commerce. The distribution sector is directly affected, as e-commerce is a way of supplying and delivering goods and services. Other industries, indirectly affected, are those related to information and communication technology (the infrastructure that enables e-commerce), content-related industries (entertainment, software), transactions-related industries (financial sector, advertising, travel, transport). eCommerce might also create new markets or extend market reach beyond traditional borders. Enlarging the market will have a positive effect on jobs. Another important issue relates to inter linkages among activities affected by e-commerce. Expenditure for e-commerce-related intermediate goods and services will create jobs indirectly, on the basis of the volume of electronic transactions and their effect on prices, costs and productivity. The convergence of media, telecommunication and computing technologies is creating a new integrated supply chain for the production and delivery of multimedia and information content. Most of the employment related to e-commerce around the content industries and communication infrastructure such as the Internet.

Jobs are both created and destroyed by technology, trade, and organizational change. These processes also underlie changes in the skill composition of employment. Beyond the net employment gains or losses brought about by these factors, it is apparent that workers with different skill levels will be affected differently. E-commerce is certainly driving the demand for IT professionals but it also requires IT expertise to be coupled with strong business application skills, thereby generating demand for a flexible, multi-skilled work force. There is a growing need for increased integration of Internet front-end applications with enterprise operations, applications and back-end databases. Many of the IT skill requirements needed for Internet support can be met by low-paid IT workers who can deal with the organizational services needed for basic web page programming. However, wide area networks, competitive web sites, and complex network applications require much more skill than a platform-specific IT job. Since the skills required for e-commerce are rare and in high demand, e-commerce might accelerate the up skilling trend in many countries by requiring high-skilled computer scientists to replace low-skilled information clerks, cashiers and market salespersons.

3. Education

Advances in information technology will affect the craft of teaching by complementing rather than eliminating traditional classroom instruction. Indeed the effective instructor acts in a mixture of roles. In one role the instructor is a supplier of services to the students, who might be regarded as its customers. But the effective instructor occupies another role as well, as a supervisor of students, and plays a role in motivating, encouraging, evaluating, and developing students. For any topic there will always be a small percentage of students with the necessary background, motivation, and self-discipline to learn from self-paced workbooks or computer assisted instruction. For the majority of students, however, the presence of a live instructor will continue to be far more effective than a computer assisted counterpart in facilitating positive educational outcomes. The greatest potential for new information technology lies in improving the productivity of time spent outside the classroom. Making solutions to problem sets and assigned reading materials available on the Internet offers a lot of convenience. E-mail vastly simplifies communication between students and faculty and among students who may be engaged in group projects. Advances in information technology will affect the craft of teaching by complementing rather than eliminating traditional classroom instruction. Indeed the effective instructor acts in a mixture of roles. In one role the instructor is a supplier of services to the students, who might be regarded as its customers. But the effective instructor occupies another role as well, as a supervisor of students, and plays a role in motivating, encouraging, evaluating, and developing students. For any topic there will always be a small percentage of students with the necessary background, motivation, and self-discipline to learn from self-paced workbooks or computer assisted instruction. For the majority of students, however, the presence of a live instructor will continue to be far more effective than a computer assisted counterpart in facilitating positive educational outcomes. The greatest potential for new information technology lies in improving the productivity of time spent outside the classroom. Making solutions to problem sets and assigned reading materials available on the Internet offers a lot of convenience. E-mail vastly simplifies communication between students and faculty and among students who may be engaged in group projects.

Although distance learning has existed for some time, the Internet makes possible a large expansion in coverage and better delivery of instruction. Text can be combined with audio/ video, and students can interact in real time via e-mail and discussion groups. Such technical improvements coincide with a general demand for retraining by those who, due to work and family demands, cannot attend traditional courses. Distance learning via the Internet is likely to complement existing schools for children and university students, but it could have more of a substitution effect for continuing education programmes. For some degree programmes, high-prestige institutions could use their reputation to attract students who would otherwise attend a local facility. Owing to the Internet’s ease of access and convenience for distance learning, overall demand for such programmes will probably expand, leading to growth in this segment of e-commerce.

As shown in the previous section, high level skills are vital in a technology-based and knowledge intensive economy. Changes associated with rapid technological advances in industry have made continual upgrading of professional skills an economic necessity. The goal of lifelong learning can only be accomplished by reinforcing and adapting existing systems of learning, both in public and private sectors. The demand for education and training concerns the full range of modern technology. Information technologies are uniquely capable of providing ways to meet this demand. Online training via the Internet ranges from accessing self-study courses to complete electronic classrooms. These computer-based training programmes provide flexibility in skills acquisition and are more affordable and relevant than more traditional seminars and courses.

4. Private Life and Society

Increasing representation of a wide variety of content in digital form results in easier and cheaper duplication and distribution of information. This has a mixed effect on the provision of content. On the one hand, content can be distributed at a lower unit cost. On the other hand, distribution of content outside of channels that respect intellectual property rights can reduce the incentives of creators and distributors to produce and make content available in the first place. Information technology raises a host of questions about intellectual property protection and new tools and regulations have to be developed in order to solve this problem.

Many issues also surround free speech and regulation of content on the Internet, and there continue to be calls for mechanisms to control objectionable content. However it is very difficult to find a sensible solution. Dealing with indecen

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Does Technology Benefit Young Children’s Education?

As parents, all of us have fought the battle with our kids as they are absorbed into a video game or movie on an iPad, tablet or smartphone. We’ve had a better chance of getting the attention of Tom Cruise walking the red carpet than our kids.

Today, it’s common for two-year-olds to be using iPads, elementary schoolers hooked up to video games, and we all suffer (or live with) the challenge of prying your middle-schooler away from the computer long enough to eat a decent meal…

Technology is everywhere and its draw on kids is obvious, but is technology helping our kids learn?
Technology is becoming more social, adaptive, and customized, and as a result, it can be a fantastic teaching tool. That stated, as parents, we need to establish boundaries.

Today, software is connecting kids to online learning communities, tracking kids’ progress through lessons and games, and customizing each students’ experience.

By the time your child is in elementary school, they will probably well-versed in technology.

Learning with Technology at School
Schools are investing more and more in technology. Whether your child’s class uses an interactive Smartboard, laptops, or another device, here are three ways to make sure that technology is used effectively.

Young children love playing with technology, from iPads to digital cameras. What do early childhood practitioners – and parents, too – need to think about before handing kids these gadgets?

Let’s start at the beginning: what is technology in early childhood?
Technology can be as simple as a camera, audio recorder, music player, TV, DVD player, or more recent technology like iPads, tablets, and smartphones used in child care centers, classrooms, or at home.

More than once, I’ve had teachers tell me, “I don’t do technology.” I ask them if they’ve ever taken a digital photo of their students, played a record, tape, or DVD, or give kids headphones to listen to a story.

Teachers have always used technology. The difference is that now teachers are using really powerful tools like iPads and iPhones in their personal and professional lives.

Technology is just a tool.
It shouldn’t be used in classrooms or child care centers because it’s cool, but because teachers can do activities that support the healthy development of children.

Teachers are using digital cameras – a less flashy technology than iPads – in really creative ways to engage children in learning. That may be all they need.

At the same time, teachers need to be able to integrate technology into the classroom or child care center as a social justice matter.

We can’t assume that all children have technology at home.

A lack of exposure could widen the digital divide – that is, the gap between those with and without access to digital technology – and limit some children’s school readiness and early success.

Just as all children need to learn how to handle a book in early literacy, they need to be taught how to use technology, including how to open it, how it works, and how to take care of it.

Experts worry that technology is bad for children.

There are serious concerns about children spending too much time in front of screens, especially given the many screens in children’s lives.

Today, very young children are sitting in front of TVs, playing on iPads and iPhones, and watching their parents take photos on a digital camera, which has its own screen.

There used to be only the TV screen.

That was the screen we worried about and researched for 30 years.

We as a field know a whole lot about the impact of TV on children’s behavior and learning, but we know very little about all the new digital devices.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages screen time for children under two years old, but the NAEYC/Fred Rogers position statement takes a slightly different stance.

It says that technology and media should be limited, but what matters most is how it is used.

What is the content?

Is it being used in an intentional manner?

Is it developmentally appropriate?

As parents, we need to be aware of the drawbacks of technology and its impact on eyesight, vocabulary and physical development. We also need to be cognizant of our kids overall development,

My advice to teachers and parents is to trust your instincts. You know your child and if you think they have been watching the screen too long, turn it off.

It’s up to us, as parents, to notice that your child’s computer time is reducing or limiting interactions and playtime with other kids and nudge them in new directions. To encourage them to be physically active, to get outside and play.

It’s also up to the adult to understand the child’s personality and disposition and to figure out if a technology is one of the ways the child chooses to interact with the world.

At the same time, cut yourself some slack.

We all know that there are better things to do with children’s time than to plop them in front of a TV, but we also know that child care providers have to make lunch, and parents need time to take a shower.

In situations like that, it is the adult’s job to make the technology time more valuable and interactive by asking questions and connecting a child’s virtual experience on the screen with real-life experiences in her world.

Learning with Technology at Home
Whether you’re giving your child your smart screen phone to entertain them, or it’s your toddlers’ preferred playtime is on an iPad or tablet, here are eight ways to make sure your child’s experiences with technology are educational and fun.

Focus on Active Engagement

Any time your child is engaged with a screen, stop a program, or mute the commercials, and ask engaging questions. What was that character thinking? Why did the main character do that? What would you have done in that situation?

Allow for Repetition DVDs and YouTube videos add an essential ingredient for young minds which is repetition. Let your young child to watch the same video over and over, and ask him what he noticed after each viewing.

Make it Tactile Unlike computers that require a mouse to manipulate objects on the screen, iPads, tablets and smartphones allow kids manipulate “physical” objects with their fingers.

Practice Problem Solving An emerging category of games will force your child to solve problems as they play, potentially building concentration and analytical skills in the process; although the jury is still out on this. There is no clinical data that supports the marketing message of app makers.

Encourage Creation Use technology for creation, not just entertainment. Have your child record a story on your iPod, or sing a song into your video game system. Then, create an entirely new sound using the playback options, slow down and speed up their voice and add different backgrounds and beats until they’ve created something uniquely theirs.

Show Him How to Use It Many computer games have different levels and young children may not know how to move up or change levels. If your child is stuck on one level that’s become too easy, ask if he knows how to move up and help him if he wants more of a challenge.

Ask Why If your child is using an app or game the “wrong” way, always pressing the incorrect button, for example, ask them why. It may be that they like hearing the noise the game makes when they get the question wrong, or they might be stuck and can’t figure out which group of objects match number four.

Focus on Play Young kids should be exploring and playing with technology. This should be considered play, and not a focus on drilling skills.

Ask For Your Own Log-In Often, school programs come with a parent log-in that will allow you to see your child’s progress. If it doesn’t, ask to see the reports that a teacher has access to. Then, check his progress every few weeks. It’s a great way for you and your child to be on the same page about their progress.

Ask About Teacher Training Technology is often implemented in classrooms without appropriate professional development. If your child’s classroom is using a whole-class system, such as Clickers or an Interactive Smartboard, ask how it’s used in class and what training the teacher has had. “As a parent, you want to know if teachers feel well trained and they’re putting [new technologies] to good use.

Find Parent Resources One of the best ways that technology can help your child is by helping you learn more about learning.

Computers, smartphones, and tablets aren’t going away, but with a few tweaks and consideration, you can make your child’s technology-time productive, educational, and fun!

Let’s be honest. Most children can use a mouse, open and close apps, and even search the internet by the time they are three years old.

Once they have the cognitive ability, it’s time to talk with your child about internet safety.

Set clear guidelines and internet safety rules about what types of media are acceptable and carefully support and monitor your child’s technology use.

Tell your child to never share her name, address, or personal information online or on social media.

Talk with your child about what to do if he comes across inappropriate content (close the screen and alert you), and make sure you have a high-quality web filter and security system in place.

Wrapping it Up
Help your child understand that technology is just one of many tools for learn

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