The Importance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

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Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a blanket term encompassing all the technologies and services involved in computing, data management, telecommunications provision, and the internet. These technologies all deal with the transmission and reception of information of some kind. ICT permeates all aspects of life, providing newer, better, and quicker ways for people to interact, network, seek help, gain access to information, and learn.

Global Information Technology Industry

(Image source: Comptia.org)

Besides its presence everywhere, Information and Communication Technology has an immense economic significance. According to research by the consultancy IDC, the global information technology industry is on track to reach a value of $5.2 trillion this year (2020). The United States is the largest technology market in the world, currently representing 32% of that total, or approximately $1.7 trillion for 2020. The technology sector accounts for a significant portion of economic activity around the globe, as economies, employment, and personal lives become more digital, more connected, and more automated.

CompTIA’s Cyberstates report reveals that the economic impact of the technology sector in the US, measured as a percentage of gross domestic product, exceeds that of most other industries, including essential sectors such as retail, construction, and transportation. CompTIA predicts that the global information technology industry will grow at a rate of 3.7% in 2020. 

But financial value is just one measure of the importance of Information and Communication Technology. ICT has great significance in many areas, as we’ll be exploring in this article.

Information and Communication Technology and Improved Ties

Communication is a key component of the ICT mix. In recent years, the merging of various kinds of technology has been increasing the number of options that people and institutions have for making contacts and keeping in touch.

Traditional on-premise private branch exchange (PBX) telephony systems built on hard-wired exchanges and equipment are giving way to a new telecommunications infrastructure, based on digital data transfer. Voice over Internet Protocol (also known as Voice over IP, or VoIP), for example, converts voice signals into a digital data stream that can be transmitted over network connections, offering long-distance and international communication at a fraction of the cost of standard telephone calls. VoIP can be used on compatible telephone hardware, specialist VoIP handsets, desktop computers, and laptops, or via mobile apps.

ICT - smartphones

With mobile phones, people now have a world of information, entertainment, and communications options, all at their fingertips. According to statistics from QuoraCreative, this year, the number of smartphone users worldwide is projected to reach 2.87 billion. A study by Reviews.org reveals that 66% of Americans check their phones 160 times every day. Almost the same number of people in the United States (65.7%) admit to sleeping with their smartphones at night

Reliance on IT

(Image source: reviews.org)

It’s not difficult to understand the appeal. Besides voice and video calls, mobile users have instantaneous access to email, electronic fax (eFax), social media, chat, and instant messaging (IM) tools. All of these are supported by a vast and growing ecosystem of mobile apps and online resources. 

With Information and Communication Technology now blurring the lines between telephony and the internet, organizations now have access to Unified Communications or UC. A platform based on VoIP and its related technologies that allow for the mixing of telecommunications with office productivity software, databases, multimedia, and online resources. UC implementations can be localized within the enterprise, or made available to subscribers from the cloud, as an on-demand resource dubbed “Unified Communications as a Service” or UCaaS. This takes a cloud-based approach to integrate business communication tools into a single, streamlined platform. These tools can include services like VoIP telephony, video conferencing, file sharing, collaboration, and instant messaging. 

This approach highlights the consolidation and streamlining opportunities that ICT offers to the enterprise. Unified Communications as a Service can be an alternative to on-premises Unified Communications tools, a VoIP-only implementation, or a non-unified suite of business communication tools that include a mixture of cloud apps and traditional software from multiple vendors. Recent collaborations like the combining of Microsoft Teams with leading UCaaS platforms are opening up new possibilities for businesses and telecommunications resellers in 2020.

ICT in ecommerce

New Ways of Buying and Selling

In retail and other customer-facing environments, the Information and Communication Technology infrastructure that once powered simple credit or debit card transactions and centralized record-keeping for commercial organizations continue to evolve, and eCommerce now integrates with the shopping experience itself.

Today’s consumers can shop for goods and services online from the comfort of their own homes or mobile phones, using database technology and shopper-friendly websites or apps. And cutting-edge tech like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI) are enabling potential buyers to gain instant, interactive access to information on various products, and even to try them out in a range of simulated settings and environments.

ICT and a New Breed of Commerce

Besides new avenues for purchasing and new methods of displaying and promoting commodities, eCommerce and the evolution of ICT have brought significant changes to how commercial organizations operate behind the scenes.

On the sales floor, mobile devices and real-time communications, coupled with advances in data analytics and artificial intelligence, enable retail assistants and sales personnel to adjust their pitches in line with the known purchase history and behavioral characteristics of individual customers. Those same unified data management systems can also optimize the organization’s supply chain logistics, and facilitate customer fulfillment options like same-day delivery, or in-store pickup

Information Technology Categories

(Image source: Comptia.org)

For organizations in the market for Information and Communication Technology solutions, developments in cloud infrastructure now present a rich vein of choices that include Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, data management tools, and various emerging technologies. According to CompTIA.org, this market has a geographical variance in line with the level of technological maturity in different regions. So, in the mature US market, for example, technology services and software account for nearly half of organizational spending. Countries with a lower level of development tend to allocate more spending to traditional hardware and telecommunications services. In some developing economies where legacy infrastructure doesn’t exist, technology buyers find an easier path by jumping directly to the latest products and services.

IT Growth in 2020

(Image source: Comptia.org)

For companies in the ICT vending and service provision channels, around 60% believe that economic success in 2020 and beyond will depend on their ability to reach new customer segments, either by expanding into new vertical markets or by growing the aggregate number of customers across the business. Managed services providers (MSPs) will need to concentrate on picking up additional business from existing clients by offering additional types or levels of services to grow their revenue and profit margins.

Organizations on both sides of the Information and Communication Technology supply chain will face the continuing challenge of sourcing ICT talent – either through recruitment of external candidates, or the training and “upskilling” of existing staff.

emerging tech categories

(Image source: Comptia.org)

New Methods of Manufacturing

In the manufacturing sector, ICT is a useful support mechanism, capable of rendering design and production more robust, effective, and efficient through the use of computer-based precision engineering, virtualized systems, and computer simulation. Though concerns linger over the potential impact of trade volatility, tariffs, and the global economic slowdown, industry analysts generally agree that 2020 will be a year in which manufacturers will be using new technologies to optimize their operations, maximize quality, and reduce costs. Several key technologies are likely to facilitate this.

Information and Communication Technology powers both customer feedback loops and data analytics. Both of these elements are allowing manufacturers to deepen their relationships with consumers, adding value to the products they create through customization.

Machine Learning in Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) help manufacturers to optimize the speed, scale, and convenience of their operations. They also facilitate the harnessing of performance data, which can be used to create smarter systems and models for all aspects of industrial operations, including supply chain management.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0 forges ahead, new communications technologies like 5G will minimize network latency, improve bandwidth, and increase the manufacturer’s capacity for real and near-real-time response. 5G integration with the Internet of Things or IoT technology will enable manufacturers to increase their use of sensors, cloud platforms, centralized tracking, quality inspection, and other related systems.

Analysis of key performance metrics using sensor input, AI, and machine learning is enabling manufacturing organizations to harness the power of predictive analytics for performance enhancement and preventative maintenance. Using these technologies, adjustments can be pre-emptively made to improve efficiency and prevent untimely equipment breakdowns, saving time, resources, and money.

Physical robots and robotic process automation (RPA) are at the heart of Industry 4.0 and IoT operations. Physical robots can either function alongside human workers, or take on tasks that might put human personnel at risk. Coupled with AI, robots, and automated processes can learn and evolve through on the job experience.

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing (AM/3DP) technology allows engineers to design innovative products that couldn’t otherwise be made using traditional manufacturing techniques. These technologies enable rapid prototyping and the construction of tools or parts in-house. As 3D printers become more widespread and affordable, they also hold the potential to enable individuals to become localized manufacturers.

Wearable Technology - ICT

Finally, Information and Communication Technology is creating a new breed of “industrial wearables.” Tools and equipment such as smart glasses and biometric sensors that can link individual workers with remote databases or industrial resources, and robotic exoskeletons that can multiply the strength of the wearer.

Information and Communication Technology In Health Care

As with manufacturing, ICT has numerous applications in the health care sector – many of which have had a game-changing effect on patient care, public health, running costs, and the traditional bureaucracy associated with the medical profession and life sciences.

Electronic health records (EHRs) enable workers at health care institutions to input patient data into a central, digitized system that’s accessible to relevant stakeholders such as medical personnel, pharmacies, and insurers. Systems can be integrated with user authentication and security policies to allow patient access to their health information, and configured with alerts and notifications in response to changing conditions. Cloud storage protects against the loss of sensitive data via strong backup and data recovery services.

Predictive Analytics and ICT

Big data analytics may be applied at the therapeutic level in predicting epidemics, avoiding preventable deaths, developing new drugs or treatments, and improving efficiency and the general level of care.

Mobile devices and video transmission are central to “telemedicine” and “telehealth” provision, enabling practitioners to conduct two-way video consultations with patients or experts, and even to perform surgery while on a video call. In a related manner, telemonitoring technology allows health care professionals to monitor vital signs, symptoms, and even patient blood levels from a remote location.

The immediacy and Universal Availability of Education

Melding database technology with communications and interactive programming techniques, ICT facilitates electronic learning or eLearning. Here, students from all walks of life can enjoy a self-paced education in subject areas limited only by the imaginations of the course creators. 

eLearning platforms like Coursera and Lectora, for example, enable individuals and organizations to partake in vocational or special interest training courses combining formal instruction, quizzes, practical exercises, research, and interactive multimedia elements, all conducted in the learner’s own time, and at their own pace.

Elearning and ICT

With literally a world of information to choose from, courses can pull in expertise and input from the highest levels of education and industry. And with access to the internet now available in some form to individuals across the globe, concepts like the Massive Open Online Course or MOOC are bringing educational opportunities to candidates who might otherwise miss out. Many of the courses on offer originate from some of the most prestigious institutions of learning on the planet.

For schools and colleges, Information and Communication Technology provides students with engaging, interactive, and self-paced methods of learning which increase their independence and involvement in the learning process, while also increasing their levels of digital sophistication and computer literacy. ICT-powered learning projects enable teachers and instructors to contribute their own input while continuously analyzing and monitoring the progress of their students.

School management systems based on ICT allow administrators to use software and digital tools in automating various tasks, including research, library management, and general documentation. Information and Communication Technology reduces the need for paper documents and the waste and bureaucracy that they traditionally create.

Changing Our Impact on the Environment

With sustainability and respect for the environment high on the list of priorities for individual consumers, governments, and organizations, Information and Communication Technology presents something of a two-sided argument. On the one hand, while it’s estimated that ICT contributes 2% to 2.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, these technologies also play a role in emissions reduction. Besides the physical aspects such as a reduced reliance on paper-based documentation, ICT helps in monitoring climate change, mitigating and adapting to its effects, and easing the transition towards a green and circular economy.

ICT and climate change

The potential of Information and Communication Technology to solve climate-related issues is leading policymakers to seek commercial partnerships and initiatives with leading players in the industry. For example, in Europe, the EU’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT), is making environmentally conscious ICT a top priority in 2020, as the organization pursues a climate-focused agenda. Similarly, the ITU has established a new Focus Group on Environmental Efficiency for Artificial Intelligence and other Emerging Technologies (FG-AI4EE), which will meet throughout 2020 to raise awareness about the environmental impacts of frontier technologies on a global platform. The Group will investigate the ability of AI and emerging technologies to contribute to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Final Thoughts

Information and Communication Technology yields tremendous benefits for individuals, institutions, and society at large. Questions surrounding safety, data privacy, sustainability, and trust can only be resolved by combining technical expertise with social and environmental awareness. All stakeholders in ICT must, therefore, be prepared to assume responsibility for all the changes that innovation can bring.

Summary:

Importance of ICT

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a blanket term encompassing all the technologies and services involved in computing, data management, telecommunications provision, and the internet. These technologies all deal with the transmission and reception of information of some kind. ICT permeates all aspects of life, providing newer, better, and quicker ways for people to interact, network, seek help, gain access to information, and learn. Besides its presence everywhere, Information and Communication Technology has an immense economic significance. According to research by the consultancy IDC, the global information technology industry is on track to reach a value of $5.2 trillion this year (2020). Communication is a key component of the ICT mix. In recent years, the merging of various kinds of technology has been increasing the number of options that people and institutions have for making contacts and keeping in touch. In retail and other customer-facing environments, the Information and Communication Technology infrastructure that once powered simple credit or debit card transactions and centralized record-keeping for commercial organizations continue to evolve, and eCommerce now integrates with the shopping experience itself. In the manufacturing sector, ICT is a useful support mechanism, capable of rendering design and production more robust, effective, and efficient through the use of computer-based precision engineering, virtualized systems, and computer simulation. As with manufacturing, ICT has numerous applications in the health care sector – many of which have had a game-changing effect on patient care, public health, running costs, and the traditional bureaucracy associated with the medical profession and life sciences.

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Terry Brown

Terry is an experienced product management and marketing professional having worked for technology based companies for over 30 years, in different industries including; Telecoms, IT Service Management (ITSM), Managed Service Providers (MSP), Enterprise Security, Business Intelligence (BI) and Healthcare. He has extensive experience defining and driving marketing strategy to align and support the sales process. He is also a fan of craft beer and Lotus cars.

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