COMMUNICATION IN IT AGE

By
Dhiraj Sharma
Senior Lecturer
Regional Institute of Management & Technology (RIMT)
Mandi Gobindgarh
E-mail :
dhiraj2001@indiatimes.com / dhiraj4all@hotmail.com

Communication In IT Age

To some, this is the atomic age; for some it is the computer age; to others, the information age and if it is to be information age then it can better be called communication age as information has no meaning in itself if it is not to be communicated. Today we are all deeply involved in the Communication Age. In fact, it will be more accurate to say that we are in a communication revolution. Every day we are witnessing innovations and technological advancements pacing up the developments in the communication and its methods.

The human history can be observed to fit patterns. The pattern takes the shape of three great advances or waves. The first wave of transformation began when some prescient person about 10,000 years ago planted a seed and nurtured its growth. The age of agriculture began, and its significance was that people moved away from wandering and hunting and began to cluster into villages and develop culture. The second wave came in the shape of machines, the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century, and people began to leave the peasant culture of farming to come to work in the urban factories. It culminated in the Second World War and the explosion of the atomic bombs. Just after this, we began to receive intimations of a gathering third wave, based not on 'machine power' but on 'mind power'. It is what we variously call the communication or the information or the knowledge age, and it is powerfully driven by information technology.

Technological changes in the area of communication significantly increased in the nineteenth century but even before that telegraph connected through wires provided the biggest channel for written communication. After that, with the invention of various writing machines there was a vast improvement in the quality, quantity and speed of written communication. With the advancement of printing techniques, communication among the literate masses became a simple matter. Great revolutions and struggles for freedom in all over the world could involve the masses because of speedy and efficient communication.

All this we can say started with the invention of printing, which can be termed as the First Phase of technological advancements in the area of communication. In the early 19th century, with the power press printing, the daily newspaper took birth. The Second Phase brought the inventions of the telegraph, the telephone and photography and that also in the 19th century. Along with this followed phonograph, movie camera and projector, all the contributions by the Great Thomas Edison. With this now it was possible to store sound and moving pictures.

In 1907, with the invention of the triode vacuum tube by DeForest, radio and television changed the scenario. The pace of development sharply increased with the invention and later on wide use of Radio, Television, and Electronic Typewriter. All these technological advancements led to the Third Phase of revolution in communication. Radio was considered as the extension of the ear as the print media as the extension of human eye. So, altogether a new world was taking shape with the inventions of first printing media then phonograph, camera, movies and later on launching of television --- all this was a big turning point in communication.

These improvements in the area of communication gave birth to the Conventional Office i.e. office run by an executive with the help of a secretary using most recent technology taking care of all the office work like typing, filing, storing information, generating reports, attending customers, telephone calls and other routine work. The major characteristic of the conventional office was that all the data and information processing was, in fact, paper processing which is just opposite of our present IT based office which can be termed as a Paperless Office. (This concept was widely predicted to arrive in the 1980s but never materialized. The prospects are better in the present decade).

The Third Phase of modern communication climaxed only in the 2Oth century. Computers brought tremendous changes in the way we use information and communicate. The development of intelligent information systems and decision support systems attempt to endow machines with the intelligence found in human beings. Expert Systems help the decision maker in taking right and logical decisions but now the efforts are being made to replace the decision maker (Artificial Intelligence) with an intelligent machine where the chances of wrong decisions are negligible. We can say all this is the dawn of the Fourth Phase.

In this 21st century, where the world has become a small globe --- multi-media, paging, cellular telephony, Internet, Satellite communication, cable media, DTH (Direct to Home providing hundred of channels on TV) etc. have changed the pattern of our thinking and our style of living. Miracles of communication technology! Although to McLuhan, a great sociologist, all the media are 'the extensions of man' for him the world is now a small village a global village. He says1. "The speed of information in the global village means that every human action or event involves everybody in the village in the consequences of every event." It means a very small world as all are closely knit together with the strong media of communication and technology.

Today, a business executive in his technologically equipped office is privileged with the strongest means of communication and the latest information. The conventional office served as the basis for the origin and development of today's, what we can name it, perhaps, most suitably is the, IT office and that in turn has given the biggest boom to improved communication in organisations. IT office i.e. office supported by the latest information and communication technology, knows no boundaries national or international, an executive sitting in the IT office is connected through the latest IT means with the entire world and has access to all types of data and information whether written, verbal or in some visual format. Not only accessing or retrieving information rather the whole gamut of today's business can be managed promptly sitting on the executive chair in the office. Facsimile Transmission, Electronic mail, Teleconferencing, Video conferencing, Multimedia, Collaborative computing, LAN/WAN, Voice recognition devices, Virtual reality and such other numerous channels have empowered today's executive to communicate in the best manner in this IT age.

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1. McLuhan, M. (1967). Understanding media: the extensions of man. London: Sphere.
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Nature of IT

Information technology has become a strategic decision as it requires a huge outlay of funds that is critical to many organisations. It affects all the levels of management and overall functioning of the organisation and could mean a revolution for various communication and information systems. The other side of implementing IT (Information Technology) can also not be ignored that is the danger of too much automation in the concern may pose threat to many jobs. Studies and surveys to judge the impact of IT on organisations, following are the main concerns for business executives:

  • Managing the Information System and its development
  • Justifying the cost of new systems
  • Getting substantial benefits from IT
  • Transformation of data into useful information for management
  • Staff resistance
  • Involvement of senior managers and political factors
  • Backing up vital information for reliability and integration of databases
  • Keeping information about the latest trends and developments in IT
  • Planning technology upgradation
  • Availability and attitude of IT professionals
  • Taking care of legal, audit and other regulatory requirements

Downside of IT

IT cannot be used to simply automate the procedures currently used in communication and information systems in organisations. Of course, the expectation is that the changes will have considerable benefits, but these will be felt only in the long or medium term. Commonly, the short term impact on the organisation and its profit is negative, as investment is undertaken, new procedures are drawn, and disruption occurs to the existing routine.

The impacts on employees are also visibly significant. Many people currently in the workforce have not been well conditioned for change by their education and training, and are not mentally well prepared for it. Employee's work-patterns, and the skills required of them, may be quite different from those that have been conventional. Capabilities in relation to computers and communications are vital. The conventional approach of deferring particular kind of transactions, and processing them occasionally in batches, may be replaced by on-demand handling of customers' needs. There may also be impact on working-hours such as timings beyond the traditional 9am-5pm time frame to give extended customer service. The location at which the work is performed may also change, with more performed on customer's site, or at home. All this is more relevant in the case of Indian work culture.

Not only this, these changes can result in major impacts on organisational structure as well. Increasingly, the primary focus is on business processes, and the hierarchy of managers and supervisors is being regarded as less important. In other words machines are more important than humans. Also, in any business organisation, the real possibility exists that information technologies can and will be misused and abused. New communication channels and computer capabilities provide opportunities for some people to use technology in ways not intended or even anticipated by the system's designers. So, technology has its dangers too. Laudon and Laudon explains the risks of new information technology " …it will also be possible for you – but not necessary - to decentralize power in an organisation, invade the privacy of your employees, while you improve service to customers, reach markets served by your global competitors and cause widespread unemployment, engage in new kinds of criminal activity as your company seeks to protect itself from information disclosures, and create new kinds of products which eliminate older products and the employment of  people who make those products."1. Obviously, it was not the purpose of technology developers to manipulate and corrupt organisational behaviour. Any new technology is designed to expedite the way we organise, handle, and communicate information but even then we are not free from the consequences of IT

Information Technology in India

India has emerged as a global power in the Information Technology (IT) as one of the largest generators and exporters of software in the world.  In India, the software industry is, perhaps, the fastest growing sector with a growth rate exceeding 50% over the last five years and with a turnover of US $8.2 billion and exports of US$ 6.2 billion during the year 2000-2001. The government has targeted an export of US$ 50 billion by the year 2008 for the software industry2. . This would require focused initiatives to accelerate the Internet revolution in India, emphasizing the creation of useful contents in Indian languages, IT enabled services, IT education, electronics and computer hardware manufacturing, and exports, E-commerce and Internet based E-Business.  The Indian software professionals have already created their brand image in the global market. Today, more than 260 of the Fortune 1000 companies, i.e. , almost one out of every four global giants, outsource their software requirements to India. India has a distinct standing in the world market for providing excellent quality. A large number of Indian software companies have acquired international quality certification. It is important to note that 20 out of 37 companies in the world, who have acquired the highest quality standard for software practices are located in India. Majority of the multi-national companies operating in the area of IT have either Software Development Centre or Research Development Centre in India. Today, one of the biggest Indian economy's natural resources is its abundant technically skilled manpower. India has the second largest pool of English-speaking scientific professionals in the world today, second only to the US. As on 31 December 2000, the software industry in India employed about 4,10,000 professionals.

In order to give a concerted and focused approach to developing this sector further, the Government set up a new Ministry of Information Technology on 15 October 1999 to be the nodal institutional mechanism for facilitating all the initiatives in the central government, the state governments, academia and the private sector for all round growth of IT. The ministry seeks to play the role of a pro-active facilitator, motivator and promoter and launch initiatives to ensure the spread of IT to the masses for enabling speedy IT-led development. Government policy is to encourage both software development and hardware manufacturing in the country by creating an appropriate environment. The government has also recommended that each ministry must allocate 2-3 per cent of its Budget for IT promotion. This is a step for the development of domestic software industry and a move towards integrating IT with government functioning and e-governance.

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1. . Laudon, K.C., and Laudon, J.P. (1994). Management Information Systems: Organisation and Technology, 3rd ed., p.700. New York: Macmillan.
2. Data used here is taken from the Annual Report 2000-01, issued by Ministry of Information Technology, Govt. of India.
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A long way to go

India does have built-in advantages: a big and powerful private sector, an impressive technology track-record, a high-skilled managerial manpower pool, an established legal system and a comfortable comprehensibility in the English language. But India's disadvantages can be glaring, too. Although the telecom networks are among the country's fastest growing infrastructure, they are neither well developed nor dependable yet. India's Internet usage continues to be sluggish, at less than 1 million. India's PC population is 4.5 million, making it only 4 per 1,000 people.

If India wants to be a leader in the IT outsourcing world, it is time to get aggressive: by launching new IT education programmes, making a paradigm shift in technology, and using its skilled work force in a cost-effective manner.

Dhiraj Sharma
Senior Lecturer
Regional Institute of Management & Technology (RIMT)
Mandi Gobindgarh
E-mail :
dhiraj2001@indiatimes.com / dhiraj4all@hotmail.com

Source : E-mail December 2003

 

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