Sunday, August 10, 2008

ICT - What it means to you

As many of you know, I am a B.Tech in ICT (Information and Communication Technology) from DA-IICT. In 4 years of engineering and even now, I have gained expertise in explaining people what exactly is ICT, because whenever someone used to ask me the question, " What are you doing ?", and now "What have you done ?" then my answer has always been "B.Tech in ICT". The next sentence from the other side has always been "Oh! IT". After that I have to explain them what ICT is, unlike many of my friends who took the easier path of accepting themselves as IT professionals and put an end to the discussion. The same question has been asked to many of my friends in many interviews and tomorrow again I am expecting this question. So, better to put it down for the benefit of one and all and hence this post.

Information is power. But what exactly makes information powerful ? Its communication and dissemination of information that makes it powerful and effective. This is the underlining philosophy behind ICT. In the 1990s there came a boom in IT. This was the phase when organizations and individuals alike started developing and using software - stand alone software. This phase was about converting data into information. During the late 1990s internet started gaining popularity. This was the start of the phase 2 - the ICT revolution. The focus was dissemination of information. So, ICT is the next level of IT. ICT includes converting data into information, managing information and disseminating information. Now, every technology, every device and every method which does all these is a part of ICT. People many times misinterpret ICT as Telecom. Yes, Telecom is a part of ICT but its a proper subset of ICT. ICT is much much more than just telecom. The earliest ICT technology which I could think of right now is telegraph systems. Presently, internet, telecommunication, web 2.0, embedded systems, smart homes, smart cards, RFIDs, ERP systems, CRM systems, railways reservation systems and the list will go on and on, are the examples of ICT in action. The mission of ICT in the present context is 'Connecting Everything with Everything Else'.

If you think carefully then today, everyone is heavily dependent on ICT. And future will definitely be governed by ICT. So, whats the next big thing happening ? If we look at some of the the stats then as of 31st March 2008 nearly 21.9% of the world's population is using internet (source: Mobile penetration in India is around 25%. These numbers speak something. They speak about the growth opportunities in these spaces. But apart from connecting masses, the real next wave of development is in accordance to the theme of connecting everything with everything else. All the devices will be connected together with your mobile phone at the center stage. I wrote a paper in my B.Tech and it was about how our mobile phones can be used as remote controls. Although my paper was not selected for the competition but I strongly believe that will become reality and with cloud computing and smart phones a glimpse of that can already be seen (you see how futuristic I am! But the problem is people don't easily accept when you present something new to them! woff.....). Mobile phone will be your digital identity. It will act as a key, as your credit card, as your remote control and any thing you can possibly think of. But this has sometime to become a reality, but surely within next 10 years. In the immediate future what is going to change our lives is the Windows 7 release in 2010. Microsoft surface technology is going to redefine the way we use gadgets presently. It will also help in penetrating the masses as touch screens are much easier to communicate with than any other device. The only factor which will be extremely crucial is the cost factor. If we look at the business implications of all these developments then the integration of mobiles and the goal of connecting everything with everything else will change the way in which presently any industry functions. PDAs are already popular in the business fraternity but this is going to create new businesses which will focus on providing application based on the principle of connecting everything with everything else. Network Security will boom. New devices will be innovated and all the devices will be revolving around the touch based technology. I am not sure of the bio tech impact. But surely there are some interesting researches going on in that area also and ultimately that will also merge with the connectivity principle. Remember the movie Minority Report in which personalized advertisements were given to 100s and 1000s of users simultaneously, Bio Tech can make that possible.

There are some challenges also. The challenges are less technical and more social. When you are connecting everything with everything else such that there is seamless communication, you are relying too much on technology. In other words there is always a danger of you being trapped in technology. And unethical hackers can destroy you very easily. So, security is of prime concern. At the same time user sensitive information is to be handled carefully. I mentioned in my earlier post of web 2.0 about the way people use a system. The point is people will continue to do so ignoring the underlining principles on which system has been built and later they will blame the system for it. So, proper user education is a must, which is the most difficult task. Another one of the most important point to note is the increase of digital divide. This is a very important point and if ignored it will destroy our civilizations because the political implications of the increasing digital divide where 25% of the population is 2 curves ahead of the other 3/4th will raise issues which won't be easy to solve! But there is ray of hope over here also. Since there would be gap in the society, it will create new businesses to fill that gap - afterall that what free market is supposed to do, but how far will it go is difficult to predict.

So, you see ICT is much bigger then what the general perception is. Hope this piece has helped you to understand ICT and next time there would be lesser people asking me "Oh! IT"....


Avi said...

next time I'll point ppl to read this when they ask me this question :)

Ankit said...

It was a nice read. The points such as ubiquitousness of mobile phones and MS Surface computing were like value addition to the post.
I'm going to bookmark the link so that I don't have to start from the scratch while resolving people's dilemma about what am I doing.

Pradeep Dhadda said...

Good one!
Nice article to bring forward the essence of ICT. Like any new concept, ICT too is treated with scepticism and equaled to IT for convenience. Its definitly much more than just IT.