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The term I.C.T, otherwise known as Information and Communication Technology, encompasses quite a wide range of the scope of multi-dimensional communication infrastructures and systems employed for enhancing effective communications in business and public organisation.
As implied by the abbreviation and also the full meaning of it, the said communication occurs at different levels and for different purposes, some of which has to be secured, but all of them share one thing in common: they are all enhanced through computers and electronic networks.
In recent times, almost every organisation is dependent or assisted with one type of communication equipment or another and the fact that such communication infrastructures can be easily linked to Information Technologies could be claimed as prove of the importance of I.C.T in organisations. To make this argument more clear, it is necessary to pinpoint some specific organisations, both private and governmental whose operation will collapse or highly hindered, should the I.C.T aspect of it be removed or for some reason cease to function.
To make the picture clearer, the organisations to be analysed will be categorised and then individual organisation will now be placed undo the category they belong to before they are further analysed. The major categories are Private and Governmental and thereafter we look at how the chains are connected and interwoven.
This sector is divisible into various other major sub-categories namely:
1. Security: These are organisations such as the security agents including the police, army, customs, immigration officers, civil defence corps, and also the secret agents. In this sector there is a lot of communication and information exchange going on, some of which are beyond the British borders, e.g. our soldiers in Iraq has to make constant uninterrupted communications via phones, internet, and other satellite-linked, wireless technology networks. They also need to communicate with one another both as groups or platoons and also as individual. Here, the communication network has to be as secured as can be.
2. Social: This relates to everything from financial help to psychological helps and also political helps for foreigners such as asylum seekers and other classes of immigrants. At this level also communication and efficient information transfer is a necessity. Help-line telephone services that is installed with up- to-date software for managing calls, sometime on a 24-hour basis and transferring such calls automatically to the officer responsible for each individual cases and also to maintain an orderly queue where necessary. A log of all the official activities is created and stored in the appropriate database, which is connected via LAN networking system and thus the internet or intranet network system to transfer the logged cases to other concerned offices within the department or to the outside near and fear government departments for preparing statistical data (such as spreadsheets), prepare budgets or to inform deliberations on crucial social issues, such as how to manage illegal migration into the country.
3. Commercial: Sometimes, the government is also involved in commercial ventures, especially in the area of social amenities, such as electricity, telecommunications, transportation, agriculture, and some special production sectors, e.g. exploration and export of mineral resources.
4. Education: Governments role in the education sector is very high. From nurseries to University education and adult’s literacy and vocational trainings, the government’s hands will always be found in the pie. To effectively plan and monitor the activities in this sector, the government need to be well equipped with the relevant I.C.T. infrastructures. A good database that is interpreted and organised by a good spreadsheet software. Appropriate networking facilities that will link every arm of this education system’s ladder to the monitoring departments and sections must be in place.
It must be noted here also that each of the education levels have their individual basic I.C.T needs. For example, At the secondary school level, the teacher manages his classes, schedules and attendance register from a laptop computer, running probably on Windows XP Professional Operating System and installed with Bromcom’s Winfolder which is currently version 2.03. This software is the one that collects daily register for the teacher from the school’s server, which is equipped with Bromcom’s e-School MIS version is 2.10.2, the softwares that prepares the register ready for the other day. The teacher’s laptop is either connected either via the CAT5e cables to the Ethernet LAN port which links him to the server, or connected wirelessly via network cards. The server which probably runs on Microsoft SQL houses the schools database and connects to the outside network system via optic fibres of the type Fibre Optic Multimode GBIC (1.25Gb/s bi-directional). The server is secured against power interruptions through the use of Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). UPS is a battery system that enables to server to carry on functioning for a period of time in the event of a power outage, or enough time for it to safely shut down if the power outage is for an extended period.
The teacher takes class attendance to ascertain that all the registered pupils are in attendance and send same via the internet to the data base which is equally connected to back-up storage outside of the school premises to secure against accidental data loss. The library system is another complex I.C.T. system that is active both locally and also on the network to the outside, running on effective software that facilitates an dynamically updated warehouse of information about the whereabouts of library materials and also for calling materials that is in urgent need, or have overstayed with the borrower.
5. Health: Health is wealth as the saying goes. The governments involvement in the health sector in deep and this ranges from procurement of hospital equipments to physical maintenance of the hospital premises-employment and payment of wages. Monitoring of all the activities at the health sector is quite important and this often is done in real time or through other communication channels including writing on paper, which is printed out on a printer connected to computer system connected to both intranet and internet networks. The health sector is undoubtedly another fertile soil for the I.C.T. systems. If we have to start analysing the way in which the hospital, as an entity, operates on a daily basis; we will see how appointments are booked on phone, and the doctors’ secretaries will keep a log of the appointments, having sent a notice to the concerned doctor’s calendar of schedule. The patient may have to be sent a printed letter of notification as a reminder of the appointment date and time. All these activities are also stored in the department’s database, which is sent automatically to the hospitals’ central database, which probably is equipped with multiple hard drives in a RAID array to allow the system to continue functioning in the event of the loss of any one hard drive and also back-up tape drive, which allows a back-up of vital information and for several copies of this data to be kept off site. The doctors, office and consulting room is equipped with computers, which run on up-to-date Operating Systems and also have special software featuring medical encyclopedia, and maybe old cases’ database, from which they could compare difficult cases and find solutions via the network. The doctors always record their finding on Dictaphones and this is probably for sharing with other colleagues for knowledge’s sake, but our concern here is that all these equipments are I.C.T based.
Heart-beat monitors, incubators, ultra-scan equipments, X-ray and physiotherapy equipments and many more are scattered all around the hospital. Patients survive on dialysis machines, which are monitored through computer and network systems.
6. Administration: For administration purposes at all levels of governance is the process dependent on I.C.T infrastructures: Databases, civil registration numbers, national insurance number, passports and national identity cards, budgeting, population distribution and statistics, elections, and many more functions of the government are done via reliable I.C.T. infrastructures.
Looking at the private sector, there is much more application of the I.C.T. equipments. This sector can be further sub divided into the following categories:
• Transport: From Land to air and the sea, transportation is deeply dependent on I.C.T. infrastructures. From Scheduling to announcements, you will always find I.C.T. Take the train services for example, most trains in the UK runs on electric and are scheduled and monitored in real time. Apart from the internal daily runs of this system, the travellers are also included in the chain via e-commerce, such as internet booking and ticketing; the credit card and debit card accessible ticket kiosks are erected for self-services and you can also receive train and coach schedules on your mobile phones in the form of short text messages.
• Manufacturing: Most manufacturing outfits, especially those involved in the production of continuous process products, such as cars, telephones, plastics, dairy products, breweries, etc, are engaging the services of different types of industrial robots for their operation. These robots or programmable production lines are mostly 100% dependent, because daily running of them depends on information communicated through I.C.T media and the whole activities is afterwards, logged for records purpose and also to monitor the process and know when the machine should be over hauled.
• Banking and Finance: Financial institution today are one of the organisations that depend to a high degree on I.C.T. Imagine what the day will be like for the banks and other money markets operators, e.g. Stockbrokers, without their I.C.T. systems. No computers, no internet connections, no printers, no telephones. How will international banking thrive without the internet? How about the credit and debit cards? The situation is better imagined than experienced.
• Insurance: Insurance organisations are more or less like banks. They need a sound I.C.T system for a smooth running of their business every second of the day.
• Supply Chain sector: With the advent of e-commerce, supply chain sector is undergoing some kind of revolution right now. Tesco Supermarket is a testimony to this fact. Other than the fact that they need a good database for managing their wares, they also use laser scanners, bar code readers for both price tags and security of the wares. They also use mobile phones to communicate and collaborate towards, customer satisfaction and use public address systems to make announcements.
• Communication: The story of I.C.T in organisations can never be complete without mentioning the communication sector, whose daily operations are entirely dependent on I.C.T infrastructures. From mobile telephony, featuring mobile phones (with camera, video recorder with playback functionalities, MP3, radio, WAP, Interactive games, chatting, internet, and now T.V; and PDAs with GPS functionalities for navigating continents. Letters are sent within seconds via email messaging, people chat online in written form and also verbally in real time. It was first on the internet that it was possible to see the person you are chatting with via the web cam. Pictures and digital music (MP3) is another mystery of the internet communication and information exchange of limitless magnitude. Now we are having internet television and online cinemas.
• Advertisement: This sector’s business revolves around I.CT. very much. They use computers for graphic design, store information, make and edit video materials and digital animations, scanning and printing are part of their daily activities. These cannot be done without I.C.T infrastructures.
• Consultancy Services: This organisation requires a good database, and sound network system.
• Health: This is similar to that of the government sector earlier mentioned.
• Agriculture: Cow milking, feeding and branding and monitoring have all gone hi-tech. This is made possible through I.C.T.
• Education: The story in the private sector in not much different from that of the government sector.
• Journalism: From news gathering to editing to disseminating, everything in this sector is I.C.T related: Video recorders, digital cameras, Dictaphones, electronic typewriters, computers, etc, are their instrument of office.
• Others: There are many more areas to be cited.
2. Non-profit organisations: Though they are not profit oriented, these organisations still require I.C.T. based equipments such as telephones and Personal Computers (PC) with internet connections, good printers, fax machines and scanners for their daily operations. Their major areas of operation is as listed:
• Social Help
Fig. 1. A chart showing I.C.T-related sectors of the human endeavours and some examples of the infrastructures.
The role of I.C.T in many organisations surrounding our lives cannot be underestimated. They are the pivot on which our entire system revolves.
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