In nearly every corner of the world, from Mumbai to Madrid, one cannot enter a café or walk down the street without seeing someone talking, texting, or surfing the Internet on their cell phones, laptops or tablet PCs. Information Technology (IT) has become ubiquitous and is changing every aspect of how people live their lives.
Recent advances in our ability to communicate and process information in digital form— a series of developments sometimes described as an “IT revolution”—are reshaping the economies and societies of many countries around the world.
IT is a driving factor in the process of globalization. Improvements in the early 1990s in computer hardware, software, and telecommunications greatly increased people’s ability to access information and economic potential. While advancements in Internet-based tools over the past five to ten years, such as social networking websites, twitter, and other Web2.0 applications are changing the way people use and share information for personal, political, and commercial purposes. These developments have facilitated efficiency gains in all sectors of the economy. IT drives the innovative use of resources to promote new products and ideas across nations and cultures, regardless of geographic location. Creating efficient and effective channels to exchange information, IT has been the catalyst for global integration.
Products based upon, or enhanced by, information technology are used in nearly every aspect of life in contemporary industrial societies. The spread of IT and its applications has been extraordinarily rapid. Just 30 years ago, for example, the use of desktop personal computers was still limited to a fairly small number of technologically advanced people. The overwhelming majority of people still produced documents with typewriters, which permitted no manipulation of text and offered no storage.
Twenty years ago, large and bulky mobile telephones were carried only by a small number of users in just a few U.S. cities. According to the UN Telecom Agency, there were six billion cellphone subscriptions worldwide at the end of 2011. China had one billion subscriptions and India is expected to reach one billion in 2012 (Huffington Post, 2012). In some developing countries, mobile phones are used by more people than the fixed line telephone network.
But perhaps most dramatically, just fifteen years ago, only scientists were using (or had even heard about) the Internet, the World Wide Web was not up and running, and the browsers that help users navigate the Web had not even been invented yet. Today, of course, the Internet and the Web have transformed commerce, creating entirely new ways for retailers and their customers to make transactions, for businesses to manage the flow of production inputs and market products, and for job seekers and job recruiters to find one another. The U.N. telecom agency estimates that by the end of 2011, there were 2.3 billion Internet users worldwide (Huffington Post, 2012).
The news industry was dramatically transformed by the emergence of numerous Internet-enabled news-gathering and dissemination outlets. Websites, blogs, instant messaging systems, e-mail, social networking sites and other Internet-based communication systems have made it much easier for people with common interests to to connect, exchange information, and collaborate with each other. Education at all levels is continually transforming thanks to innovations in communication, education, and presentation software. Websites now serve as a primary source of information and analysis for the masses.
Globalization accelerates the change of technology. Every day it seems that a new technological innovation is being created. The pace of change occurs so rapidly many people are always playing catch up, trying to purchase or update their new devices. Technology is now the forefront of the modern world creating new jobs, innovations, and networking sites to allow individuals to connect globally. The timeline below shows the rapid transformation of how technology has accelerated within the last 20 years to 2012.
- 16 years ago: Internet commercialized
- 15 years ago: first mobile phone with Internet connectivity
- 13 years ago: Google named the search engine of choice by PC magazine
- 10 years ago: Blackberry launched
- 7 years ago: Facebook launched
- 5 years ago: Twitter launched
- 4 years ago: iPhone, the first of the smart phones, introduced
- 3 years ago: Groupon introduced
- 1 year ago: 17 million smart tablets sold — estimated that 100 + million by 2014
- Every 60 seconds (so it seems): new apps, tailored to users’ specific needs created
Advances in Information Technology
The IT revolution drives the extraordinarily rapid decline in the cost and rapid increase in the processing power of digital technologies. The digital device whose technological advance has perhaps been most crucial to the IT revolution is the microprocessor, the collections of millions of tiny circuits that serve as the “brains” of personal computers and that are embedded in an ever-expanding number of products, from video games, to cars, to refrigerators. Over the past two decades, the processing power of microprocessors has doubled roughly every six months.
Rapid advancements in fiber optic technologies have also been critical to the IT revolution. Fiber optics technology enables data, including voices captured in digital form, to be converted into tiny pulses of light and then transmitted at high speeds through glass fibers wrapped into large capacity telecommunication cables. Hundreds of thousands of miles of these cables were installed over the past ten years, boosting the speed and capacity of telecommunications networks. A contributing factor to the growing technology sector is human capital.. The majority of tech firms worldwide have leveled the baseline production of new technology to the point where they seek new areas of improvement for their products. Human capital, the workforce, drives these advancements and often the reason why one company succeeds, while others do not. Tech firms seek skilled workers with knowledge of technology and problem solving skills, which gives them an edge over the competition. Technology companies in the U.S. are pushing for better immigration policies so they can hire the best and the brightest from around the world.
The transformation of the technology sector in the U.S. market resulted in need for software developers, computer and information systems managers, and computer systems analysts . New jobs such as these are commodities in the globalized world of technology, especially for companies recruiting individuals from technologically advanced countries. The growing market for tech jobs will continue to increase as technologies become even further integrated into society.. More and more jobs will become available to individuals that obtained degrees in technology orientated fields. According to Catherine Mann (2003) “Frequently cited projections indicate that millions of jobs will be lost to offshore workers. What these projections ignore is that the globalization of software and IT services, in conjunction with diffusion of IT to new sectors and businesses will yield even stronger job demand in the United States for IT-proficient workers.”
Driving Down the Cost of Information Transactions
A key reason why these advances in IT have spread so quickly is that they have progressively reduced the unit cost of computing power or the transmission of a message. For less than $400, Americans without any advanced technical training can purchase and use a desktop computer whose data processing power far exceeds the room-sized computers that powered the spacecraft that carried astronauts to the moon and back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Companies such as Microsoft have even sold $100 computers to consumers in emerging countries as a way of helping developing countries use more advanced technological resources.
The decline in computing prices is a factor in spurning the growth of computers in the developing world. Countries such as Zimbabwe, India, Brazil, and China experienced tremendous growth in the number of personal computers. From 2000 to 2005, the growth rate of personal computers per capitaPer unit of population. Per capita energy consumption, for example, is the amount of energy that is used on average by each person in a given country. exceeded 200 percent for most of these nations, with developing countries like Zimbabwe increasing almost 600 percent. By the end of 2011, there were reportedly more than 1.6 billion PCs in use, with the U.S. in first place and China in second. (eTForecasts, 2012).
The spread of digital technologies has also been spurred by several unique attributes of information, which serves as the principal input and product of many IT industries. In contrast to more tangible products, like consumer goods, one person’s “consumption” of a piece of information does not necessarily reduce or eliminate the possibility that another person might benefit from the same piece of information.
Furthermore, networks built upon the exchange of information, like the Internet, tend to become more valuable to existing participants as new participants link up with them. Finally, the cost of using digital technologies, such as Internet service providers, decreases as the number of users increases. All of these factors have worked together to promote rapid growth in the demand for, and supply of, IT products and services.
During the second half of the 1990s, as more people bought computers and went online, the average cost of the equipment and services necessary to access the Internet declined. Today, individuals go beyond the conventional desktop computer to stay connected: Wi-Fi networks, laptops, smartphones, tablet PCs, and even phones utilize Wi-Fi networks to make the Internet an integral—and necessary—part of everyday life.
* Picture Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sydneya/130164091/
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