Information technology in social development: the reality bites essay

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: THE REALITY BITES. ABSTRACT Development in society is a continuous phenomenon, triggered by technological innovations, human values and a synergistic association of the duo. Such an association inevitably creates ripples of enhancement in productivity, solidarity and security of a society leading to developments in many a dimension of the social entity. The Paper attempts to locate the association of information technology in social enhancement.

The paper then explores in phases the Indian development scenario in the backdrop of information technology. It highlights the elements of technology and human values work in the socio-economic periphery. INTRODUCTION Development is the process of continuously enhancing the capacity of society to respond to opportunities and challenges by increasing its level of organization. The process of social development occurs by increasing the scope and complexity of the organization and the interactions between and amongst the societal values, beliefs and institutions.

The movement involves a simultaneous development of the social fabric in quantitative terms of size and carrying capacity of social activities; in qualitative terms of enhancing the productivity; in geographical terms covering a wide segment of the population. The physical application of mind for scientific discovery and technological invention and the social application of mind for organizational innovation have been powerful forces for social development over the past few centuries. The 20th century has been heralded as the century of the common man. Never before has the society been accorded with such value and consideration for the poorest and lowliest of its citizens.

The granting of universal suffrage and acceptance of the goal of universal education are unprecedented steps. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) IN DEVELOPMENT Science and technology are expected to play a vitally important role in ensuring national security and social stability. The past demonstrated a different picture while technological progress made only a minor contribution to the growth of national income now its time that this should be changed; the technological gap with developed countries should be educed. The entire realm of human activity depends on the power of information.

It cannot therefore be denied that the changes we are living through can be attributed to Information Technology or IT. Today, the entire planet is encircled by computer networks at the heart of information systems and communication processes. Technology in areas of public health such as disease control, medicine and medical electronics drives lives. Technology has been a custodian of the environment for better dwelling conditions on the one hand, and for increased productivity of the land on the other. Development of information technology as is directly related to daily living will increase social benefits and this in turn will help reduce urbanization.

The preference for urban living will disappear with the development of an information system on a nationwide scale. Technology, however, does not solve social problems. Nor can it be termed as a factor for development. It is the organizational development that can be a factor for social development. One interesting observation of technology as a stimulus for development is that owing to information and communication technologies countries are able to modernize their production systems and increase their competitiveness faster than in the past. There are also instances of countries being unable to adapt to the new technological system thereby inviting a cumulative retardation. The discrepancy is because of the fact that to reap the ultimate benefits of information technology it is imperative that the society at large should be able to assimilate and process complex information. This depends primarily on the degree of acceptance of information by the population.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN DEVELOPING NATIONS IT has already manifested a significant impact on the political and social dimensions of development, specifically by enhancing participation in decision-making processes at the corporate, local and national levels. Also in developing countries like India, it can be a powerful tool for empowering individuals, promoting their initiatives, decentralizing management and exposing the diversity of views and interests in respect of the political, social and economic issues facing their communities. At present, the production and use of IT are highly concentrated in the developed countries, which account for more than 90 per cent of the global market. In order to ensure that the benefits of IT permeate and transform conditions of competitiveness and wealth, the technologies and infrastructure must be accessible to one and all more specifically with the developing nations and the population must include trained workers and specialists, who are able to avail themselves of the opportunities presented by the IT revolution.

This calls for both national and international policies, as well as funds and other resources, to install and maintain the necessary facilities and other infrastructure. Even with the availability of the necessary infrastructure, the exploitation of IT to productive advantage depends on a number of other factors, including adequate levels of education and income and supportive policies. It takes a certain minimum level of literacy and numeracy in a significant proportion of the population to create conditions for the assimilation, adaptation and application of relevant knowledge to the social life. Given the very low levels of income of the general populace in most developing countries, and the absence of means for the application of these technologies, the use of IT will continue to be restricted. Under such circumstances, the potential inherent in IT development and application to ensure economic development and assist social integration will not be realized. Even developing countries that have benefited from IT are concerned with the IT impact on the volume and pattern of employment. With IT, whole categories of jobs in a wide range of industries can disappear. This is particularly true for unskilled workers, as well as for those who cannot be retrained to match the requirements of the new types of employment opportunities that evolve.

In countries where the IT revolution is just about to take hold, a new wave of “ brain drain” may emerge with large numbers of IT-skilled labour migrating to economically more advanced countries in search of better opportunities and higher earnings. This may have serious repercussions on the capacities of such developing countries to integrate their own wider production system into the information-based global economy. If the economic promises of IT ever became a reality throughout the developing world, the scale effect of the increase in global economic activity could have a serious detrimental impact on the environment worldwide. This possibility does not call for restricting economic growth or indeed for slowing globalization and the progress of the IT revolution itself, but rather for conscious precautionary environmental policies. India is a striking example of a country where the software industry has grown explosively, particularly in the last decade. The Indian experience is of interest, as it raises issues of whether there were conditions specific to that country that facilitated the growth of its software industry, which may or may not be replicable in other developing countries. These conditions include the role of technical education and research support, and the ability of larger numbers of programmers to write software fluently in English, as well as the existence of a professionally educated Indian diaspora in the United States of America.

Such factors may be at least as important as supportive government policy and investments in infrastructure for the growth of the software business. In its initial years, the software industry in India began to generate substantial export revenue without very much support from the Government. It was only after the software business had acquired strength that fiscal support began to be provided and constraints on raising resources—domestically and overseas—was eased. Recently, however, enhanced consumption of software is beginning to be apparent, partly owing to infrastructural development and the process of telecommunications deregulation which began as late as 1999. While India does draw from a substantial reservoir of trained engineers, much of the software it produces consists of services and not products, is low down the value chain, and is written by less highly trained professionals. Diminishing marginal returns are also likely in respect of the ability of Indian software engineers to write in English.

More successful Indian companies moved up the value chain by producing more specialized software; the international market for the basic applications software is likely to become competitive, and other developing countries are likely to compete successfully through low wages. THE REALITY BITES The industrial age, heralded by the Industrial Revolution, has been the pioneer in sewing social development with the lives of the people. Capital accumulation and investment, technological development geared towards material production, and massive inputs of labor and natural resources were the generators of wealth.

And despite the shortcomings of the existing class societies, development flourished with all fervour. When information and communication technologies empower humankind with the ability to feed knowledge back into knowledge, experience into experience, that there is an ample scope for productivity potential. An educated labor force will lead to a multidimensional enhancement in the quality of life. The interaction between economic growth and social development in the information age is a complex one. It is the entire social organization that becomes productive.

Without social development, there would be a diffusion of economic development around the world, based upon a cost-lowering formula, rather than a productivity-enhancing model. The reintegration of social development and economic growth through technological innovation, informational management, and shared world development will not be accomplished by simply relying on unfettered market forces. It will require massive technological upgradation coupled with a strategy of the highest interest for everyone, including business, and particularly for high technology companies. An appropriate use of the Internet is in fact the most important feature in such an upgrading.

It will require the establishment of a world wide network of science and technology, in which the most advanced universities, will be willing to share knowledge and expertise for the common good. It must aim at reversing the marginalization of entire countries, or cities or neighborhoods, so that the human potential that is being wasted — and particularly that of children — can be reinvested. All people must become valued producers and consumers In the context of the present discussion it is evident that the obstacles, of course, are political. In part, they are related to very narrow business strategies. But if we know what we want, why we want it, and how to do it, we have the basic groundwork from which we can convince business and governments.

A strong pressure of public opinion in the world in favor of a shared development strategy, with its potentially positive payoff in environmental conservation, may win the race. TO SUM UP Information Technology is not the cause of the changes we are living through. But in the absence of information technologies none of what is changing our lives would be possible. The entire realm of human activity depends on the power of information. The crucial role of information and communication technologies in stimulating development is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows countries to advance in the stages of economic growth by being able to modernize their production systems and increase their competitiveness faster than in the past. In fact, information and communication technology is the essential tool for economic development and material well being in our age; it conditions power, knowledge and creativity; for the full realization of its developmental value, an inter-related system of flexible organizations and information-oriented institutions would be essential. In short, cultural and educational development conditions technological development which initiates economic and social development would stimulate cultural and educational development yielding a virtuous circle of development.

REFERENCES: •www. worldbank. org •www. nas. edu •www. ouc.

es. org •The CDP Report 2000 •http://www. komm. ruc.

dk/mcmc/extdocs/castells. html