Information systems (IS) refers to a synchronized system of individual data records and processes that collect, store and disseminate information in an organization. Information systems has evolved as a sub unit of computer science aimed at comprehending the management of technology and associated data in organizations. Information systems are vital in virtually all organizations in the world. From governments to businesses and even homes, the use of information systems is paramount to the continuity and success of these organizations. In business for instance, business planning and strategy information is required by senior management to plan the operations of the business. Middle level managers need information systems to monitor the daily operations of the business. Information systems are of great importance even to the operational level employees as they carry out their duties in the business. These create different levels of information systems in the organization distinguished by the varying scales of hierarchy present in the organization (Meadow, 1929).
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Typically there are different types of information systems in an organization. The most critical is the executive support system that is tailored to enable senior decision makers in every organization make sound judgment in the running the organization. Executive support systems assemble, evaluate and review the internal and external information present in the organization. The closest analogy that explains the executive support system would be the instrument panel in the cockpit of an aircraft. These dials show the conditions of every component of the aircraft and conditions within and outside the plane. Any malfunctions are recorded on the instrument panel and the pilot simply makes decisions based on the readings from the panel similar to the decisions made in the organizations (Steinke, 1990).
Management information systems (MIS) are another type of information system that controls the internal flow of information within an organization. MIS utilizes management reports in disseminating information that is commonly used by middle level decision makers in an organization. These reports give the assessment of the daily running of the organization and are a useful management tool. Exit management information system and enter decision support system (DSS). This system is designed to aid in decision making under conditions of uncertainty of possible outcomes. Decision support systems are a collection of what if models that navigate between complex spreadsheets and databases to congregate analyze and profile information for decision making (Meadow, 1929).
Another type of information system is the knowledge management system (KMS). This class of information system enables organizations to make and distribute information. This is mostly used in organizations that have numerous sources of news, new knowledge and skills that are frequently among the members of the organization. Organizations that use this kind of information system are accounting and law firms. Knowledge management systems are structured around systems that ease classification and sharing of knowledge (Meadow, 1929). This utilizes networks and databases like intranets. Organizations that process transactions use Transaction Processing Systems (TPS). These are systems tailored to precisely and in an efficient manner, process habitual transactions. They take the form of billing systems, stock management systems, production and purchasing systems and even payroll systems (Steinke, 1990).
Information systems therefore hold the data for all organizations and people in databases retrievable at the click of a button. The availability of such classified information can drive people with selfish interests to hack into other organization and people’s profile with malicious intentions (Stahl, 2004). The safety of this information is not guaranteed given the concerns issued by governments over increasing cases of terrorism and the need to have a profile on each citizen in a central database to help combat this menace (Hyatt, 2001). Beginning in the cold war era, intelligence policies based on information systems was used by countries at war to prevent their enemies from laying their hands on military secrets. Counter-offensive and defensive tactics were used by these institutions to guard these pieces of intelligence materials. Stringent rules and regulations were instituted in the acquisition, breakdown and propagation of information. These were carried over into the modern age in the wake of increased threat of terrorism from individuals and rogue nations (Yew et al, 2005).
Today it is becoming difficult to possibly anticipate the likelihood of attack in any part of the world from any quarter simply because potential and actual enemies are little known, their mode of attack impossible to predict and the worst is the numerous possible targets spread allover the world. With information system, data can be shared among concerned parties about possible threats and vulnerabilities and ease the fight against terrorism. Information about people and organization is important as it crates a starting point in casting a wide net in an attempt to curb terrorism (Solop & Wonders, 2003).
In the United States, the September 11th tragedy changed the course of management of information relevant for the fight against terrorism. In the borders customs officials have employed the use of radiation detectors and x-ray scanners with immigration personnel checking foreigners in enhanced databases. Bolstered by the USA PATRIOT act 2001, increased screening has become the norm in the country’s airports. Department of Homeland Security collects data on the level of exposure of the country’s infrastructure and the vulnerability of her landmarks. Other organizations synthesize and share information from all possible sources. Many institutions mandated to counter terrorism have developed data mining and pattern recognition technologies giving a red light on the possible invasion of privacy (Beckman, 2007).
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In the UK the government ventured into a multibillion exercise to monitor emails, phone and internet records of every individual in the nation to help fight terrorism. This espionage program would entail the creation of an enormous central computer database that would store details of data traffic traversing UK. Areas of keen interest would be chatrooms and extremist websites. Without a central information system database, electronic data from online communication is stored by hundreds of service providers. These firms store information temporarily hence to establish historical links with blacklisted websites will be difficult. However, if all information was kept in a central place, these links would be established a practice that robs the citizens of their privacy (Yew et al, 2005). Conflicts of government interest and public interest have been rife in the U.S with the federal agencies removing thousands of pages containing US installations and infrastructure from books public documents and websites. Advances in information technology have led to the transformation of communication through the use of teleconferencing and internet making the world a global village where information can be shared in real time. This has posed a challenge to many governments in coordinating the vast amount of data recovered. Efficient analysis is therefore key to synthesizing these large quantities of data (Solop & Wonders, 2003).
To fully maximize the benefits of information systems and utilize it to fight terrorism with special emphasis placed on privacy of individuals and protecting openness, the institutions must first evaluate the need for which the information is intended. Conventional investigation methods like cross referencing databases like reservation records, phone logs, and credit histories have proved useful and can be relied upon (Cady & McGregor, 2002). Other cross referencing methods are aimed at checking law enforcement, immigration and intelligence information. Efforts to protect installations, infrastructure and landmarks should be boosted by mapping the level of vulnerability of such and information systems come in handy in profiling these phenomena. These also contribute to efficient communication incase of a tragedy as first hand communication is needed to asses the extent of damage without ambiguity thus cutting down panic. Issues of trust between governments and citizens have emerged especially the debate whether citizens can trust the government with their personal information. The private sector is ever wary of negligence exhibited by public bodies in managing information. With every citizen expecting that governments collection of these information is meant to counter terrorism doubts among citizens heighten governments’ data gathering and distribution capacity (Caloyannides, 2004).
Efforts to curb terrorism involve offensive and defensive techniques. These and the information and intelligence that aid in their smooth operation represent a model of information systems management that operates under conditions of uncertainty making it a decision support system(DSS). These conditions of uncertainty include the chances that a terrorist will launch an attack of a given kind against an installation or civilians, the chances of successful execution of the intended plan and the ramifications of a successful attack. For a smooth operation of these systems, the following events have to be present (Solop & Wonders, 2003).
Large amounts of data have to be present to justify the exercise. The intelligence that collect information on terrorism encounter an overwhelming amount of data mined from virtually every department in the state. Other information systems scenario that should be present is different sources of data should be collated to for proper assessment. To evaluate a possible risk of terror, information on the looming threat and the target have to be in handy. This information comes from sources trained on collection and analysis. To asses the possible effects and damages, engineers and scientists will be used to estimate the possible destruction. Security experts can as well be used to evaluate the exposure or vulnerability of certain installations and strategic points. The information system also presents itself in its diversre form that includes subjective judgments, forecasted data and results of simulation (Steinke, 1990).
Modern management information system has created fusion models in trying to explain the convergence of information that could be used for anti terrorism purposes.
Data fusion commonly known as merging is the convergence of data from diverse sources to aid the investigative process. Complementing human efforts electronic data handling facilities are used to scan data from voluminous reports, check hypotheses and draw conclusions. Data fusion models are commonly used U.S. Joint Directors of Laboratories (JDL). Data fusion has its processes beginning with object refinement that involve the use observable phenomena in tagging and tracking a physical object on sea, air or land. Objects in motion are given special attention since the system is targeted for kinematic state objects. These systems utilize positional estimation to track them using data association theory. Location modification is also used to aid reasoning by ploughing through the massive data to form abstract predictions and is usually done by simulating the human cognitive process. This can be used to plot the course of action (Stahl, 2004).
The biggest challenge to information systems in antiterrorism efforts is invasion of privacy. Governments should protect the rights of citizens first in the fight against terror. Information privacy and legal rights are fundamental private rights of individuals that should not be breached by any agency in their efforts to curb terror. With several governments storing the details of communication in a single database accessible by the police and other authorities the citizens feel crowded and wary that their every step is under watch.
- Beckman, J. (2007) Comparative Legal Approaches to Homeland Security and Anti-terrorism, USA, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd
- Cady, H & McGregor, P. (2002) Protect Your Digital Privacy: Survival Skills for the Information Age, Canada, Que Publishing
- Caloyannides, A. (2004) Privacy Protection and Computer Forensics, USA, Artech House
- Hyatt M.S. (2001) Invasion of privacy: How to protect yourself in the digital age, USA, Regnery Publishing
- Meadow, T (1929) The Analysis of Information Systems: A Programmer’s Introduction to Information Retrieval, USA, Wiley Press
- Solop, F. I. and Wonders, N. A. (2003) “Homeland (In)Security: Terror And Privacy In The New World Order” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Sheraton Music City, Nashville, TN
- Stahl, B. (2004) Responsible Management of Information Systems,USA, Idea Group
- Steinke A. (1990) Electronic Information Systems in Sci-Tech Libraries, USA, Haworth Press
- Sykes, C. (2000) The End of Privacy: [the attack on personal rights – at home, at work, on-line, and in court], USA, St. Martin’s Press
- Yew, M. et al (2005) Global Anti-terrorism Law and Policy, UK, Cambridge University Press