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The Impact of Information Technology on the Human Communication

Outline

The technological revolution has been advancing at an alarming speed, consequently changing the way people do business and communicate. Other than inventions such as telephones, fax, and printing press, the latest fad in computer technology has seen even more dramatic attention in information technology. Some experts have attributed this wave in information communication to information processing, an extension of the wave of the industrial revolution, which would facilitate the development of an information society built on the creation and transfer of information (Brynjolfsson & Hitt 2003, p.793). This ability to process a large volume of information from any point of operation has transformed the global market, leading to a global network of companies. This paper discusses the potential impact of information communication technology; drawing ideas from the present and past trends and experiences.

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Introduction

Revolutions in technology have had a dramatic and ostensible impact on the drastically changing world and society in general. The extensive use of the printing press, for instance, has literally altered the way people do business, learn and think. Another equally effective gadget is the telephone that has not only changed the convenience of communication but has also increased the speed of information flow and enhanced new kinds of human interactions, especially in business. Probably the most astonishing technological revolution of all times emerged with the advent of computers. Over the last two decades, computer technology has changed our daily lives in terms of work-life, business life, and general social life. It is however interesting to note that much of the computer technology changes and impacts occurred in the last ten years, a break from the first half of the two decades when computer applications were basic in nature. Tsai (2003, p. ix) says that the change brought about by computers has been especially dramatic in how business is defined and conducted, and that information technology has contributed to some of the most spectacular business successes of the 1980s and 1990s; “but it has also been responsible for the most crushing business failures of the past decade.”

The technological revolution like a very tiny computer microprocessor has basically transformed the economy, with scholars coiling terms such as the information age, the information society, or the information economy, in an effort to find the best way to describe the latest technological revolution such as internet resulting into e-business (Bartel, Ichniowski & Shaw 2007, p.1721). “We are at the dawn of this digital revolution, which is transforming the dawn of the 21st century the way the industrial revolution transformed the end of the 19th century” (Tsai 2003, p.17). The convincing arguments on what has caused this technological craze is fronted by John Naisbitt, who hypothesized that the new technologies of information processing are an extension of the wave of the industrial revolution, that would facilitate the development of information society built on the creation and transfer of information (Brynjolfsson & Hitt 2003, p.793). In an actual sense, information has turned out to be one of the key resources in the new social and economic relations, just the way energy drove the industrial revolution.

Information technology Vs future business prospects

What then does information technology hold for the future human communication in business; say ten to fifteen years from now? The rapidly growing communication networks and the new media are nonetheless creating a global village and a new culture. It has seen a dramatic decline in the real cost of processing information, communication, and transportation by literally globalizing the markets and expanding the global resource base (Bartel, Ichniowski & Shaw 2007, p.1729). These global communication networks are based on either ground or satellite systems, are virtually all over, making it feasible for a firm to manage not only highly integrated operations but also globally dispersed operations in real-time (Bresnahan, Brynjolfsson & Hitt 2002, p.340; Bresnahan & Trajtenberg 1995, pp.83-84).

It is apparent that even the leading technology industries have adopted one common principle: “open communication for real-time business” (Autor, Katz & Kearney 2006, p.191). They understand that “business, even the hyper-technical one, is not a repetitive mechanical process” but is a people-driven process in terms of ideas as well as communication (Faria, Fenn & Bruce 2002, p.573). Recently, Google was ranked the best employer by Fortune magazine, due to their effort to make business personal by emphasizing the importance of human communication, relationship as well as interaction (Bartel, Ichniowski & Shaw 2007, p.1745). What actually prompted this? In a real sense, the technological advancement that Google has employed has increased the communication means between employees and the management in its global network, enhancing not only the speed of communication but also the reliability of the communication channel. It is therefore prudent to predict that in the next decade, there is likely to be more advancement in terms of improving employee interrelation within the work environment, going by the rate of innovations that are yet to come.

The Virtual corporations

The potential impact of information technology on communication can be seen among the growing trends of virtual corporations. Actually, a virtual corporation’s key objective is to increase the adaptability as well as flexibility between its pools of global staff, through what is normally termed as empowerment and self-control (Astebro 2004, p.381; Bresnahan & Trajtenberg1995, p.102). This capability has allowed global companies to process large volumes of information from any point of operations, hence transforming them into a global network of companies. Technological advancement has also helped firms increase their collaboration and communication across their line of business, a trend that is likely to persist and even intensify in the next decade or so.

In the future, the traditional limitation of time and space is likely to disappear even further due to the dramatic increase in information and communication technologies. The IT sector is quickly becoming a major driving force in the emerging economies just like it has played significant role in the established economies. For example India currently exports of software and its related services amount to a whooping $6 billion a year (Bartel, Ichniowski & Shaw 2007, p.1753). Success in communication technology allowed the “Four Asian Tigers” emerge as only second to North America (p.1754). In the developed countries, almost every business is exposed to multiple forms of information communication technology that may involve online marketing, online buying, and selling of goods and services. This has seen the increased interest in IT education that has prompted many institutions all over the world adopting e-learning to increase the accessibility of their course to a visibly busy generation (Hollenstein 2004, p.38). For example in 2002, China had 67 state universities in its 31 provinces offering accredited online course 800,000 students that was scheduled to take three years and that expenditure on e-learning academic was growing at 74% per annum, growth attributed to the flexibility of place of learning (70%) and accreditation of the degree of study (62%) (pp.41-42).

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The above highlighted case of India can lead to my prediction that the ubiquity of the best information communication contents and processes will help the emerging economies build the resources supporting information communication not only with increased fashion but also in a cheaper and a better way. For example, the recent entry of optic cables to replace the satellite communication in Africa is likely to propel the communication efficiency in the content, bringing with it more business competition. This is because it would be harder for businesses based in Western countries to claim any added value to their business communication process rather than state the age of their accredited brand as Tsai (2003, p.121) describes it. Furthermore, many emerging economies are now putting a lot of emphasis on building their domestic strategies on information communication to spur growth. For instance, Chinese government has invested heavily in their information communication infrastructure: CERNET, an optical backbone that links over 4 million users (expected to rise), one area that is likely to spur growth and develop a fierce competition between the local and foreign companies (Hollenstein 2004, p.56; Banks, Carson, Nelson & Nicol 2000, p.69). Past studies revealed that about 600,000 of the Chinese students who went to study abroad since 1979, only 160,000 returned home after graduating while the majority 430,000 stayed to either continue studying or working abroad (NTO 2001, p.29). The approach by the Chinese government to provide incentives to these highly educated individuals is likely to change the labor market, thus change the information communication landscape (p.33). It is therefore predictable that in the next ten years or so China’s market will be no doubt a major contributor to the global communication technology.

Conclusion

The new wave of information communication can also be seen in the way many companies are putting large investments in the infrastructure. But as has been revealed by many studies, the most important aspect is to develop a culture of shared value that can facilitate information technology adoption (Hollenstein 2004, p.59) says that the investment in advanced communication technologies may not automatically result into improved communication by, and between employees. Already there is emerging concern that the developers of these technologies (information technology experts) and the top managers assume too much of the technology application by the employees. However, with a lot of researches that continues to reveal that it of utmost importance for employees combine technology with face-to-face interactions and that “hand-holding” in the beginning is important for the realization of the success in the information technology (Banks, Carson, Nelson & Nicol 2000, p.41). In line with this, it is likely that these studies will reinforce the idea that regardless of the technology use, the underlying issue of connectedness is the necessary recipe to be emphasized in an effort to find balance between employees and the new technology. This is likely to enhance areas such as improved performance, evaluation and re-training employees.

List of References

Åstebro T 2004, ‘Sunk costs and the depth and probability of technology adoption’, The Journal of Industrial Economics, Vol. 52, No. 3, pp. 381-399.

Autor D, Katz L & Kearney M 2006, ‘The polarization of the U.S. labor market’, American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings, Vol. XCVI, pp. 189-194.

Banks J, Carson S, Nelson L & Nicol M 2000, Discrete-Event System Simulation 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Bartel A, Ichniowski C & Shaw K 2007, ‘How does information technology affect productivity?Plant-level comparisons of product innovation, process improvement, and worker skills,’ The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 122, No. 4, pp. 1721-1758.

Bresnahan T & Trajtenberg M 1995 ‘General purpose technologies: engines of growth?’, Journal of Econometrics, Vol. 65, pp. 83-108.

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Bresnahan T, Brynjolfsson E & Hitt L 2002, “Information technology, workplace organization and the demand for skilled labor: firm-level evidence”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 117, No. 1, pp. 339-376.

Brynjolfsson E & Hitt L 2003, ‘Computing productivity: firm-level evidence’, Review of Economics and Statistics, Vol. 85, No. 4, pp. 793-808.

Faria A, Fenn P & Bruce A 2002, “Determinants of adoption of flexible production technologies: evidence from Portuguese manufacturing industry”, Economic of Innovation and New Technology, Vol. 11, No. 6, pp. 569-580.

Hollenstein H 2004, ‘The decision to adopt information and communication Technologies (ICT): firm-level evidence for Switzerland’, The Economic Impact of ICT Measurement, Evidence and Implications, Paris: OECD, pp. 37-60.

NTO 2001, “IT and communications professionals in the UK”, Labour Market Intelligence Report, London.

Tsai H 2003, Information Technology and Business Process Reengineering: New Perspective and Strategies, New York, Praeger Publishers.

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