January 2006

ICT diffusion for socio-economic transformation

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The realisation of the potential impact that ICTs can make on human development enabled the widespread diffusion of technology through a vertical and multilevel process giving access to the technology to disadvantaged communities and individuals.

Development in information and communication technologies (ICTs) during the last quarters of the 20th century has ushered a new era in the history of mankind. Termed as 'Information-Age' the phase has marked a revolutionary transformation of technology from industrial units for production to that of social spheres of development with a thrust on human welfare by widening the economic and productivity base.

Evolutionary impacts of ICT
This evolutionary transformation is made possible by the dramatic increase in computing power ensured by the emergence and rapid revolution of microprocessor technology. Thus the growth in computing power has triggered a veritable race in developing digital devices that can exploit the power by offering required peripherals so as to extend capabilities. These devices served as aids for recording, organi-sing, retrieving, displaying and dissemi-nating information at faster phase. Further, the technological changes have reduced the cost substantially facilitating the spread of information into all aspects of human life.

The realisation of the potential impact that ICTs can make on human development enabled the widespread diffusion of technology through a vertical and multilevel process giving access to the technology to disadvantaged communities and individuals. Such diffusion is realised by its connectivity through which the full human development potential of the technology is ensured. It is this access to information and communication technologies that has helped most of the western countries to evolve into a socially and economically self reliant developed nations.

ICTs in rural development
The promise that ICT revolution holds for the developing nations is manifold. It is expected to result in the growth and diversification of the ICT sector leading to the rapid expansion of output and employment opportunities. Use of ICTs in the agriculture, non-ICT manufacturing and service sectors is expected to bring about a fundamental transformation in the nature of production sectors with major implications in terms of labour, productivity, growth and employment. Penetration of ICTs is again expected to reshape the method of work and market systems and the way in which individuals and communities can track and access information and services, leading to changes in the structures of markets, improve the quality of life, deepen the participatory values of democracy and many more major advances in terms of human development indicators.

In an agrarian country like India, a lot of ICT initiatives have been made and the nation continues to be a perennial ground for many such practical and sensible innovations to catch the youth afresh for the progress of the country. However,
the great tasks of ICTs in raising the living standards of its citizens in the short span of Independence cannot be underestimated. 

The concern of government at national, state/provincial and local levels to incorporate ICTs into its local levels of development is visible in the large number of e-Governance projects in the county. e-Governance system has been automated to facilitate, use of ICTs to ensure greater information access for the ordinary citizen, to deliver a range of services varying from online submission and complaints to delivery of education and health services and use of ICTs as data gathering and warehousing devices to increase the quality of decision making and governance.

ICTs to a certain extent has been successful in generating employment and micro entrepreneurship facilities especially among the women folk, ushering a new confidence in their lives. This has been indirectly playing a catalyst role in combating poverty among the poor and bridging the gender gap among rural women by empowering them with knowledge of ICTs and micro-credit possibilities.

ICTs in food security
ICTs have served as tools for enhancing food security also. ICTs can help local farmers in gaining access to international market. e-Commerce can help both the seller and the buyer to communicate in less time and use internet to carry out a transaction. Farmers can research on new types of products and search for information on better package of their produce. However, farmers in the first place has to be equipped themselves with some basic education and computer literacy.

ICTs in education
Needless to say, the use of ICTs as learning tools in education enhances the capacity building for teachers. As a remote learning system coupled with technical practices ICTs will strengthen the institutional system. Thereby it encourages self-dependence, creative learning and team work spirit.

ICTs in health services
ICTs have also come up with innovative solutions for the public health. The use of ICT for health care in industralised countries has had a profound effect. With their capacity to rapidly collect, compile, and disseminate information, with sophisticated tools for data analysis, field workers can easily obtain updated technical or consultation information regarding the prevention and treatment of disease/health conditions.

ICT power has also been effectively harnessed to fight for the cause of HIV/AIDS by multiplying the messages for creating awareness among the masses to make them alert of the invading malady across the nations with the help of youth and community development organisations for enhancing the health care services.

ICTs in disaster management
The effectiveness of ICT as a tool for management of natural, human or technology induced disasters has  unquestionably been established. Recent experiences during the Tsunami in South and East Asia, earthquake in Pakistan/India, floods in Central America, and the hurricanes in the Mexican Gulf region, have shown that when disasters strike, telecommu-nications can save lives. ICT applications to disaster reduction can play key role in the early warning of environmental hazards, promoting economic continuity, infra-structure preservation and fostering local social and cultural dynamics.                               

Fundamental drawbacks                                   
In most of the developing countries, the diffusion of technology is yet to take its deeper roots. The use of ICT for human development in India poses a challenge because of the socio-economic characteristics of the country. This limited and uneven diffusion of the new technology seeks attention of the decision makers to priortise it in development agenda. Considerable work is underway to increase its access, so as to permit the realisation of the potential that ICT holds for development. Yet, the principal objectives of such work include cutting the cost of connectivity.

It has become inevitable that ICTs has to put to its best use to address many concerns and sectors of human development in poor societies so as to eradicate the poverty, for providing better healthcare systems, education, human resource and environmental management and economic development. The concern towards development of any society and its masses involves in the expansion of people's choices so that they can improve the quality of their lives. The distant reality of self reliance and development has come true with the mass invasion of ICTs. At the cross roads of information age, where the social and economic activities spread far and wide, moulding the society simultaneously for a horizontal and vertical growth, it is hoped that the aspirations of the upcoming generation to have ample employment opportunities, mass production and output and conducive markets may be realised
with the Millenium Development Goals (MDG)!

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