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Information and communication technologies (ICT) is an umbrella term that covers all technical means for processing and communicating information. While this technically encompasses pre-digital technologies, including paper-based writing, it is most often used to describe digital technologies including methods for communication (communication protocols, transmission techniques, communications equipment, media ), as well as techniques for storing and processing information (computing, data storage, etc.) The term has gained popularity partially due to the convergence of information technology (IT) and telecom technology.

ICT allows users to participate in a rapidly changing world in which work and other activities are increasingly transformed by access to varied and developing technologies. By this definition, you could almost say ICT is technology's version of economic growth, to satisfy the needs and wants of the community over time.

ICT tools can be used to find, explore, analyze, exchange and present information responsibly and without discrimination. ICT can be employed to give users quick access to ideas and experiences from a wide range of people, communities and cultures.

Economic Impacts

In recent decades widespread incorporation of ICTs into many tiers of business, political processes and everyday life has caused fundamental restructuring of the global economy. ICTs have increased international interconnectedness and sped up the process of globalization. They have been instrumental in the information revolution, facilitating the transition from industrial economies, driven by the manufacturing sector, to knowledge economies.

ICTs, in conjunction with globalization and the information revolution, have reshaped the workforce. By increasing the speed of international communication ICTs have enabled corporations to outsource jobs, both in the manufacturing as well as white collar sectors. While this lowers production costs and as a result the cost of goods, it has also had fundamental and often detrimental impacts on labour conditions.

Outsourcing causes geographic fragmentation of commodity chains, in which production of goods occurs in specialized plants in different locations, often traversing international boundaries. Locations with no or minimal restrictions on wages, compensation and entitlements for workers therefor become economically attractive as sites of production. This can lead to the exploitation of workers in developing countries and undermine the bargaining power of organized labour in developed countries.

Despite the international spread of ICTs the economic impacts have been geographically uneven. They have exacerbated pre-existing disparities between developed countries, which can afford to produce and consume the latest technologies and developing countries, which cannot. This gap is known as the digital divide.

Social Impacts

ICTs have impacted societies on many levels. They have extended the reach of public administration, leading to a centralization of regional management into urban centres.

They have led to new forms of employment in innovation and production of ICTs and a demand for highly skilled specialists. However ICTs have also enabled professionals in certain industries to be replaced by unskilled workers, or even made entirely redundant. Proponents of ICTs portray this as a ‘re-skilling’ of the workforce, while to detractors it is a ‘de-skilling’ process.

The diffusion of ICTs within societies is varied, with some institutions and sections of society having greater access to ICTs then others. These divisions are reflected in the content of ICTs. For example the English language, which is understood by only 10% of the worlds population accounts for approximately 80% of internet content.

Despite these imbalance in power relations, many social justice movements believe ICTs can be used to promote equality and empower marginalized groups. These groups advocate ICTs as a means of providing accessible and affordable information and as a platform for voices that might otherwise go unheard.

Economic development

ICTs have been identified by many international development institutions as a crucial element in developing the worlds poorest countries, by integrating them into the global economy and by making global markets more accessible. The World Bank has collaborated with the International Finance Corporationmarker to promote access to ICTs, an initiative which it describes as one of its most successful. In 2006 the United Nations launched an initiative called the Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development.

See also


  • Association for Progressive Communications. Retrieved 2009-10-21.

  • “Global Information and Communication Technologies”. The World Bank.
/EXTINFORMATIONANDCOMMUNICATIONANDTECHNOLOGIES/0,,contentMDK:20687836~menuPK:282840~pagePK:210058~piPK:210062~theSitePK:282823,00.html. Retrieved 2009-10-21

  • Grossman, G. and E. Helpman (2005), "Outsourcing in a global economy", Review of Economic Studies 72: 135-159.

  • Rice, MF 2003, ‘ Information and Communication Technologies and the Global Digital Divide 
Technology Transfer, Development, and Least Developing Countries’ , Comparative Technology Transfer and Society, vol.1, no.1, pp.72-87.

  • Walsham, G 2001, ‘Globalization and ICTs: Working Across Cultures’ ,University of Cambridge, Cambridge.

  • Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London, UK: Routledge, 1988), in particular Chapter 4

  • Wilkin, P 2001, ‘The political economy of global communication: an introduction’ , Pluto Press, London.

Further reading

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