The Strength and Weaknesses of New Information and Communication Technology
Communication plays a very important role in our lives as the main tool of interaction between people. Communication is a very important aspect which helps people to send both verbal and nonverbal messages including facial expression, behavior and physical setting. In the Information Age communication patterns have been changed because of changing nature of interaction between people. Although, communication still performs the major function: the means whereby people exchange information. It is the interchange of ideas, facts, and emotions by two or more persons by the use of word, letters and symbols.
IT (Information Technology) covers new communication tools such as computers, telecommunications and electronics and there is little doubt that IT is having a profound influence on all aspects of life. This new intensity of information makes possible far more precise planning and faster communication at low cost. By distributing information through electronic networks, a person can effectively communicate with thousands of people around the world and solve problems and tasks which would be impossible in face-to-face traditional communication. There is widespread research interest in information and communication technologies (ICTs).
ICTs are crucially important for office management. Notes that for the past two decades most offices or establishments have witnessed significant changes that can be traced to ICTs. These multi-dimensional changes have been observed in almost all aspects of life: economics, education, communication, and travel. In a technology-driven society, getting information quickly is important for both sender and receiver. ICTs have made it possible to quickly find and distribute information. The technological changes that have influenced office work in recent years, information technology (IT) has had the greatest impact in the growth of businesses.
CHAPTER ONE THE PROBLEM AND ITS SETTINGS
1. INTRODUCTION This chapter treats the background of the study, statement for the problem, research questions, objectives and significance of the study.
1.2BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are electronic technologies used for information processing, storage and retrieval. Development is partly determined by the ability to establish a synergistic interaction between technological innovation and human values. The rapid rate at which ICTs have evolved since the late 19th century, the convergence and pervasiveness of ICTs, give them a strong role in development and globalization. ICTs have a significant impact on all areas of human activity.
Office management has been greatly affected by the new information and communication technology. An information society is one that makes the best possible use of ICTs. Martin (1995) supports this view by describing it as a society in which the quality of life, as well as prospects for social change and economic development, depend increasingly upon information and its exploitation. In such a society, living standards, patterns of work and leisure, the education system, and marketplace are all influenced by advances in information and knowledge.
This is evidenced by an increasing array of information-intensive products and services (Martin, 1988). Annan (2002) notes that the information society is a way for human capacity to be expanded, built up, nourished, and liberated by giving people access to tools and technologies, with the education and training to use them effectively. There is a unique opportunity to connect and assist those living in the poorest and most isolated regions of the world. Informatization of society is a major hurdle that most nations, especially developing countries, are encountering. The information society or information age is a phenomenon that began after 1950, which brings challenges as we seek to integrate and expand the universe of print and multimedia sources.
The two terms are often used to describe a cybernetic society in which there is a great dependence on the use of computers and data transmission linkages to generate and transmit information (Bruce, 1995). The African Information Society (AISI) document (2005) argues that Africa should build, by the year 2010, an information society in which every man, woman, child, village, public and private sector office has secured access to the use of computers and telecommunications media. The objective is to provide every African with the possibility of using the communication and data processing services available everywhere else, just like any other citizens of the world.
1.3STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The problem of the study posed in a question is: strength and weaknesses of new information and communication technologies in office management.
1.4RESEARCH QUESTIONS From the purpose of the study, the following research questions were posed: – How does information and communication technology influence office management? – What are the challenges of the new information and communication technology in an office environment? – How available are ICTs to office workers
1.5HYPOTHESIS New Information and Communication Technologies are innovations in offices that enable the discharge of office functions more rapidly and efficiently. ICT has brought a positive impact in business today by increasing productivity in various sectors. The Information Communication Technology (ICT) has made it easier to communicate efficiently and effectively by the use of networking and mailing system. E-marketing has also made it easier for businesses to reach their clients and thus it has enhanced productivity in various business industries.
Many employees in our area of study do not possess required skills in the New Information and Communication technologies, Hence they continue with the traditional manual processing in their offices.
1.6PURPOSE OF THE STUDY The purpose of the study is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the new information and communication in an office milieu. – To know about the various types of ICT tools used in an office. – To identify the challenges of ICT in office management.
1.7SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY This study will be beneficial in the following ways:- – Create general awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the new information and communication technology. – Improvement in communication skills. – Improvement on contact with establishments, relatives and friends. – Saves time – Create job opportunities thereby alleviating poverty. – Improvement on the teaching learning process.
1.8SCOPE OF THE STUDY This study is carried out in the North West region of Cameroon precisely in office management in both public and private establishments in Mezam.
1.10LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY By limitations, it refers to the problems encountered during this research process. These limitations almost interrupted this research process. – Financial difficulties. – Difficulties to access information. – Respondents were unwilling to give information
DEFINITION OF TERMS Computers: Computers were originally used by scientists for calculating numbers, and have gradually become useful in offices and industries. In recent times, simplified models that can be used by almost everybody have become common in schools and homes for accomplishing many varied tasks and applications. Computers are now commonly used to: writing letters, and reports, printing books, newspapers, and magazines, drawing pictures and diagrams, doing statistics, mathematics and handling financial records, controlling traffic lights, flying airplanes, making and playing music and video, sending messages anywhere in the world.
Internet: The Internet is a global collection of many types of computers and computer networks that are linked together. It is increasingly becoming the solution to many information, problems, information exchange, and marketing. The Internet is described as a mixture of many services with the two most commonly used being electronic mail (e-mail) and the World Wide Web (www). It plays a significant role in education, health, political processes, agriculture, economy, businesses and newsgroups.
With Internet connectivity, one can do business all over the world without physical contact with the buyer or the need for a business intermediary. E-mail: Electronic mail (e-mail) is the exchange of text messages and computer files transmitted via communications networks such as the Internet The e-mail system is the equivalent of postal mailing services, with the biggest difference being the time and cost involved. And not only written data, but all sorts of information in the form of video, audio, or photographs, can be sent via e-mail. The e-mail is an increasing popular method of communication, especially in the office or workplace. (Nwosu, 2004). Fapohunda (1999) Oketunji (2000) Eseyin (1997) (Adesanya, 2002). Mobile Phones: Mobile phones are a telephone system that can move or be moved easily and quickly from place to place.
Mobile phones were once the tool of rich and busy executives who could afford both the luxury. Mobile phones are now the ICT that is reshaping and revolutionizing the communications globally. Its impact on the economic activities of nations, businesses, and small entrepreneurs is phenomenal. The availability of this new technology has been reshaping the material basis of the society as well as bringing about a profound restructuring of economic among offices or establishments. Fax machine: Tele-facsimile systems permit the transaction of images (photos, printed images, maps, drawings) and their reproduction on paper at a remote receiver.
Facsimile (fax) is not a new service; however, advances in digital imaging technology and microelectronics have caused a sharp drop in prices with a significant increase in capacities. “Long distance copying” might be an appropriate nickname for this telecommunication process. Any document, whether it is handwritten, contains pictures, diagrams, graphs, charts or typed text can be transmitted at a great speed for relatively low cost. The fax system is widely available; most organizations have at least one fax machine.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
One of the identified agents through which the world will constantly experience change is technology. In the business of trying to make information available in the right form to the right user both at the personal and organizational levels, and at the right time, the bid to cope with great flood of information has led to the need for a more sophisticated way of handling information faster and better. According to Anyakoha (1991), information technology is “the use of manmade tools for the collection, generation, communication, recording, re-management and exploitation of information. It includes those applications and commodities, by which information is transferred, recorded, edited, stored, manipulated or disseminated”.
Hawkridge (1983) describes information technology as a revolution which has penetrated almost all fields of human activity, thus transforming economic and social life. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2001) asserts that even if sustainable economic growth facilitates the creation and diffusion of useful innovations, technology is not only the result of growth but can be used to support growth and development. ICTs are credited with the ability to transform, and deep and significant changes are expected from their widespread use in developing countries. From this stand point developing countries can take maximum advantage of the new technologies even if major challenges remain.
These challenges include adapting ICTs to local conditions and uses in developing countries, and allowing each country understand those innovations and adjust them to their own development needs. Therefore, development in an establishment depends on the organization’s capacity to create wealth to significantly reduce poverty and to raise its capacity to create wealth at a sustainable level. In June 1996, the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology Development (UNCSTD) in collaboration with IDRC proposed five development indicators that focused on the improvement of the quality of life: income, governance, education, health, and technology (Crede and Mansell, 1998). If we consider these five as key indicators of development for developing countries, ICTs can be socially beneficial only if they contribute to poverty eradication (higher income), improved health and education, better use and more equitable sharing of resources, and raising participation in the decision-making processes (and in this regard, access to information is crucial).
ICTs have been the basis for human existence from time immemorial and this has driven man to continuously seek ways to improve the processing of information and communicating such information to one another irrespective of distance and on a real-time basis (Ndukwe, 2002). Surviving in the information age depends on access to national and global information networks. ICTs are the bedrock for the survival and development of any nation in a rapidly changing global environment, and it challenges us to devise initiatives to address a host of issues such as reliable infrastructure, skilled human resources, open government, and other essential issues of capacity building. At the heart of technology lie two main or branches of technology: computing and telecommunication. The technologies covered are the computer system, Internet/electronic mail (e-mail), mobile phone, and fax machine.
2.1SOME ICT EQUIPMENTS Some of the ICT equipments that are mostly used in office management include: Computer, Radio, Telephone (fixed and mobile), Fax.
2.2STRENGTHS The New Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can be leveraged for development, but attaching this potential depends on an enabling environment for their production, diffusion, and use. Otherwise, technology can widen rather than narrow existing inequalities. Progress has been noteworthy in mobile telephony, where the gap between developing and developed countries is narrowing rapidly. But outside mobile technology, there are large and widening gaps specifically in the areas where ICT can have greatest developmental impact, such as in high-speed Internet access and broadband connectivity, the development of local information technology industries, and of ICT applications.
From evaluation, we found that the Bank Group’s most notable contributions to ICT development have been through support to sector reforms and to private investments for mobile telephony in difficult environments and in the poorest countries. One of the successful examples of such efforts is an IFC supported mobile operator which was the first to adapt a mass market strategy and established a Village Phone Program. In other priority areas, including ICT applications, the Bank Group’s contributions have been limited.
Targeted efforts to increase access beyond what was commercially viable have been largely unsuccessful. Support to universal access programs was largely superseded by the roll-out of phone services by the private sector, in some cases supported by World Bank sector reforms. Access for the poor has been more effectively supported through general, non-targeted interventions focused on the enabling environment and direct support to private investments.
2.3WEAKNESSES The World Bank’s record in ICT applications has been modest, despite their significant role in Bank projects. This reflects high risks of IT projects and shortcomings in the Bank’s delivery mechanism. ICT skills development, which is emerging as an important constraint to the diffusion and use of ICT, has received little attention in World Bank projects. Projects which deploy technologies in underdeveloped areas face well-known problems concerning crime, problems of adjustment to the social context, and also possibly infrastructural problems. While a link between poverty reduction and ICT exists, the connection is yet to be fully understood. In fact, the relationship between infrastructure investment and increased output commonly encounter problems with reverse causality and false correlations.
The expansion of ICT can have direct negative outcomes. Expenditure on ICT has been known to cause intra-household conflict, foster male dominance over resources and divert household resources away from food and other essentials. Human right concerns such as child labour have also been raised over the use of conflict materials in the production of ICT devices. In many impoverished regions of the world, legislative and political measures are required to facilitate or enable application of ICTs, especially with respect to monopolistic communications structures and censorship laws. The literacy issue is one of the key factors why projects fail in rural areas; as education in literacy sets the foundation for digital and information literacy, proper education and training are needed to make the user at least understand how to manipulate the applications to get the information they need. Constant follow-up with the community is needed to monitor if the project has been successfully implemented and is being used meaningfully.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METTHODOLOGY
3.1INTRODUCTION This chapter focuses on the method of research study. In a nutshell, it deals with the research design, population and area of the study, the sample and sampling techniques. The instruments for data collection, the administration of instruments and the methods of data analysis.
3.2AREA OF THE STUDY This study was carried out on the New Information and Communication Technologies in Office Management in the North West Region of Cameroon.
3.3RESEARCH DESIGN This study makes use of the experimental or parametric research design. In this study, we shall seek the relationship between the strength and weaknesses of new information and communication technology in office management.
3.4POPULATION OF STUDY Here both public and private establishments were surveyed in the North West region of Cameroon. Some of the institutions consulted were: Regional Delegation of CAMPOST North West, Plan Cameroon, The Divisional office of Bamenda II Mezam, The Divisional office of Bamenda III Mezam GreenBelt CIG Nkwen Bamenda, St. Paul’s College Nkwen, P.M.I District Hospital Nkwen, Divisional Delegation of Agriculture North West and many other individuals.
3.5SAMPLING TECHNIQUE This study makes use of the simple Random Sampling Technique. Just as the institutions or establishments were gotten using the simple random sampling technique. The names of the employees of the above institutions or establishments were written, folded and placed in a box. One hundred and twenty (120) names were picked out of the box with replacement and the names picked became our respondents.
Of the 120 employees, fifty eight (58) males and sixty two (62) female. The study setting and subjects were selected through purposive sampling methods.
3.6INSTRUMENTS FOR DATA COLLECTION The data for this study was collected using a questionnaire made up of two parts with suitable responses to be ticked by the respondents.
3.7DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURE The employees whose names were picked were identified and given the questionnaire for them to respond to it. The questionnaire was then collected back from all the employees (respondents) by the researchers.
3.8PROCEDURE FOR DATA ANALYSIS When the questionnaires were all gotten back, it was analyzed by the researchers in a tabular form under some key headings.
DATA ANALYSIS, INTERPRETATION AND DISCUSSION OF RESULTS
4.1INTRODUCTION This chapter deals with the presentation and analysis of data collected from the field. It deals with the results from questionnaire on strength and weaknesses of the new information and communication technology in office management.
4.2HYPOTHESES TESTING AND INTERPRETATION OF RESULTS A comprehensive analysis was conducted to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, those related to micro-enterprises through office managements. The study shows that there are many strong aspects to provide a conducive business environment for ICT based micro-enterprises. The following tables bring out the analysis of data collected.