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Social Effects of ICT

The rapid rate of change:

As a pupil at school you are used to using computers and may also have a computer at
home. You will be aware that computers are used widely in the modern world in places
such as shops or businesses.

What you may not know is how very recent the development of computers has actually
been. Other major inventions such as cars and airplanes were invented over a hundred
years ago, but compared to the changes in computers, they have changed very little.

The first electronic computers were only constructed around 50 years ago and were
used during the war to calculate firing tables for field guns and to crack German codes.
They used glass tubes called valves and the machines filled large rooms. They consumed
huge amounts of electrical power and their processing power was tiny by today’s

The widespread use of computers in homes, schools and businesses only really began
about 20 years ago. This growth continues as computers become more sophisticated,
with larger memories, better displays, faster processing, new features. However,
despite all these improvements, their price remains the same or even falls.

The computer access and skills divide:

Many people thing this is leading to a society that is divided by technology. Those who
cannot afford the hardware or lack the confidence are disadvantaged compared to those
who embrace each new advance. Not keeping up with technology leads to people being
disadvantaged socially, in education and in employment in many ways, some of which are
outlined below:

• Not being able to access the huge range of information available over the
Internet or on CD-Rom and digital television etc.
• Not being able to use ICT skills such as using word processing and DTP
• Not being able to sort, search and analyse data using software such as
spreadsheets and databases.
• Not being able to use creative tools such as graphics software, CAD and 3D
design software, as well as music and video editing software.
• Not being able to use more advanced communication methods such as email,
news groups, phone texting, video phones, chat rooms, bulletin-boards,
telecommunications etc.

Our dependence on technology:

This rapid increase in the use of computers is having an enormous impact on our lives.
Our modern way of living simply could not exist if this modern technology were removed.


• Our financial system is dependant on modern technology to process the

millions of cheques written every day.
• With modern telecommunications, it would be impossible to control the
millions of telephone calls made every day.


Modern communication has become almost instantaneous. Email is cheap and fast and
Information and Communication Technology allows documents and diagrams to be faxed
around the world. More and more people are now working from home and this is likely to
increase as video-conferencing becomes more and more commonplace. In communication
technology, there have been huge advances in digital communication through satellite
and cable television and digital radio.

The vast quantity of information available through the Internet requires new skills to
search out and select the information needed from the various sources and articles.

Mobile phones are now used to communicate via text messages, images and even video as
well as being able to access information over the Internet and send/receive email.


The introduction of computers has resulted in many changes in employment patterns.

Many jobs were lost, particularly from the manufacturing industries, as the repetitive
tasks of unskilled workers were replaced by machines.

An example would be the replacement of car body assembly workers and body part
painters by robots. However, computerisation has replaced jobs across most areas of
the workplace, right up to middle management positions.

There have been positive effects on employment, many new jobs have been created in
communication technology and computing, both in the service and manufacturing

Many experts also argue that the increase in jobs in the service sector; shops, hotels,
catering and leisure industries is partly due to the increased wealth generated by the
more technologically advanced industries.

Advances in ICT have also allowed teleworking to become a significant factor in

employment patterns. This involves carrying out work away from the office and
communicating with the employer through the use of computer and telecommunications
equipment. This has obvious advantages for individuals but society as a whole benefits in
terms of reduced commuting and hence savings in costs and pollution, as well as allowing
employment to those working in remote areas.

As a factory invests in computerised equipment some of its workers may be made

redundant. Its productivity rises as its labour costs are reduced and it will become more
competitive. If it does not invest in computerised equipment then higher labour costs
and lower productivity will means its products will be less competitive. This could result
in the company failing and jobs being lost anyway. This is the issue that employers, trade
unions and governments have to face.

The switch to computerised systems involves considerable retraining and means that a
modern society needs to have a more flexible workforce. Individuals need to
understand how computers work and the effects that Information and Communication
Technology has on their lives so that they can influence the changes that are taking
place and ensure that a better quality of life results from those changes. The rapid
advances mean individuals may have to retrain for employment several times during their
working lives.

Data, and what it is used for:

Those who said that the use of computers would lead to the paperless office were sadly
wrong. In fact, computers have lead to an increase in the overall amount of paper
printed. This is partly due to the amount of information about people held on computer
files which is then used to generate computerised mail that is delivered to our houses as
letters, bills, forms and advertising.

Such data may be highly confidential, for example criminal, medical and financial data.
Any errors in this data due to errors in the source of the data or when it is entered can
have an issue that may have a huge effect on our lives.

Complete the following past exam paper questions, use your notes and text books

Question Answer
Describe three ways using computers 1.
might result in legal or moral problems


A school decides to place 5 computers for

pupil’s use in the school library. Describe
how this decision will affect the library


Give two jobs that have been created by

the increased use of computers


Describe two ways the internet has allowed

people to trade from home


A school provides laptop computers for

students to borrow and use at home.
Describe two ways that this would benefit
the students’ work.

A family has a computer. Give two
different benefits to the family of
connecting this computer to the internet.


Describe how the increased use of credit

cards has affected shopping

A school student is downloading
information for use in a project. Discuss
the issues relating to information found on
the internet.