1.2 What are ICTs?
Before we go any further, it is useful to have a working understanding of the term 'ICT'. What exactly do we mean by 'information and communication technologies'? This can be very difficult to define and explain, but here is a simple definition.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are the technologies used in the conveying, manipulation and storage of data by electronic means.
Let us give you some examples. In a landline telephone system, messages are conveyed as signals on wires. The message is conveyed electronically. Manipulation of data takes place when you speak into the phone – your words are transformed into electronic signals. The data is then conveyed through the phone system, stored briefly for further processing on the way, and transformed back into words at the other end. In a mobile phone system, messages are also stored and manipulated but in this case they are conveyed by electromagnetic means such as radio waves, which are wireless.
Using the explanation of ICTs given above, would you say that the technologies used for email communication are ICTs?
When you send an email the contents are transformed into electronic signals that pass through various computer networks to reach the destination computer. The signals are then transformed back into characters on the screen.
In this example, the information is conveyed by electronic means, and it is also manipulated and stored – so email does indeed fit our definition of an ICT.
Other examples of ICT systems include the internet, mobile phone systems, broadcast radio and TV systems, but ICTs are essential to many other day-to-day activities. Consider for example a visit to a supermarket. Checkout staff use an ICT system to scan bar codes and obtain prices. ICT systems also allow management to monitor stock levels and sales trends.