IT in everyday life
IT in everyday life

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

IT in everyday life

1.2 What is IT?

Before we go any further, it is useful to have a working understanding of the term 'IT'. What exactly do we mean by 'information technologies'? This can be very difficult to define and explain, but here is a simple definition.

Information technology (IT) is 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.

Activity 1

Using the explanation of IT given above, would you say that the technologiy used for email communication is IT?


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 IT.

Other examples of IT systems include the internet, mobile phone systems, broadcast radio and TV systems, but IT is essential to many other day-to-day activities. Consider for example a visit to a supermarket. Checkout staff use an IT system to scan bar codes and obtain prices. IT systems also allow management to monitor stock levels and sales trends.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371