ICT or Information and communications technology has become an integral part of our daily lives. Whether it is for work or personal use we can not do without it. Especially in the last 2 years or so, during the Covid 19 pandemic, ICT has become the cornerstone to keep the economy and education going.
However, it has also become something which can be exploited for negative use. Cybercriminals have exploited weak spots in ICT infrastructure of many public and private companies.
For example, on May 14, 2021, the Health Service executive, Ireland, fell victim to ransomware cyber-attack. Ransomware is a malicious software designed to deny access to an ICT system until money is paid. The HSE had to shut down all their computers and fix them one by one.
Additionally with the development of mobile ICT devices like smart phones and tablets, and the creation of social media platforms it has become extremely easy to spread misinformation and conspiracy theories. On the other hand, it has also become much easier for people to work remotely.
For people like me who have family abroad, good reliable broadband connection, is especially important to stay connected to family and friends across the world. This has become evident to me when my youngest son moved to the Netherlands for the Erasmus project of his studies at the University of Limerick. He moved to Tilburg at the end of August, where before it would be too expensive to stay connected daily, nowadays we can chat and see each other every day via the app What’s App, at no extra cost.
Another advantage of Information and communication technology is in relation to the entertainment industry. Musicians no longer need to buy expensive studio time or equipment. With software like Audacity, Audiotool or Adobe audience they can record, edit, and stream it directly to platforms such as Spotify or Deezer. It has also become a lot easier to enjoy a TV show. Applications like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney + and Apple TV allow viewers to watch shows and other contents on every device that has a screen be it a laptop or desktop computer, tablet, smartphone, or smart TV, shows can be streamed directly to any of these devices, at any time the user wants it.
But the flipside of this is that there is a risk that down the line a price will have to be paid for all this convenience. Just as is the case with convenience food, just because it is easy and often immediately consumable does not equate with being healthy. People nowadays do not have to move out of their houses anymore. They can order food, watch a favourite show, and listen to music by using the same tool. Often a device that fits in a back pocket.
We most also take in consideration the environmental impact of ICT devices, and particularly the mobile, handheld devices and electric cars. They all run on rechargeable batteries called ‘Lithium-ion batteries. Most of these batteries contain minerals and chemicals as components. To name but a few-Lithium cobalt oxide, Graphite, Lithium iron phosphate and Lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxides- aside from the environmental impact of these components, they also sometimes with a human cost, mining these components often happens in third world countries at elevated risk and little pay.
They also have a high energy density; therefore, they need to be charged quite often, sometimes more than once a day, which is a drain on the electricity grid and can result into higher energy prices. Unfortunately, this is seldom heard in debates regarding so called ‘green’ energy.
A major innovation though is 3d printing. It enables things to be printed in a very quick way where it used to take a long time. Especially in the medical industry it has become a major driver to design and create all sorts of artificial limbs and other things.
I mentioned Social Media platforms earlier. In general, most of these are accessed via apps on mobile information and communications technology devices. Although most social media platforms were initially designed as tools to make it easier and more convenient to connect people. These platforms now have become facilitators of hate speech, history distortion, misinformation and are often politicised.
With the inbuilt programs where you can alter images to make you look better than you do, these platforms are in danger of becoming the purveyors of lies rather then connectors of people. Many especially younger people suffer from mental issues cause be unreal expectation and cyber bullying facilitated by some of the social media outlets.
In summary there are advantages and disadvantages to the use of ICT systems. But if they are used in a controlled in a sensible way, by using common sense, and perhaps by waiting a minute or two before giving a kneejerk reaction to what somebody may have sent you, I believe that overall, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. However there need to be better regulations and enforcement of those regulations of the more damaging aspect of the information and communication technology