Saturday, January 22, 2011

Is IT Inclusive?

Information Technology (IT) and Software Engineering, the well known hi-tech areas once exclusive for scientists, engineers, academia and industry have transformed over years. IT has seeped through human lives in several ways.

As we enter 2011 with all the nightmares of global economic crisis, IT continues to penetrate several areas of our lives. Is IT exclusive? The answer is a definite 'No'. It is not exclusive for scientists and engineers.   Meanwhile, let us ask ourselves 'Is IT inclusive?'

These days, IT has started becoming part of physical infrastructure such as roads, power grid, television, telephone networks, and water distribution. Sorel Reisman, IEEE Computer Society 2011 President, in his article "Planning for an Inevitable Future" published in IEEE Computer magazine (Jan 2011) has expressed his views on this transformation and has emphasized on the need for organizations like Computer Society to start considering inclusive approaches. He says "It is time to consider a new transformation - one that addresses societal changes" and adds "By the end of 2011, we’ll have launched pilot Special Technical Communities in social networking, cloud computing, gaming, education, software engineering, and green computing." In this context, during Dec-2010, he initiated a social networking forum at for both members and non-members to participate.

Let me return to our question 'Is IT Inclusive?'. The answers are 'Yes' and 'Not Yet'. 'Yes' applies to some of the developed countries and 'Not Yet' for the rest of the world.

I can see certain visible transformations in India. During mid 80s, when I was doing my post-graduation, we used to wait for our 1-hour timeslot (couple of times a week) to use a personal computer at the computer lab of our University. It used to haunt us when a desktop crashes or has a technical problem. We had to wait for couple of days to a week or sometimes even couple of weeks for the technical support engineers to fix the problem. These days, the trend has improved. Timesharing happens among family members in sharing one or two computers. Computers are used more for other purposes than for educational activities by students.  Let me add more. Emails have become prevalent.  Computers are used for paying utility bills by bill processing executives or end users or both.  Online Education and Online Tests have become the trend setters.   Several widely accepted IT applications such as Online Banking can be added to this list.  This substantiates that we are into this transformation.  But we have not made it inclusive yet.

Finally, making this transformation inclusive in our context is a big challenge. At any cost, we are part of the inevitable future!  What about other countries?