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Use of computers has brought profound change to business. The
electronic office is an obvious example. In this, every desk in a
business is likely to have a computer. The computers will be networked
and have communications facilities.
The work done in offices is usually;
Computers and ICT systems can do these things more efficiently and
faster than manual systems.
Businesses now advertise FAX numbers and email addresses prominently.
This affects the number of letters sent by post but FAX and email
cannot completely replace the postal service as original, hard-copy
letters are still needed for legal reasons.
Products can be ordered on-line via the internet and most businesses
now have their own website. Electronic Data Interchange is used to
send orders, pay invoices and transfer information generally.
Employees are paid using electronic funds transfer.
ICT AND MANUFACTURING
Many industries now use Computer-Aided Manufacture (CAM), eg. cars are
manufactured by robot welders and paint sprayers, Benetton
manufactures clothes more quickly using CAD-CAM.
The quality of computer-manufactured articles is more consistent and
better, leading to greater productivity and reliability. Working
conditions are often cleaner and safer. There may be shorter working
hours but this could mean more reduncancies or redeployment. Skilled
workers have seen their skills made redundant by CAM.
Companies must modernise to remain competative and viable; if
non-viable then there may be even more job losses.
Use of computers has created a range of new jobs;
* hardware manufacture,
* technical support (call centres)
New products manufactured due to computers;
* mobile phones,
* CDs and DVDs
* satellite receivers,
* video cameras,
* digital cameras
ICT AND COMMERCE
The number of banking transactions is now so huge they could not be
carried out without computers:
* electronic transfer of funds,
* elctronic payroll
* ATM transactions,
* credit/debit card transactions
* home banking.
There is a movement towards the cashless society.
Our shopping habits have changed due to ICT;
* digital TV shopping channels,
* internet shopping.
Supermarkets offer loyalty cards to encourage customers to shop at
their stores. All records are stored on computer and the store can
gain useful demographic information. Computerised stock control using
barcodes is used by many shops. Supermarkets have grown bigger at the
expense of the corner shop.
The use of phone cards has resulted in less theft from call boxes.
Internet shopping is increasing and lead to the growth of internet
only companies, eg. ebay.com, and internet only banks, eg. cahoot.
Security is a problem for companies and the system is open to credit
card fraud especially for services, eg. payment for a
subscription-only service. Internet shopping has lead to companies
closing their retail outlets and consequent loss of jobs, eg.
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ICT AND MEDICINE
ICT is used in medicine in the following areas;
* hospital and health centre administration,
* storing patient records,
* communicating between health centres and hospitals
* monitoring patients in hospital,
* diagnosis of illnesses,
* helping the disabled,
* automated pathology,
* automated operations.
Most hospitals have computerised registration systems for patients
that track their progress through consultation and treatment. Health
Centres, Dentists and Hospitals use computers to control their
appointments system and standard letters sent to patients.
Treatments received and illnesses diagnosed are stored in patient
records in computers. This has the advantages that relevant data can
be quickly transmitted between health centre and related hospitals and
that rapid access to patient data is possible by any doctor in a
practice. When patients move, their records can be transmitted
electronically to their new doctor, thus speeding up the transfer
Expert Systems are used in medical diagnosis; they ask questions about
symptoms and use the answers to make predictions as to the likely
cause. Patients with embarassing complaints may be more forthcoming
with such diagnosis.
Computer-controlled ultra-sound and CAT scanners allow accurate
screening of patients. X-Ray film is being replaced by on-screen
digital images. Computer-controlled robotic arms are used for
operations, eg. prostate gland surgery; this is more accurately and
more quickly done than by conventional means.
Monitoring of patients' heart rates, respiration rates, blood pressure
are routinely measured by computers.
Computers can be used to help the disabled communicate. This includes
improvements to VDU displays for the partially sighted, text to speech
for the vocally impaired, braille keyboards and printouts, touch
screens, speech input.
Artificial limbs are being developed that use computer control to make
for more natural movement.
ICT IN THE HOME
ICT has made major changes in the home;
* computer controlled washing machines, dishwashers, microwaves,
* central heating control,
* home security devices,
* car safety,
* internet banking and shopping, email, teleworking,
* video recorders and DVD players,
* hifi equipment,
* teletext and digital television,
* computer games,
* mobile phones.
Our standard of living is higher than previously and the quality of
goods has risen even though they are produced more cheaply.
The use of home computers and modems has made teleworking a viable
proposition for many workers. These workers are sent their work via
modem and return their finished product to head office via modem.
Workers can work flexible hours in pleasant, familiar surroundings.
Work schedules can be arranged around young families. Their companies
can have reduced office space and insurance, saving money. Video
conferencing can be used to hold meetings.
ICT AND EDUCATION
Computers are common in schools and colleges. In 2001, the government
target in secondary schools was one computer to every seven students.
Distance learning is now commonplace. Tutors can set work via email
and the internet. Students send homework and assignments to their
tutors via email. Videoconferencing is used between schools in remote
areas, eg. Finland and the Highlands of Scotland to share expertise.
Computer Based Training (CBT) is used in areas such as pilot training.
Flight simulators are less dangerous and cheaper than the real thing.
Interactive video allows students to view areas and places remotely.
It is used, for example, in training new recruits to oil rigs on the
correct fire escape procedures; they are then familiar with the escape
routes before ever visiting the oil rig.
CHANGES IN EMPLOYMENT PATTERNS
The development of the computer has affected nearly every part of
industry and commerce and has led to the creation of a new industry in
Some skills have disappeared completely, eg. hot-metal typesetting. In
the 1980s, before computers were widely used, typesetters were very
skilled workers who set a page of type for newspapers and books. They
used metal characters to make up the page and had to be able to read
the type backwards. They used a special, low-melting point metal to
make the printing plates for newspapers. Today the same work is done
from an office using DTP software and electronically controlled
printers. Journalists can capture the news, write it up and typeset it
in one operation, leading to much greater job flexibility.
Automatic digital telephone exchanges have reduced the number of
people needed to man switchboards.
OCR and OMR mean that people are no longer needed to check examination
answers or football pool entries.
A few jobs have remained unchanged, eg. gardeners, plumbers.
Some jobs have been retained but existing staff have had to be
retrained, eg. bank clerks, secretaries.
New industries that have arisen due to the influence of computers
include, computer manufacturers, component manufacturers,
consultancies, service engineers, call centres, programmers.
In many industries improvements in communication mean that job
location is no longer important:
* Telecommuting, in which the worker operates from home, receives
work via email and sends work back to head office via email, is
commonplace. Video-conferencing is also possible.
* Small businesses may find it cost-effective to be based in rural
areas rather than in cities.
There is now a danger that workers with IT skills will demand and get
well-paid jobs, whereas those without IT skills may find it difficult
to gain employment. This could have public-spending implications for