ICT (information and communications technology, or technologies)

Contributor(s): Kevin Ferguson, Mary K. Pratt

ICT, or information and communications technology (or technologies), is the infrastructure and components that enable modern computing.

Although there is no single, universal definition of ICT, the term is generally accepted to mean all devices, networking components, applications and systems that combined allow people and organizations (i.e., businesses, nonprofit agencies, governments and criminal enterprises) to interact in the digital world.

Components of an ICT system

ICT encompasses both the internet-enabled sphere as well as the mobile one powered by wireless networks. It also includes antiquated technologies, such as landline telephones, radio and television broadcast -- all of which are still widely used today alongside cutting-edge ICT pieces such as artificial intelligence and robotics.

ICT is sometimes used synonymously with IT (for information technology); however, ICT is generally used to represent a broader, more comprehensive list of all components related to computer and digital technologies than IT.

The list of ICT components is exhaustive, and it continues to grow. Some components, such as computers and telephones, have existed for decades. Others, such as smartphones, digital TVs and robots, are more recent entries.

ICT commonly means more than its list of components, though. It also encompasses the application of all those various components. It's here that the real potential, power and danger of ICT can be found.

Components of ICT

ICT's societal and economic impact

ICT is leveraged for economic, societal and interpersonal transactions and interactions. ICT has drastically changed how people work, communicate, learn and live. Moreover, ICT continues to revolutionize all parts of the human experience as first computers and now robots do many of the tasks once handled by humans. For example, computers once answered phones and directed calls to the appropriate individuals to respond; now robots not only can answer the calls, but they can often more quickly and efficiently handle callers' requests for services.

ICT's importance to economic development and business growth has been so monumental, in fact, that it's credited with ushering in what many have labeled the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

ICT also underpins broad shifts in society, as individuals en masse are moving from personal, face-to-face interactions to ones in the digital space. This new era is frequently termed the Digital Age.

For all its revolutionary aspects, though, ICT capabilities aren't evenly distributed. Simply put, richer countries and richer individuals enjoy more access and thus have a greater ability to seize on the advantages and opportunities powered by ICT.

Consider, for example, some findings from the World Bank. In 2016, it stated that more than 75% of people worldwide have access to a cellphone. However, internet access through either mobile or fixed broadband remains prohibitively expensive in many countries due to a lack of ICT infrastructure. Furthermore, the World Bank estimated that out of the global population of 7.4 billion people, more than 4 billion don't have access to the internet. Additionally, it estimated that only 1.1 billion people have access to high-speed internet.

In the United States and elsewhere, this discrepancy in access to ICT has created the so-called digital divide.

The World Bank, numerous governmental authorities and non-government organizations (NGOs) advocate policies and programs that aim to bridge the digital divide by providing greater access to ICT among those individuals and populations struggling to afford it.

These various institutions assert that those without ICT capabilities are left out of the multiple opportunities and benefits that ICT creates and will therefore fall further behind in socio-economic terms.

The United Nations considers one of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to "significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the internet in least developed countries by 2020."

Economic advantages are found both within the ICT market as well as in the larger areas of business and society as a whole.

Within the ICT market, the advancement of ICT capabilities has made the development and delivery of various technologies cheaper for ICT vendors and their customers while also providing new market opportunities. For instance, telephone companies that once had to build and maintain miles of telephone lines have shifted to more advanced networking materials and can provide telephone, television and internet services; consumers now enjoy more choices in delivery and price points as a result.

The significance of ICT in enterprises

For businesses, advances within ICT have brought a slew of cost savings, opportunities and conveniences. They range from highly automated businesses processes that have cut costs, to the big data revolution where organizations are turning the vast trove of data generated by ICT into insights that drive new products and services, to ICT-enabled transactions such as internet shopping and telemedicine and social media that give customers more choices in how they shop, communicate and interact.

But ICT has also created problems and challenges to organizations and individuals alike -- as well as to society as a whole. The digitization of data, the expanding use of high-speed internet and the growing global network together have led to new levels of crime, where so-called bad actors can hatch electronically enabled schemes or illegally gain access to systems to steal money, intellectual property or private information or to disrupt systems that control critical infrastructure. ICT has also brought automation and robots that displace workers who are unable to transfer their skills to new positions. And ICT has allowed more and more people to limit their interactions with others, creating what some people fear is a population that could lose some of what makes it human.

This was last updated in July 2019

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Will today's rapid evolution of information and communications technologies lessen the digital divide or contribute to its growth?
I just want to study ICT where do I have to start Miss Margaret Rouse
Overall the evolution of ICT will contribute to the digital divide, leaving people who cannot afford internet, education and technological devices behind. What will happen to these people when something like applying for a passport can ONLY be done online, because the manual method of doing so has become outdated. These people will be left behind or they will have a great struggle understanding how to use technology. Something as simple as sending an email is still a daunting experience to some, who are then discouraged to try and keep up with basic technology. 

However, in some ways this rapid evolution can also lessen the digital divide - when the technological infrastructure to internet becomes more widespread, the technology and data might become cheaper to use and give poorer communities an opportunity to explore more exposure to tehnology. But, this depends entirely on whether individuals in the ICT field make an effort to consider the technologically underprivileged in their contribution to ICT.
looking for somebody to volunteer himself/herself to sponsor me to study ICT............If interested kindly lemmie know through my [email protected]
I want to study ICT, where must I start?
start with attending any ict class 

How can I go about understanding this module because it seems to be interesting course?
It is the only goal I ever dream to learn and to graduate about ICT. What are the qualifications required? Regards.
What is the benefit of ICT in the world?
in todays world everything as been of online doctors who can see or listen to a patient while on comfort of there homes,prescibe drugs for them,they pay for the service using their phone/comp and drugs are delivered at there door abt that for a benefit

Is there any short term course to study, especially in SEA? Over a decade in the US, sounds like never heard such term before, especially as I am a layman to IT Industry!!!! Or may be is I am just out-dated...
I would like the course to reach the rest of the world as the world need technology to be used.
Interesting read. Indeed if it was not for this, I would still be in the dark about technology.
Please, how would I be getting information on ICT?
What's component of ICT?

There are 6 components to an  ict system

  • Data: raw facts and figures.
  • Hardware: physical components.
  • Software: the name given to computer programs.
  • Information: data that is converted to give it a meaning.
  • Procedures: a series of actions conducted in a certain order to make sure the system runs smoothly.
  • People: data is entered by humans, for example a keyboard.
Well said, hope you're an ICT expert by now.
ICT has the potential to set a level tech playing field for the world. But, of course, we need to use the devices we have and implement better training programs.

We already hold (most of) the technology in our hands and, interestingly, that same hand-held makes a passable recording and/or teaching device. All that's missing is the desire to learn, the willingness to educate and the availability of funds to make that practical on an international level.

The audience is vast, the need is great and the profit potential is limitless.
The Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector is one of the most dynamic in Europe. Approximately 5.3 million people in the EU are employed in ICT jobs, in a market worth more than 670 billion €. The largest ICT markets are Germany, the UK, and France. But the division ranges at ICT product level. The largest software market is France, while Spain is the largest market for communications equipment.10 3 European markets currently allocate their IT budgets across the core areas of the market, namely hardware, software, IT services.
I find this site interesting and educative. I therefore would like to be connected so that I can learn more of ICT and be able to use it for national development!
Information is data that have been processed into meaningful form or data manipulated.
I wanna learn, where does one start in this?
Hey everyone, I would say yes, Indeed, today's information and communication evolution increases the digital divide. To support this evolution serve as the platform where everyone has access to to learning through the use of internet, research and remotely studies become even more accessed with information and communication evolution. ICT comes with many career options, which has add a bigger value.
thatz great for to day's life
this was a clear and interesting information about ICT.

I personally think humanity is in trouble, technology is growing at a faster rate. I believe that like it or not, the digital divide will continue to widen because in 2020, masses still don't have internet access and even if governments can ensure that they do, the challenge will lie in educating them on how to use. A huge budget is created here where for example NGO's will need to be employed and empowered to deliver technological skills to society, it also goes without saying that schools have to employ techno-savvy teachers to teach basic computer applications, in the South African situation, government has to train every teacher so that they can use technology in delivering matter in different subjects and again, train the learner in how to use once they have received information.  This could take years and still, the UN's objectives will still not be reached in the scale expected for the simple reason that technology is moving at light speed.

Today rapid evolution of information and communication technologies will not end the digital divide that person are experiencing, the internet provide have alot of work to do in the digital divided department.