Role of Information: From the primitive days of human civilization to the present day information has always been a component of growth and development and improvement of the living standard. Nowadays, the information has come to occupy the central position to be reckoned as the driving force for all human development. It is clearly interlinked with the growth and development in economic, political, social, occupational, cultural and other sectors of the society. Information and knowledge have become the principal generator of wealth in the form of educational institutions, research and development establishment, scientific and technological centres and other similar knowledge oriented bodies.
The impact of information and knowledge is seen in a number of human activities centering on information. Some of these which will give a cursory account of societal changes taking place in a few sectors are as follows:
a) Education: Education is the process of acquiring general and specialized knowledge by means of study and learning that develop intellectual power of reasoning and judgment. At no point of time in the life of a person does education really terminate and in real sense it is a continuous process. While IT provides easy and effective access to the different types of educational kits, information is the life blood of education. It is the essential ingredient in new ideas, in course content and curriculum development, and in the creation of material and methods of technology and learning. Students need information for pursuing academic studies; teachers need information for teaching their students.
b) Research and Development: Research is a never ending spiral activity. It aims to provide solution to problems. The inputs as well as the output of research are information. So information is the life blood for research and development. The quality of information content alone will determine the success or growth and development of research. Researchers need information on a continuous basis for conducting research works.
c) Management and Decision Making: We are living in a world of change. We face complexities, uncertainties and risks unknown to our predecessors. The list of activities in our private life and its associated problems are virtually endless. In each of these personal activities decisions are required to be taken and information is needed to support the decision. People need information to make the best possible decision. People with information are likely to have better career opportunities and to be better equipped to make personal decision.
Information provides a means of improving the management of enterprises and services of all kinds. Information is needed by the decision makers in organizations. A common need basic to all decision makers is an understanding of the purpose of the organization, that is, its policies, programmes, plans and goals. The decisions to be made in an organization do vary and the information needs also vary. A manager needs information to choose the possible alternatives presented in terms of ranges of values of particular attributes. Information provides a wider knowledge base for the solution of any problem; it gives new alternatives and approaches to the solution of technical problems and opinions for minimizing future fault. It improves effectiveness and efficiency of technical activities in the production and service sector. So information is used for better decision making in all sectors and at all levels of responsibilities.
Governmental officials of different levels need information for decision making. They need census, weather and other related information. Legislators need information of different types to argue a point on the floor of the legislature.
d) Daily Life of a Person: Naturally, living today is quite different from what life was about a generation ago. Nowadays people in different situations require information on a subject in different forms and with different emphasis and different depth of explanation. An ordinary person in his daily life needs to have access to information on many of his daily activities. It may pertain to the quality, availability or cost of a number of things like articles of foods, health care, education, entertainment, travel, social security, etc. One may need information on cooking, gardening, house decoration and maintenance, and a host of other subjects. In private life one needs information to organize vacation activities, to make intelligent purchases, fertilize a lawn, soup up an engine, prune a shrub, groom a pet, select a garment, vote for a candidate, choose a doctor or lawyer, protest a tax increase, evaluate career opportunities, pick an investment, select a course, make a trip, plan meals and so on. The list of activities in a private life is virtually endless.
e) Business and Industry: Information and knowledge are getting their appropriate place in enterprises that are not static, because it is increasingly being recognized today that external information on market, competitors, social and political environment, government regulations and trade and tariffs etc. are invaluable if an enterprise is to thrive. It is only due to the central role of information that business and industries are day by day inclined to invest in R & D to generate new knowledge which would ultimately provide them an edge over their competitors.
In business sector, information helps in telemarketing, better financial management, customer service, training, sales, product development, market intelligence, looking for customers, etc.
In industry, the types of information needed are not limited to production, but cover all aspects of industrial activity. The major types are: identification of product, determination of technical and economic feasibility including the potential for use of indigenous resources; outlets for disposal of waste either as saleable by-products or for further processing, market or marketing, etc.
f) Scientific Development: The increase in population has resulted in mounting social pressure for increased production, but as population increases, natural and near natural commodities start depleting. So there is an urgent need for exploitation of new resources, creation of artificial commodities. All these developments are impossible without the use of proper information and immediate use of new scientific discoveries.
Air transportation, the concept of global village, satellite communication, nuclear energy, exploitation of outer space, improvement in agriculture, health, environment, etc are some of the results due to exclusive use of information in the field of science and technology.
g) Government: Information improves the capacity of a country to take advantage of the existing knowledge and “know how” to achieve success in various fields. So, the governments of almost all the countries of the world are the largest consumers of information and knowledge. In their commitment and responsibility to create a welfare state, they need information and knowledge on every conceivable subject. They collect, organize and disseminate statistical data on all its activities which constitute the most important and vital information resources for their planning and later implementation and execution.
All ministries of the government need up to date and timely information on the overall management of the country’s resources and general administration. Management Information System (MIS), Decision Support System (DDS) are widely used in planning and policy making.
h) Socio-Economic Development: The role of information in socio-economic development can be viewed from the following angles
i) Entertainment: With the viewer’s complete control over programmes, interactive television (watch a missed TV show).
ii) Health Care: With information sharing and even diagnosis and treatment by means of interactive video link-up.
iii) News: With consumers able to point and click to select information for personally tailored news items.
iv) Home Shopping: With a 24 hours a day, virtual global mall accessed by two way video and digitized sales.
v) Security: Electronic fingerprint, retina scanning, voice recognition, DNA finger print, signature dynamics.
Today, information has become a great source of power as a principal driving force for the acquisition of wealth, political strength and more knowledge etc. Information-rich countries of today are becoming even more powerful than the colonial powers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, on account of their expertise in creating new information and knowledge and exploiting them for their advantage. Information is not only the source of power but also an effective power in itself if released in appropriate time.