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Times change and often leave us bewildered and it is more true of electronics & computing technology than many of the other fields. It was just the other day that an interesting discussion ensued with some of the erstwhile CIOs and veterans of the industry. We were recapitulating our experiences of dealing with technology implementation over the years. While we recalled the rapid changes that we had to deal with, we agreed that the future holds more surprises than any time in the past.
It is interesting to note the chronology of development over the years.
Stage 1 :After Charles Babbage invented the computers, they were put to use primarily for computing and were hence called computers.
Stage 2 : As more memory and storage became available people realized that one can process and store data which could then be used for generating various reports for the organization. Its usage spilled over to commercial firms and the term ‘data processing’ came into being.
Stage 3 : With more power added to computers it became possible to collate and analyze large amounts of data to generate useful and targeted information for decision making. Information became a rich resource and was a differentiating factor for taking a march over competition. With the widespread usage of information, the era came to be known as the ‘information age’ and experts opined that development of nations hinged on using information. The term ‘Information Technology’ defined the great role that computers and related technologies played in making this possible. The information factor got further fortified with use of ‘Business Intelligence tools’ and ‘Big Data Analytics. It became possible to extract hidden meaning from a mass of data whether in numeral form or in the form of text or other forms. The Chief Information Officer (CIO), had come of his own and occupied an important position in organizations. This era has continued for over 3 decades now and IT as a term has got strongly embedded in the minds of people when we speak of automation.
However computers and related equipment do not work in isolation. Connecting with people near and far we have to use various forms of communication technologies and hence becomes an essential ingredient of the solution. When connected over the internet, entertainment also became a part of this holy mix and so the term ICE (information, communication & entertainment) came into being.
Stage 4 – The Digital Age : The IT phase, in my opinion, is now turning over and yielding to something new. This is my view and I guess this would upset a few whom I don’t want to hurt. There is an increasing trend towards greater automation or greater digitization as we call it today. Access is no longer limited to desktops or laptops but the consumers today connect from a variety of gadgets including tablets and mobile phones. In fact there has been an explosion in the number of such people who use mobile devices. Thousands of ‘apps’ dot the landscape promising to make available any information or services to the user. The ‘Internet of Things’ has further blurred the picture – sensors and actuators connected by networks to computing systems have received enormous attention over the past five years. A dynamic industry is evolving around IoT technology. The digitization of machines, vehicles, and other elements of the physical world is a powerful idea. Even at this early stage, the IoT is starting to have a real impact by changing how goods are made and distributed, how products are serviced and refined, and how doctors and patients manage health and wellness. Information, on the other hand will be considered as given with various tools dishing out pre-configured but yet configurable information. The emphasis would be in terms of connect and execution rather than on mere information processing.
We have already seen the term ‘Digitization’ referred more these days than ‘information technology’ and the discourse has noticeably changed over the last one year. We hear of a ‘Chief Digital Officer’ more frequently in place of ‘Chief Information Officer’, than earlier. The world seems to have moved beyond the age of information processing and jumped a step ahead to actualize action with new found technologies and connect. Information is considered as given in this new state and the emphasis is more on delivery and end use. The term ‘Information Technology’ therefore does not seem to define the current state correctly. We have got used to that term for decades and I understand it will not be easy to give up and embrace a new term but I am sure that the term ‘IT’ would fade over time to give way to a new description which defines the contemporary state more appropriately. I know it took quite a few years to accept ‘Mumbai’ as the new name for the city but I don’t think we call it Bombay any more.