What Does Information and Communications Technology Mean?
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is the convergence of computing, telecommunication and governance policies for how information should be accessed, secured, processed, transmitted and stored.
In some parts of the world, ICT is used as a synonym for information technology (IT), but the two terms can have slightly different meanings when used in different contexts. For example, in the United States the label IT is used when discussing technology in terms of business operations — while the label ICT is used more often in the context of education and government.
ICT has become an umbrella term in many parts of the world as digital communication links replace analog links — and the demand for professionals who have the knowledge and skills to manage the convergence of these links grows.
To that end, ICT employees can expect to work in positions where the focus of their job includes improving digital literacy, data literacy and using emerging technologies to optimize legacy communication channels. This includes researching how emerging technologies such as augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can support traditional technologies and communication theories.
Techopedia Explains Information and Communications Technology
ICT includes traditional data center infrastructure components as well as an increasing number of content, software, hardware and support services delivered over the internet.
ICT components include:
- Hardware components that support the way information is created, transferred, stored and managed.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) and local client applications that support digital design, personal productivity and workflow management.
- Electronic components that support the exchange of digital information, including subscription service delivery mechanisms.
- Services that support IT asset management, data lifecycle management, customer experience management, digital employee experience management and data literacy.
ICT exclusions typically include computing-related office supplies such as printer toner — as well as personal computing devices and peripherals such as game consoles and ear buds.
IT vs. ICT
In the United States, the term information technology (IT) is used more often in the context of business operations, while ICT is used more often in education and government content.
Now that telephone networks have merged with computer network systems and communication technologies have increasingly become digital, the need to differentiate between line-item budget entries for IT and communication technologies components is expected to fade away. Experts in the U.S. are divided as to whether government and education will eventually adopt the acronym IT or continue to use ICT.
ICT is already the preferred label in most other parts of the world because it includes what is arguably the most important purpose of technology – improving the way people and machines exchange information.
Education and government
In the early days of the internet, the predominant focus of ICT in education was about the technology itself — and in government, the emphasis was on extending broadband to businesses and homes in rural areas.
Today, ICT projects in education and government focuses less on the technology itself — and more on how traditional and emerging technologies can be used to improve communication.
Schools and government agencies are encouraged (and sometimes required) to create information and communication technology policy plans that document how they plan to reduce the digital divide and improve data literacy in the classroom and the workplace.
ICT literacy, also referred to as data literacy, focuses on two important things: helping people translate data into meaningful information and communicate that meaningful information to others.
In education and human resource management, ICT literacy is an important skill for employees and students in both STEM and non-STEM fields. The U.S. Department of Labor’s maturity model for ICT literacy has five levels of competencies.
Importance of ICT Policies
ICT policies document the frameworks and processes required to benchmark and evaluate an organization’s ICT maturity levels — including adherence to laws, regulations and contracts.
Creating policy to oversee ICT compliance management typically includes the following steps:
- Identify applicable laws and regulations.
- Appoint a steering committee to oversee ICT compliance management.
- Create internal controls to enforce policy.
- Develop benchmarks and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure privacy and compliance.
- identify and prioritize ITC skills gaps that prevent compliance.
- Prepare training materials to improve data literacy and adherence to compliance regulations.
- Conduct audits on a regularly scheduled basis.
ICT products and services should be inclusive and accessible so everyone can use technology to communicate information. Organizations that fail to make their ICT products and services accessible can expose themselves to both financial and reputational risks. Many countries have developed standards and guidelines to ensure accessibility is part of the process for evaluating and procuring hardware, software, electronic content and support services. In the U.S., ICT accessibility guidelines are documented under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act.
In procurement and purchasing, ICT items can be characterized as being either COTS, MOTS, GOTS or SOTS. In all procurement models, it is recommended that potential ICT purchases should be evaluated for potential operational and reputational risks.
ICT Supply Chain Risk
In many countries, a threat to the ICT supply chain can be declared a national emergency if the threat poses unacceptable risks to the security of the country, its citizens, the economy or the nation-state’s critical infrastructure.
Because critical infrastructure is increasingly dependent on information and communications technologies, disruptions that impact the ICT supply chain can have ripple down effects, and the consequences of a supply chain incident has the power to extend the incident’s impact beyond the initial target.
The ICT Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) Task Force is a public-private partnership in the U.S. tasked with identifying and developing strategies to enhance ICT supply chain security. SCRM is sponsored by CISA’s National Risk Management Center (NRMC).
ICT has become a more recognized umbrella term in the U.S. job market as the skills required to manage technology and telecom converge.
Popular ICT career specialties include:
- Computer Programming
- Cloud Service Integration
- Web Design and Development
- Data Governance
- Network Engineering
- Storage Administration
- Database Management
- Information Security
- Business Intelligence
- Big Data Analytics
- Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
- Technology and Website Support
- IT Project Management
- Procurement and IT Product Management
- Corporate Communications
- e-Marketing, including Content Marketing and Social Media Management
Successful ICT job candidates do not always need to hold a university degree. In many industries, candidates can achieve the same career benefits by obtaining certifications in at least one of four pathways: information support and services; networking; software and systems development; games and simulations.
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