Companies around the world are using IT on a daily basis for everything from managing costs, to improving efficiency, managing risk, creating new products and entering new markets.
It’s clear that IT is changing the way we do business, so how is it changing the way we do things in society?
When IT is capable of making improvements across the board in all manner of organisations, which sectors are managing to use this to change the bigger picture?
Here are 10 of the top uses for IT in society today.
The integration of IT into healthcare is so pervasive that the Queensland University of Technology offers a Bachelors Degree in Health Information Management.
In the USA, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) heads up the country’s healthcare IT initiative, a program that exists purely to use IT for better healthcare.
In this industry, IT can help ensure more accurate and complete patient data, offer clinical decision support, computerise registries, make prescriptions electronically, allow for telehealth, coordinate care, reduce errors, lower the cost of healthcare, and much, much more.
Considering how communications have developed in the last decade alone, it will come as no surprise that IT has, and still is, playing a massive role in this transformation.
In 2007, the Australian government introduced legislation that would allow for digital radio stations to exist alongside older radio services, and the first of this kind commenced in 2009. This alone has made it possible for the convergence of technologies – with the help of IT – so that people can listen to the radio through digital means.
This is just one example of the industry that has become ICT – information and communications technology – which encompasses any type of communications device and all of their accumulated capabilities.
3. Cloud computing
The Cloud is, at its heart, simply a new form of delivering IT. Initially, it was believed that the Cloud might have a negative impact on the role of IT in a company, essentially eliminating the need for many of its functions such as storage and transmission of data.
When Cisco Consulting Services released the results of its ‘Impact of Cloud on IT Consumption Models’ survey in 2013, it found that 23 per cent of IT spend was on the Cloud, and importantly, that the respondents believe IT would always have a place in the Cloud. Here, IT would “manage Cloud solutions with consistent policy and security solutions”, ensuring that one continues to thrive with the help of the other.
Back in 1998, US non-profit Hitatchi Foundation noticed that even when there was a computer present in the classroom, it was barely used. In response, it began an initiative to use technology for a learning tool in everything from primary schools to universities and non-profit organisations and community groups.
Even back then, almost 20 years ago, companies were beginning to see the vast potential for IT in the learning environment. In 2014, Australian schools were already trialling the use of platforms such as LearningField, a simple tool that provides textbooks via tablet technology.
Not to mention the ability for long-distance learning, research, online tutorials, and hundreds of other learning tools made possible through IT.
5. Skilled labour services
Skilled labourers, such as plumbers, electricians, scientists, builders, professors, and engineers, are vital to the growth of Australia’s economy. According to Austrade’s Australia: Benchmark Report, the professional, scientific and technical industries contribute 6.9 per cent to the annual gross value added.
All of these trades are heavy users of IT. In 2013, the National Association of Home Builders (US) surveyed builders and found that more than 80 per cent of them used IT to communicate with staff manage their business and individual projects.
According to the University of California, Davis, the College of Engineering uses IT as a tool to do everything from transform data into images and visualise wind patterns in fine detail, to “illustrate the evolutionary morphology of a monkey skull”.
6. Travel industry
A 2013 impact report from Tourism Research Australia show that tourism’s contribution to the country’s GDP was $83.7 billion in 2011-2012.
Tourism is as important to Australia as it is to Australians, and IT makes much of what we do easier, quicker, cheaper and more efficient. Airlines offer real-time price updates for the latest airfares and seat availability, hotels can be booked online for specific dates, activities can be researched and booked, exchange rates are up to the second, check-ins can be completed online, and GPS and mapping systems save countless tourists who would otherwise find themselves very lost.
7. Real estate
With real estate being an important commodity and market for anyone who has ever bought, sold, rented, or invested in property, the advances in the sector due to IT have affected millions.
When Dustin Moore, the president of real estate solutions at real estate software provider A La Mode, spoke to Business Insider, he explained that mobile devices are making it possible for agents to access information at anytime, from anywhere. He also said that transactions between the buyer and the agent are faster, cleaner, safer, and more efficient than ever.
Plus, interested buyers can do their own research in ways that have previously not been possible. They can search for properties online, look at the prices of other homes in the area, research the neighbourhood without visiting the neighbourhood, and compare mortgage rates.
The use of IT in the retail industry is largely broken into three categories: customer data, market data and product data.
By analysing customer data, companies can target particular demographics and differentiate between markets. Use of market data allows retailers to pinpoint trends and respond to market change, and product data allows for stock management, including purchasing, storage, sales, and movements.
When IT and retail merge online, the possibilities only grow more lucrative, with the National Australia Bank (NAB) reporting that Australians are spending an annual $16.9 billion on online retail sites, a figure that represents 7 per cent of total retail spend.
In 1960 America, commercial bank investment in IT was US$160 million, by 1994, that figure had grown to more than $10 billion, according to the Economic and Statistics Administration.
With such advancements, the number of people visiting brick-and-mortar bank branches is falling by 5 to 10 per cent per year, as more and more people conduct basic transactions on mobile devices and computers.
This can include checking account balances, shifting money from one account to another, paying bills, researching information, setting up term deposits and more.
IT can help sportspeople, coaches and other physical activity experts better understand the strengths of the human bodies and use that information to improve performance.
Health data relating to nutrition, heart rates, blood pressure, and strength is increasing used to push harder and faster in the gym and on the field. Computer software packages such as Team Beep Test and BodyByte exists purely for those reasons.
The organisation of sport, for anything from round robins to league tables is also greatly improved with IT, as is the experience of watching and enjoying sport as a spectator with added information and modes of viewing at a fan’s fingertips.