Information Technology on Individuals, Organizations and Societies
Part VI Implementing and Managing IT 13.14.15.
16. 17. Chapter 17 IT Strategy and Planning Information Technology Economics Acquiring IT Applications and Infrastructure Security Impacts of IT on Individuals, Organizations, and Society Impacts of IT on Individuals, Organizations, and Society Movie Piracy Learning Objectives 17. 1 Perspectives on IT Impacts 17. 2 IT Is Eliminating the Barriers of Time, After studying this chapter, you will be able to: Space, and Distance Understand the changes that take place in the workplace and the lives of individuals when information technology eliminates geographical and spatial barriers.
Describe some of the major impacts of information technology on individuals, organizations, and society. 17. 3 Information Is Changing from a Scarce Resource to an Abundant Resource Discuss the positive and negative effects associated with the abundance of information made available by IT. 17. 4 Machines Are Performing Functions Identify the issues that arise due to uneven diffusion of information technology across countries and socioeconomic classes. Previously Performed by Humans 17. 5 Information Technology Urges People to Reexamine Their Value Systems Understand the complexity of effects of technological rogress on labor markets and individual employees. 17. 6 Conclusion 17. 7 Managerial Issues Discuss the impacts of information technology on the quality of life and interpersonal relationships. Recognize the legal, ethical, and moral issues that become particularly critical due to proliferation of information technology. Minicases: 1. Megachurches 2. RFID for Consumer Products Integrating IT ACC FIN MKT POM HRM IS SVC 663 MOVIE PIRACY The Problem Generations of moviegoers went to movie theaters to enjoy the latest films. They accepted the idea of paying for their movies. However, movie piracy, which has been reatly accelerated by information technology, is challenging this notion. Now, movie pirates are bringing the latest motion picture releases to an Internet-connected computer near you. For years, movie studios suffered minor losses due to high-tech piracy (theft of digital content) that was carried out by people duplicating videotapes and DVDs. The need to produce and distribute physical media presented a number of technical and logistical difficulties for movie pirates, which limited the scope of their operations. Thus, picture studios largely ignored these activities. When Napster. com and other sites began to se the Web and peer-to-peer technologies to share pirated music, movie producers felt reasonably immune to this trend. After all, it would take more than a week to download a 5-gigabyte DVD-quality movie using a 56-kilobits-per-second modem. Some individuals argue that piracy does not hurt film studios but, rather, makes movies available to those people who would not be able to enjoy them otherwise. Information technology that enables movie piracy raises a number of significant issues, such as intellectual property rights, fair use, and the role of government in regulating these issues.
Furthermore, information technology makes it easier than ever to cross national borders, adding international implications to the issue of movie piracy. The Solution To deal with movie piracy, picture studio executives attacked several aspects of the problem simultaneously. First, media companies tried to shape public opinion in a way that would discourage movie piracy. For instance, to raise public awareness of the issue, filmmakers launched an advertising campaign with the slogan “Movies. They’re worth it. ” Second, the movie industry performed a number of ctivities that made it more difficult to copy and distribute pirated movies without being noticed. For instance, 664 enhanced physical security at movie theaters, which may include the use of metal detectors and physical searches for recording devices, helps the film industry deter piracy at “sneak previews” and movie premieres (Ripley, 2004). Technology plays an important part in this process. The Results Hollywood had several high-profile wins in its fight against Internet movie piracy in 2005 and 2006. The film industry’s trade organization, the Motion Picture
Association of America (MPAA), slapped hundreds of people with lawsuits for illegally downloading and trading films online. The U. S. departments of Justice and Homeland Security shut down Elite Torrents, a popular Web site that spread copies of Star Wars: Episode III— Revenge of the Sith before the movie officially opened. Even Bram Cohen, creator of BitTorrent (a peer-to-peer file-sharing program responsible for an estimated 65% of illegal movie downloads in 2005), agreed to cut links to MPAA-pirated content off his Web site (Leung, 2006). Yet the problem seems to be getting worse.
According to London-based research firm Informa, illegal movie downloads cost the industry U. S. $985 million in 2005, up from U. S. $860 million in 2004. Growing access to broadband likely played a role, as higher Internet speeds made downloading large movie files faster. Studio executives realize that enforcement is only part of the solution. As in the music industry, many believe the best way to prevent illegal downloads is to offer legal alternatives. Warner Bros. turned a technology used by Internet movie pirates to its advantage. In March 2006, in Germany, Austria, and parts of Switzerland, the company aunched In2Movies, a peer-to-peer file-sharing network that lets users download movies for the price of a DVD or less. Kevin Tsujihara, the president of the Warner Bros. ’ home entertainment group, said Germany has all the right ingredients for such a service: high rates of piracy due to high levels of broadband penetration, a tech-savvy population, and consumers willing to pay for downloaded movies. Sources: Compiled from Leung (2006) and Ripley (2004). Lessons Learned from This Case Obviously, information technology is not the cause of movie piracy, just as it is not the cause of music iracy. (See Online File W17. 1 for a discussion of music piracy. ) However, it is the tool that tremendously heightens the importance of legal, ethical, and regulatory issues related to this phenomenon. Copyright, trademark, and patent infringement, freedom of thought and speech, theft of property, and 17. 1 fraud are not new issues in modern societies. However, as this opening case illustrates, information technology adds to the scope and scale of these issues.It also raises a number of questions about what constitutes illegal behavior versus unethical, intrusive, or undesirable behavior.
This chapter examines these and numerous other impacts of information technology on individuals, organizations, and society. Perspectives on IT Impacts Concern about the impact of technology on people, organizations, and society is not new. As early as the 1830s, English intellectuals expressed philosophical arguments about the effects of technologies that had given rise to the Industrial Revolution some 60 to 70 years earlier. Samuel Butler, in his 1872 book Erehwon (an anagram for nowhere), summarized the anxiety about the disruptive influences of technology on the lives of people.
The book described a society that made a conscious decision to reject machines and new technology; in it, people have “frozen” technology at a predetermined level and outlawed all further technological development. While there are many philosophical, technological, social, and cultural differences between society at the start of the Industrial Revolution and the society of the middle of the Information Age in which we now live, there are, nevertheless, people who continue to believe that humankind is threatened by the evolution of technology. Overall, however, our society has not rejected technology but, rather, has embraced it.
Most of us recognize that technology and information systems are essential to maintaining, supporting, and enriching many aspects of the lives of individuals, operations of organizations, and functioning of societies. Humans are involved in a symbiotic relationship with technology. All the same, we must be aware of its effect on us as individuals and as members of organizations and society. Throughout this book, we have noted how information systems are being rationalized, developed, used, and maintained to help organizations meet their needs and reach their goals.
In all these discussions, we have assumed that development and implementation of information technology produce only positive results and leave no major negative consequences. However, is this really true? Abundant evidence unmistakably points to potential negative effects of technology in general, and information technology in particular. Information technology has raised a multitude of negative issues, ranging from illegal copying of software programs to surveillance of employees’ e-mail.
The impact of IT on employment levels is of major concern, as are the effects on sociability and the quality of life. A more critical issue, however, involves questions such as: Will proliferation of technology cause irreversible changes to the society as we know it? Will humans benefit from the new capabilities of information technology, or will they be harmed by machines playing more and more prominent roles in the society? Who will investigate the costs and risks of technologies? Will society have any control over the decisions to deploy technology? 665 666
Chapter 17 Impacts of IT on Individuals, Organizations, and Society This chapter will discuss several major themes that can be identified among the countless effects of information technology. We will discuss how information technology removes spatial and geographic barriers, transforms information into an abundant resource, enables machines to perform “human” tasks, and forces people to reconsider their value systems. Each of these trends is comprised of the effects of multiple technologies and has far-reaching implications for various groups of people. 17. 2 IT Is Eliminating the Barriers of Time, Space, and Distance
One of the most noticeable developments precipitated by information technology is the elimination of numerous barriers that traditionally separated individuals, organizations, and societies at different geographic locations. In essence, information technology is redefining the entire concept of time, space, and distance. Proliferation of high-speed data communication networks that span the globe enables companies to integrate geographically distant manufacturing and research facilities, link international financial markets, and even provide customer service from halfway around the world.
GLOBALIZATION Offshore outsourcing is one of the manifestations of the trend toward globalization— blurring of geographic barriers—that is accelerated by information technology. Well-educated English-speaking employees residing in countries like India and the Philippines can perform services demanded by firms based in the United States, Great Britain, or any other country. In fact, outsourcing of white-collar services has already become mainstream, with software development and call-center operations being among the most prevalent.
Furthermore, the outsourcing trends are naturally expanding into such activities as processing of insurance claims, transcription of medical records, engineering and design work, financial analysis, market research, and many others (“The Remote Future,” 2004). From a macroeconomic perspective, the effects of offshore outsourcing are quite positive: It facilitates a more efficient allocation of human resources by removing the imperfections introduced by geographical boundaries. On a microeconomic level, numerous companies will benefit from lower costs of outsourced activities.
For example, by outsourcing back-office work to Costa Rica, the Philippines, and Great Britain, Procter & Gamble was able to realize $1 billion in cost reductions (La Londe, 2004). Nevertheless, outsourcing, as any other impact of information technology, raises an array of complex interrelated issues that are not always positive. For instance, outsourcing may be advantageous to some groups of people, but detrimental to others. Nasscom, the Indian IT industry lobby, forecasts that employment in the “ITenabled services” industry in India will grow from 770,000 in 2004 to 2 million in 2008 (“The Remote Future,” 2004).
Yet, employees and trade unions in Western nations are expressing concerns about job losses resulting from offshore outsourcing. The U. S. federal government and the majority of individual states are already considering laws that would prevent government agencies from contracting their services out to foreign firms (Schroeder, 2004). As the volume of sensitive data processed offshore increases, outsourcing will raise the questions of privacy and confidentiality.
Privacy standards in a country where data originate may vary dramatically from the privacy laws and privacy safeguards in the country where the data are processed. An incident in which a disgruntled worker in Pakistan threatened to post medical records of U. S. patients on the Internet highlights the seriousness of this issue (Mintz, 2004). 17. 2 IT Is Eliminating the Barriers of Time, Space, and Distance 667 The remarkable communications capabilities delivered by IT promote globalization not only through offshore outsourcing but also through enabling firms to distribute core corporate functions around the globe.
TELECOMMUTING Broadband Internet access, secure virtual private networks, and mobile computing technologies are making it possible for many professionals to telecommute, or work from outside the office. According to some estimates, by the year 2010 more than half of workers in the United States will spend 2 or more days a week working away from the office. However, experts estimate that even in 10 years it would be uncommon to find workers who telecommute 5 days a week, suggesting that telecommuting would not fully eliminate the need for central office locations.
From 1990 to 2000, the number of those who worked more at home than at the office grew by 23 percent, twice the rate of growth of the total labor market. Since 2000, telecommuting has continued to increase. Approximately 4. 5 million Americans telecommute a majority of their total working days, with some 20 million commuting at least some days each month and 45 million telecommuting at least once per year. Telecommuting offers a plethora of benefits, including reducing rush-hour traffic, improving air quality, improving highway safety, and even improving health care (see IT at Work 17. ). Among the large metropolitan areas in the United States, the largest amount of telecommuting occurs in Denver, Portland, and San Diego. The projected growth of IT-related jobs is on the rise. Five of the top ten highest-growth jobs are IT-related, including computer software engineering for applications, computer support specialists, computer software engineering for systems software, network and computer systems administrators, and network systems and data communication analysts (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook; see money. cnn. om/magazines/ business2/nextjobboom/), and the rates of telecommuting are expected to grow even higher. Many of these IT-related jobs can now be effectively performed from home, thanks to excellent bandwidths and improved technologies to support telecommuting. IT at Work 17. 1 Telemedicine Helps Indian Tribe Get Better Health Care The Alabama Coushatta Indian Tribe Reservation, located 45 miles outside of Houston, Texas, in Livingston County, has experienced an outmigration of its people to more metropolitan areas in search of better education, jobs, and health care.
Wanting to preserve its race and culture, the 300-member tribe sought ways to make living on the reservation more attractive to its young members. In partnership with Sam Houston State University (SHSU) and with $350,000 in funding from the Rural Utilities Services, a network called RESNET was created to bridge the information and communication gaps for residents of Livingston and surrounding counties. A fiber-optic network links the medical clinic on the reservation to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Polk County as well as to the Tyler County Hospital. Tribal members can ow receive more specialized care as two-way consultations between the clinic on the reservation and the hospital in Polk County or Tyler County are now possible. Individuals with ailments that might require hospitalization, but about which they are not sure, such as a diabetic with a concern about a swollen limb, can first check with the medical clinic on the reservation. Vital signs can be taken and radiology images shared with the specialist physicians at one of the hospitals, and then informed decisions about whether the patient needs to travel to a hospital can be made.
This helps improve the quality of care as well as saves time both for patients and for medical staff. Source: USDA (2006) and shsu. edu (1997). For Further Exploration: What are potential legal problems associated with telemedicine? What are some trade-offs to be considered? 668 Chapter 17 Impacts of IT on Individuals, Organizations, and Society The typical telecommuter is well-educated, financially stable, has children, works in management and/or sales, and had worked in his or her current position for several years face-to-face before starting to telecommute Balaker, 2005). Likewise, as the percent of service-related jobs increases—by 2002, 82 percent of the U. S. workforce worked in service-related jobs—the potential for more telecommuting also rises. It is simply not possible for factory or agricultural laborers to telecommute, but many service-related jobs do offer the potential for telecommuting. One area where telecommuting is having a promising impact is that of telemedicine. For instance, in 2001, doctors in New York performed the first successful crossAtlantic telesurgery on a patient in Strasbourg France.
The removal of the patient’s gallbladder was conducted via a robotic arm that was remotely controlled by the surgeons. A fiber-optic cable operated by France Telecom enabled the high-speed link so that the images from the operating table in France were on display in front of the doctors in New York, with an average time delay of only 150 milliseconds (Johnson, 2002). Other areas of medicine are experiencing surges in telemedicine as well. Replacing the couch with a monitor and video feed, telepsychiatry in particular is becoming popular, fueled in part by the need to serve rural patients and the need to service prison populations.
Data from the National Conference of State Legislatures indicates that as of 2006, six states in the United States required private insurers to reimburse patients for telepsychiatry. Impacts of Working from Home or Virtual Office. All forms of telecommuting— working from home (WFH) or a virtual office—give employees greater flexibility in their working locations and hours. Working in a virtual office is one way an employee can telecommute by completing job duties virtually anywhere—a car, hotel room, airport, or any hotspot.
Telecommuting (or telework) played a significant role in business continuity and continuity of operations planning. Companies who had employees in New York City on 9/11 or New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina relied on telework. Their employees were able to work immediately after these tragedies because of the telework programs they had in place. The Telework Coalition (TelCoa. org), a nonprofit membership organization that promotes virtual and distributed work, conducted a benchmarking study of employers in public and private sectors with large telework programs. Employers represented roughly 00,000 employees and 150,000 teleworkers and mobile workers. The 2006 study, sponsored by Intel, looked at how these large organizations resolved problems to create successful programs that benefited the organization and employees through reduced real estate costs, increased employee retention, and a higher rate of employee satisfaction. The survey was valuable because it examined details such as benefits, costs, challenges, and unexpected consequences experienced by managers. Most participants emphasized the importance of the mobility that telework enables when dealing in a global economy.
To read the Executive Summary of the telework survey, visit telcoa. org/id311. htm. An interesting finding was that telework was being regarded as “just work” and not an unusual form of work. As long as employees had a phone, laptop, high-speed Internet access, and fax, they are in business wherever they are. With the convergence of technologies, such as a wireless-equipped laptop with a VoIP phone, or a new-generation PDA, work can be done from almost anywhere. Telework is also of great importance to the local community and society because of effects on the environment, safety, and health.
For example, the strength of a society depends on the strength of its individuals and the strength of their families. Other potential benefits 17. 2 IT Is Eliminating the Barriers of Time, Space, and Distance TABLE 17. 1 669 Potential Benefits of Telecommuting or Virtual Work Individuals Organizational Community and Society • Reduces or eliminates travelrelated time and expenses • Improves health by reducing stress related to compromises made between family and work responsibilities • Allows closer proximity to and involvement with family • Allows closer bonds with the family and the community Decreases involvement in office politics • Increases productivity despite distractions • Reduces office space needed • Increases labor pool and competitive advantage in recruitment • Provides compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act • Decreases employee turnover, absenteeism, and sick leave usage • Improves job satisfaction and productivity • Conserves energy and lessens dependence on foreign oil • Preserves the environment by reducing traffic-related pollution and congestion • Reduces traffic accidents and resulting injuries or deaths Reduces the incidence of disrupted families when people do not have to quit their jobs if they need to move because of a spouse’s new job or family obligations • Increased employment opportunities for the homebound • Allows the movement of job opportunities to areas of high unemployment of telework to individuals, organizations, and communities are listed in Table 17. 1. There are numerous potential negative effects of telework, including a sense of isolation when working from home even though such work often requires a lot of telephone contact with people in the office.
Growth in telecommuting raises the questions of whether the benefits of working from home outweigh the costs, and whether telecommuting is appropriate for everyone or only for workers with certain qualities and personality types. Few of us want to work around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, but the pressure to do so could be considerable if the facility exists. Another pressure may be to work antisocial hours—night shifts, for example, or weekends—which can adversely impact the quality of social interactions and interpersonal relationships. For more on teleworking, see Online File W17. 2. ) Globalization and telecommuting are only two examples of how information technology removes the barriers of time, space, and distance. Far-reaching results of this trend are changing the way we live, work, play, and do business, bringing both improvements that we can enjoy and the challenges that we need to overcome. In the context of organizations, these changes have important implications for structure, authority, power, job content, and personnel issues. STRUCTURE, AUTHORITY, POWER, JOB C ONTENT, AND PERSONNEL ISSUES
The IT revolution may result in many changes in structure, authority, power, and job content, as well as personnel management and human resources management. Details of these changes are shown in Table 17. 2. In addition, other changes are expected in organizations. IT managers are assuming a greater leadership role in making business decisions. The impact goes beyond one company or one supply chain, to influence entire industries. For example, the use of profitability models and optimization is reshaping retailing, real estate, banking, transportation, airlines, and car renting, to mention just a few.
These and other changes are impacting personnel issues, as shown in Table 17. 3. Many additional personnel-related questions could surface as a result of using IT. For example: What will be the impact of IT on job qualifications and on training 670 Chapter 17 Impacts of IT on Individuals, Organizations, and Society TABLE 17. 2 Impacts of IT on Structure, Authority, Power, and Job Content Impact Effect of IT Flatter organizational hierarchies IT increases span of control (more employees per supervisor), increases productivity, and reduces the need for technical experts (due to expert systems).
Fewer managerial levels will result, with fewer staff and line managers. Reduction in the total number of employees, reengineering of business processes, and the ability of lower-level employees to perform higher-level jobs may result in flatter organizational hierarchies. The ratio of white- to blue-collar workers increases as computers replace clerical jobs, and as the need for information systems specialists increases. However, the number of professionals and specialists could decline in relation to the total number of employees in some organizations as intelligent and knowledge-based systems grow.
IT makes possible technology centers, e-commerce centers, decision support systems departments, and/or intelligent systems departments. Such units may have a major impact on organizational structure, especially when they are supported by or report directly to top management. Centralization may become more popular because of the trend toward smaller and flatter organizations and the use of expert systems. On the other hand, the Web permits greater empowerment, allowing for more decentralization. Whether use of IT results in more centralization or in decentralization may depend on top management’s philosophy.
Knowledge is power, and those who control information and knowledge are likely to gain power. The struggle over who controls the information resources has become a conflict in many organizations. In some countries, the fight may be between corporations that seek to use information for competitive advantage and the government (e. g. , Microsoft vs. the Justice Dept. ). Elsewhere, governments may seek to hold onto the reins of power by not letting private citizens access some information (e. g. , China’s restriction of Internet usage).
Job content is interrelated with employee satisfaction, compensation, status, and productivity. Resistance to changes in job skills is common, and can lead to unpleasant confrontations between employees and management. Change in blue-towhite-collar staff ratio Growth in number of special units Centralization of authority Changes in power and status Changes in job content and skill sets requirements? How can jobs that use IT be designed so that they present an acceptable level of challenge to users? How might IT be used to personalize or enrich jobs?
What can be done to make sure that the introduction of IT does not demean jobs or have other negative impacts from the workers’ point of view? All these and more issues could be encountered in any IT implementation. TABLE 17. 3 Impacts of IT on Personnel Issues Impact Effect of IT Shorter career ladders In the past, many professionals developed their abilities through years of experience and a series of positions that exposed them to progressively more complex situations. The use of IT, and especially Web-based computer-aided instruction, may short-cut this learning curve. IT introduces the possibility for greater electronic supervision.
In general, the supervisory process may become more formalized, with greater reliance on procedures and measurable (i. e. , quantitative) outputs and less on interpersonal processes. This is especially true for knowledge workers and telecommuters. The Web has the potential to increase job mobility. Sites such as techjourney. com can tell you how jobs pay in any place in the United States. Sites like monster. com offer places to post job offerings and resumes. Using videoconferencing for interviews and intelligent agents to find jobs is likely to increase employee turnover.
Changes in supervision Job mobility 17. 3 Information Is Changing from a Scarce Resource to an Abundant Resource 17. 3 671 Information Is Changing from a Scarce Resource to an Abundant Resource Few people disagree with the notion that information is a valuable resource and that increased availability of information can be beneficial for individuals and organizations alike. However, information technology’s capability to introduce ever-growing amounts of data and information into our lives can exceed our capacity to keep up with them, leading to information overload.
Business users are not suffering from the scarcity of data; instead, they are discovering that the process of finding the information they need in massive collections of documents can be complicated, time consuming, and expensive. The impact of information overload is felt not only in business circles but also in many other parts of the society, including the military intelligence community. At the onset of the Information Age, intelligence professionals acquired never-before-seen data collection tools, including high-resolution satellite imagery and versatile sensors capable of penetrating natural and manmade barriers.
Furthermore, information technology enabled the intelligence community to establish high-speed communication links to transfer the data, build vast databases to store the data, and use powerful supercomputers with intelligent software to process the data. Clearly, information technology has greatly increased both the amount of information available to the intelligence community and the speed at which it can analyze this information. However, existing computer systems and human analysts are unable to deal with the increasing volumes of data, creating the information-overload problem.
For instance, according to MacDonald and Oettinger (2002),“information that might have prevented some of the September 11 attacks apparently existed somewhere within the vast quantity of data collected by the intelligence community, but the systems for using such information have lagged far behind the ability to collect the data. ” To be effective at solving the problem of information overload, information systems must differentiate between the data that can be safely summarized and the data that should be viewed in its original form (DeSouza et al. , 2004). INFORMATION OVERLOAD INFORMATION QUALITY FIN
As organizations and societies continue to generate, process, and rely on the rapidly increasing amounts of information, they begin to realize the importance of information quality. Information quality is a somewhat subjective measure of the utility, objectivity, and integrity of gathered information. Quality issues affect both the simple collections of facts (data) and the more complex pieces of processed data (information). To be truly valuable, both data and information must possess a number of essential characteristics, such as being complete, accurate, up-to-date, and “fit for the purpose” for which they are used (Ojala, 2003).
The value and usability of data and information that do not satisfy these requirements are severely limited. Issues relating to information quality have become sufficiently significant that they now occupy a notable place on the government’s legislative agenda. The Data Quality Act of 2001 and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 impose stringent information quality requirements on government agencies and publicly traded corporations (Loshin, 2004).
For example, one of the provisions of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act makes chief executive and financial officers personally responsible and liable for the quality of financial information that firms release to stockholders or file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This rule emphasizes the importance of controlling and measuring data quality and information quality in business intelligence, corporate performance management, and record management systems (Logan and Buytendijk, 2003). Information quality problems are not limited to corporate data. Millions of individuals face information quality ssues on a daily basis as they try to find information 672 Chapter 17 Impacts of IT on Individuals, Organizations, and Society online, whether on publicly available Web pages or in specialized research databases, wikis, blogs, or newsfeeds. Among the most common problems that plague online information sources is omission of materials. A number of online “full-text” periodicals databases may omit certain items that appeared in the printed versions of those publications. In addition, online sources of information leave out older documents, which are not available in digital form.
Thus, one cannot be assured of having access to a complete set of relevant materials. Even materials that are available from seemingly reputable sources present information quality concerns. Information may have been reported wrong, whether intentionally or unintentionally, or the information may have become out of date (Ojala, 2003). These and other information quality issues are contributing to the frustration and anxiety that for some have become the unfortunate side effect of the Information Age. SPAM THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
Spamming, the practice of indiscriminately broadcasting unsolicited messages via e-mail and over the Internet, is one of the most widespread forms of digital noise. Spam is typically directed at a person and presents a considerable annoyance, with 70 percent of users indicating that “spam makes being online unpleasant” (Davies, 2004). Bulk unsolicited electronic messages—spam—accounts for more than 66 percent of all e-mail traffic on the Internet. Some 25. 5 billion spam messages were sent in 2004 (reported by Defacto, 2005).
This volume of messages significantly impairs the bandwidth of Internet service providers and places excessive capacity demands on mail servers. In electronic commerce, spam can delay transactions and can cause problems in supply chains where business data are exchanged through specially configured e-mail accounts (Davies, 2004). Spam hurts businesses even more by lowering the productivity of employees who have to deal with unwanted messages. Spam can originate in any country, making the anti-spam legislation of any given country largely ineffective in keeping spam out.
The 2004 Ferris Research Study on spam found that the average amount spent on anti-spam products was $41 per user per year, so for a company with 10,000 employees, this would total $410,000 for the company per year. Thirty-four percent of the respondents in the Ferris study indicated that between 50 and 74 percent of all incoming messages were spam. Fortythree percent reported that managing spam was a major managerial concern. Of the approximately 500 organizations studied, 56 percent had already implemented antispam software with another 30 percent planning to.
For the 14 percent that did not plan to implement spam software, the major reason was the fear of “false positives”— that is, the concern that messages that are quite important will be filtered as junk. In fact, unless employees occasionally browse their junk mail, they might very well miss important messages. Thus, in addition to the cost of the software, there is no way around the fact that spam costs organizations in terms of employee time. See Online File W17. 3 for discussion of the U. S. Can-Spam Act.
Internet service providers and software companies have embarked on a technological campaign to eradicate spam. Mail-filtering software and other technologies have made it more difficult for spammers to distribute their messages. However, spammers have responded with creative new schemes to defeat the anti-spam solutions. The battle of innovations and counterinnovations between spammers and anti-spam companies continues. Some of the major anti-spam software providers include SpamAssassin, Symantec, Network Associates McAfee, TrendMicro, GFI, SurfControl, and Sophos.
Technologies enabling access to information are not distributed evenly among various groups of people. For some people, information continues to be a scarce resource, which puts them at a comparative economic and social disadvantage. The gap in computer technology in general, and now in Web technology in particular, 17. 3 Information Is Changing from a Scarce Resource to an Abundant Resource 673 between those who have such technology and those who do not is referred to as the digital divide.
However, by 2003, nearly 100 percent of the public schools in the United States had Internet access (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2005). Not only has the divide in terms of access per se been reduced, but the divide in terms of the quality (or speed) of access has been reduced. By 2003, 95 percent of public schools used broadband connections to access the Internet, as compared with 80 percent in 2000 and fewer than 15 percent in 1996. Greater access in public schools is helping break the racial digital divide that has been noticeable since the Internet first emerged.
The New York Times reported in March 2006 that a Pew national survey of people 18 and older found that 61 percent of African Americans reported using the Internet, compared with 74 percent of whites and 80 percent of English-speaking Hispanics (Marriott, 2006). However, what these studies do not indicate is the purpose of the Internet use, the frequency of it, or the benefit of it. Nor do the studies provide evidence that the divide is shrinking across households. Poorer households remain less likely to have Internet access from the home than do wealthier counterparts (Marriott, 2006).
Moreover, even as the divide lessens in regard to mature technologies, it continues to exist for newer technologies. For example, some schools with sufficient resources are now making iPods a tool for all students (see IT at Work 17. 2). IMPACTS ON I NDIVIDUALS Together, the increasing amounts of information and information technology use have potential impacts on job satisfaction, dehumanization, and information anxiety as well as impacts on health and safety. Although many jobs may become substantially more “enriched” with IT, other jobs may become more routine and less satisfying.
Dehumanization and Other Psychological Impacts. Many people feel a loss of identity, a dehumanization, because of computerization; they feel like “just another number” because computers reduce or eliminate the human element that was present in the noncomputerized systems. Some people also feel this way about the Web. On the other hand, while the major objective of technologies, such as e-commerce, is to increase productivity, they can also create personalized, flexible systems that allow individuals to include their opinions and knowledge in the system.
These technologies attempt to be people-oriented and user-friendly (e. g. , blogs and wikis). The Internet threatens to have an even more isolating influence than has been created by television. If people are encouraged to work and shop from their living rooms, then some unfortunate psychological effects, such as depression and loneliness, could develop. Some people have become so addicted to the Web that they have dropped out of their regular social activities, at school or work or home, creating societal and organizational problems.
Another possible psychological impact relates to distance learning. In some countries, it is legal to school children at home through IT. Some argue, however, that the lack of social contacts could be damaging to the social, moral, and cognitive development of school-age children who spend long periods of time working alone on the computer. Information Anxiety. Another potential negative impact is information anxiety. This disquiet can take several forms, such as frustration with our inability to keep up with the amount of data present in our lives. Information anxiety can take other forms as well.
One is frustration with the quality of the information available on the Web, which frequently is not up-to-date or incomplete. Another is frustration or guilt associated with not being better informed, or being informed too late (“How come others knew this before I did? ”). A third form of information anxiety stems from information overload (too many online sources). 674 Chapter 17 Impacts of IT on Individuals, Organizations, and Society IT at Work 17. 2 The Dog Ate My iPod Schools and universities are finding new ways to keep up with technology, such as the emergence of iPods on campuses.
All levels of education are using this brand of portable media players, designed and marketed by Apple Computer, as a learning tool. Duke University was one of the first to embrace this technology. Duke’s provost, Peter Lang, said, “the direct effect of iPods is they learn better in the classroom. ” Duke was awarded a grant to give their freshmen 20-gigabyte iPods—enough storage for up to 5,000 songs. The results are mixed; about 75 percent of those surveyed at Duke said they use their iPods for academic work. Half the time, they use the device in ways recommended by the professors.
The positive feedback is that the iPod is similar to the old recording devices used in the past, but with the ability to store, organize, and access with a click of a couple of buttons. Students do not have to attend the class to download the materials online or from a fellow student. Some schools feel that students will skip out on classes and rely on each other’s recordings, or even use the device to cheat. According to Don McCabe, a Rutgers professor who surveyed nearly 62,000 undergraduates on 96 campuses over four years, two-thirds of the students admitted to cheating.
That is a concern, especially with the compact size, wireless earpieces, and the ability to hold podcasts—audio recordings that can be distributed over the Internet. But with an abundance of electronic gadgets, including handheld email devices, wireless access in classrooms to the Internet, calculators that are preprogrammed with formulas, and pensized scanners used to copy text or exams for other students, universities have to stay ahead of the curve. Some other concerns are: How will the lecturer’s words and actions be used for unknown purposes and when/where is copyright eing infringed when students and faculty make their own recordings? In spite of the worries of skipping class, personal use, and cheating, Apple Computer is behind the iPod in the education field. Six schools (Duke, Brown, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and the University of Missouri School of Journalism) recently participated in a pilot program called iTunes U (apple. com/educastion/solutions/ itunes_u/). The program was so popular that Apple began to offer the program to all colleges for lectures, notes, podcasts, and information in a library for students to download.
Other schools, such as Brearley School, a private school for girls on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, use iPods predominantly in interactive exercises, such as foreign language classes. Katherine Hallissy Ayala, the head of the computer education department, says “the hope is that if students are interested in this, they’ll download and explore on their own without being told to. ” And Jacques Houis, a French teacher at Brearley, feels that “listening to many different types of French, not just the teacher, is very important. Students have said that the iPod has helped their foreign language skills by listening to playbacks, music, and other sources besides what is taught in the classroom. One thing is for sure, the iPod is changing the academic field and schools will have to stay ahead of generations born in the ever-changing world of technology. Sources: Ferguson (2005) and Moore (2005) For Further Exploration: How does the use of iPods shift responsibility from teachers “teaching” to students “learning”? What excuses might a student use for not completing an ssignment correctly or submitting it on time? Impacts on Health and Safety. Computers and information systems are a part of the environment that may adversely affect individuals’ health and safety. To illustrate, we will discuss the effects of job stress and long-term use of the keyboard. Job Stress. An increase in workload and/or responsibilities can trigger job stress. Although computerization has benefited organizations by increasing productivity, it has also created an ever-increasing workload for some employees.
Some workers, especially those who are not proficient with computers, but who must work with them, feel overwhelmed and start feeling anxious about their jobs and their job performance. These feelings of anxiety can adversely affect workers’ productivity. Management’s responsibility is to help alleviate these feelings by providing training, redistributing the workload among workers, or by hiring more individuals. Repetitive Strain (Stress) Injuries. Other potential health and safety hazards are repetitive strain injuries such as backaches and muscle tension in the wrists and fingers.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful form of repetitive strain injury that affects the wrists and hands. It has been associated with the long-term use of keyboards. 17. 3 Information Is Changing from a Scarce Resource to an Abundant Resource 675 Lessening the Negative Impact on Health and Safety. Designers are aware of the potential problems associated with prolonged use of computers. Consequently, they have attempted to design a better computing environment. Research in the area of ergonomics (the science of adapting machines and work environments to people) provides guidance for these designers.
For instance, ergonomic techniques focus on creating an environment for the worker that is safe, well lit, and comfortable. Devices such as antiglare screens have helped alleviate problems of fatigued or damaged eyesight, and chairs that contour the human body have helped decrease backaches (see A Closer Look 17. 1). A Closer Look 17. 1 Ergonomic and Protective Products Many products are available to improve working conditions for people who spend much of their time at a computer. The following photos illustrate some ergonomic solutions. Wrist support Back support Eye-protection filter optically coated glass) Adjustable foot rest 676 Chapter 17 Impacts of IT on Individuals, Organizations, and Society 17. 4 Machines Are Performing Functions Previously Performed by Humans One of the distinguishing traits of humankind is the continuous quest to find tools and techniques to replace human work and manual labor. Information technology greatly accelerates this process and allows machines to perform a variety of complex functions, which, in the past, could be performed only by humans. Robotics offers a clear example of information technology eliminating the need for human labor.
Computerized transaction processing systems, automated teller machines, intelligent scheduling software, and voice recognition systems illustrate information technology’s capability to replace administrative and clerical work. Moreover, artificial intelligence and expert systems are now able to perform the work of white-collar professionals. As functionality of machines and computer systems continues to evolve, it will transform societies by influencing such critical factors as the quality of life, the dynamics of labor markets, and the nature of human interactions. QUALITY OF LIFE GOV
Quality of life refers to measures of how well we achieve a desirable standard of living. For example, the use of robots in uncomfortable or dangerous environments is one of the primary ways of improving the quality of life with information technology. For decades, robots have been used to replace physically demanding or tedious activities in manufacturing plants. Robots and other quasi-autonomous devices have become increasingly common on farm fields, in hospitals, and even in private homes, improving the quality of life of numerous people. A type of robot works at the University of California Hospital at San Francisco.
The five-foot-tall machine, which can drive down the hallways and call an elevator to travel to other floors, carries medicine and blood samples around the building (Stone, 2003). Specialized robots that can relieve people of the need to perform certain household tasks are becoming commercially available. For instance, robotic vacuum cleaners capable of finding their way around furniture and other obstacles in any room are already sweeping the floors in thousands of homes around the world. Military applications of robotics hold the potential not only to improve the quality of life but also to save the lives of soldiers.
The Pentagon is researching selfdriving vehicles and bee-like swarms of small surveillance robots, each of which would contribute a different view or angle of a combat zone. In March 2004, DARPA, the research arm of the U. S. Department of Defense, held a race of fully autonomous land vehicles across a challenging 150-mile stretch of the Mojave Desert. Thirteen entrants designed vehicles that could navigate and drive themselves without humans at the remote controls. This race ended without any winners. The machine that traveled the farthest—12 km—was built by Carnegie Mellon University (“Robots, start your engines,” 2004).
These initial results suggest that significant advances in IT will need to be made before robots can handle complex, unfamiliar situations and operate entirely autonomously. Somewhat less obvious, but very noticeable improvements in the quality of life arise from the ability of computers to “make decisions”—an activity that used to be in the exclusive domain of human beings. Although such decisions are typically limited in scope and are based on rules established by people, they are successfully employed in a variety of practical applications.
For example, automobile navigation systems may be incapable of guiding a vehicle across the unpredictable desert terrain, but they are quite adept at finding the optimal route to the desired destination using a network of existing roadways. Global positioning systems (GPSs) integrated 17. 4 Machines Are Performing Functions Previously Performed by Humans SVC 677 with geographic information systems (GISs) available in many modern vehicles allow the driver to hand over navigational decisions to the computer, thereby offering an additional level of safety and convenience.
Expert systems used in the health-care industry offer another example of quality of life improvements that follow from machines’ abilities to perform “human” work. For instance, some systems can improve the diagnosis process by analyzing the set of symptoms experienced by the patient. Other systems can supplement a physician’s judgment by analyzing prescriptions for dosage and potential drug interactions, thus reducing the frequency and severity of medication errors, which translates into a higher quality of life for the patients. Partners HealthCare System, Inc. for example, reported a 55 percent reduction in the number of serious medication errors following the implementation of such a system (Melymuka, 2002). Whether robots will be of the quality of R2D2 (the Star Wars robot) is another issue. It probably will be a long time before we see robots making decisions by themselves, handling unfamiliar situations, and interacting with people. Nevertheless, robots are around that can do practical tasks. Carnegie Mellon University, for example, has developed self-directing tractors that harvest hundreds of acres of rops around the clock in California, using global positioning systems combined with video image processing that identifies rows of uncut crops. Robots are especially helpful in hazardous environments, as illustrated in IT at Work 17. 3. IT at Work 17. 3 The Working Lives of Robots Laying Fiber-Optic Cables. Cities around the world are transforming themselves to the digital era by replacing copper wires with fiber-optic cables or by installing fiber optics where there were no wires before. Because fiber-optic cables are a choice method to deliver high-speed voice and data ommunication (see Technology Guide 4), demand for them is expanding. Cities know that in order to attract and hold on to high-tech business they must provide fiber-optic access to all commercial buildings. You may have seen this activity many times without realizing it: Workers cut up the street, creating noise, dust, and traffic problems. But the worst part of it is that the disruption to people may take weeks, or even months, just to complete one city block. Now, robots are changing it all. One company that invented a technology to improve the ituation is City Net Telecommunications (citynettelecom .com). The idea is to use the existing sewer system to lay the cables. This way no trenches need to be dug in the streets. Pioneering work has been done in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Omaha, Nebraska, and Indianapolis, Indiana (in spring 2001). How do the robots help? Robots are waterproof and do not have noses, and so they are not bothered by working in the sewer. They do not complain, nor do they get sick. As a matter of fact, they work faster than humans when it comes to laying the fiber-optic cables inside the sewer system. POM GOV
What does it cost? The company claims that laying the fiber-optic cable with robots costs about the same as the old method. The major advantage is that it can be done 60 percent faster and without disruption to people’s lives. Cleaning Train Stations in Japan. With growing amounts of rubbish to deal with at Japanese train stations and fewer people willing to work as cleaners, officials have started turning the dirty work over to robots. Since May 1993, the Central Japan Railway Company and Sizuko Company, a Japanese machinery maker, have been using robots programmed to vacuum rubbish.
A railway official said the robots, which are capable of doing the work of 10 people each, have been operating at the Sizuko station in Central Japan. The robots measure about 1. 5 meters wide and 1. 2 meters long. The railway and Sizuko spent 70 million yen to develop the machines and are planning to program them for other tasks, such as sweeping and scrubbing. Sources: Compiled from the New York Times (March 6, 2001); from the Wall Street Journal (November 21, 2000); and from “Robots Used to Clean Train Station in . . . ” (1993). See also “The Robot Revolution Is on the Way” (2000).
For Further Exploration: If robots are so effective, what will be the impact on unemployment when more tasks are robotized? What will people do if robots take over? 678 Chapter 17 Impacts of IT on Individuals, Organizations, and Society IMPACT ON L ABOR MARKETS One of the most prominent concerns is the fear that due to technological advances, machines will replace millions of workers, leading to mass unemployment. Robots and office automation systems are effectively competing with humans for blue-collar and clerical jobs. It is important to note that white-collar occupations are not immune to the impact of information technology either.
In fact, machines are beginning to challenge scientists, interpreters, computer programmers, lawyers, aircraft pilots, and other professionals in their jobs. Researchers in Great Britain, for instance, have built a robot-scientist capable of performing simple genetic experiments. The computer-controlled robot independently formulated hypotheses about the functions of unknown genes, designed experiments to test them, manipulated laboratory equipment to conduct the experiments, analyzed the results, and accepted or rejected hypotheses based on the evidence it obtained.
The robot’s performance was comparable to the performance of graduate students working on similar tasks (Begley, 2004). Translators and interpreters also face competition from information technology in the form of speech- and text-based machine translation systems. While existing machine translation software cannot rival the accuracy, clarity, eloquence, and vividness of human translations, it is typically able to convey the gist of the message and comply with the major rules of grammar and syntax (Schwartz, 2004). (Visit online-translator. com, google. om/language_tools, and world. altavista. com to review several online translation services. ) Legal professionals may discover some unusual contenders, eager to take over their jobs. Some software packages used by law firms rely on artificial intelligence to analyze facts, determine applicable regulations, and prepare drafts of appropriate documents—all of which are activities traditionally performed by entry-level lawyers and paralegals. These and other examples illustrate a valid threat that information technology presents to workers in numerous occupations.
In addition, they prompt the question of whether you should be concerned about the prospects of computers acquiring the capabilities of doing your job more effectively and efficiently. Following the introduction of new technologies that mimic the functions of human workers, it is common to observe some job losses as old jobs are replaced by computerized equipment. However, this negative impact on employment levels offers a very simplistic and incomplete picture of the chain of events associated with technological advances.
One of the more straightforward positive side-effects of technological advances is the creation of new jobs, which takes place in other sectors of the economy that produce and operate the new equipment and computer systems. Furthermore, introduction of new information technologies results in more efficient allocation of scarce resources, such as labor, capital, and raw materials. As the production processes become more efficient, they apply downward pressure on price levels, which leads to higher demand, as consumers respond to lower prices.
To satisfy the growing demand, producers tend to increase the output of goods and services, which is frequently accomplished by hiring more workers. Other entities in the affected supply chains react to increased demand and instigate further employment growth. Thus, from the macroeconomic perspective, technological progress generally increases the aggregate level of employment (Soete, 2001). Fluctuations in unemployment rates are generally associated with business cycles and do not indicate that information technology is likely to displace a large number of workers (Handel, 2003). IT at Work 17. demonstrates one of the impacts of information technology on employment in the retailing industry. Although the net effect of information technology proliferation is generally positive for the economy as a whole, on a personal level, IT-induced job displacement 17. 4 Machines Are Performing Functions Previously Performed by Humans 679 IT at Work 17. 4 Do-It-Yourself Retailing The concept of allowing shoppers to scan and bag their own items at retail stores has been around for quite a while. In the 1980s, technology necessary to implement self-checkout systems was already available.
However, at that time, the costs of such systems were prohibitively high, and consumer acceptance was extremely low. As this technology continued to evolve and mature, self-checkout registers turned into attractive propositions for supermarkets, grocery stores, and other retailers. In winter of 1997, Wal-Mart was among the first merchants to test the self-checkout systems in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and other selected markets. The self-checkout machines were developed by Optimal Robotics based in Montreal, Canada.
Each register included a holding area with a conveyer belt, a barcode reader, a touchscreen display, and a voice synthesizer to provide the customer with vocal and visual instructions, as well as a bagging area, which rested on scales that checked whether the weight of the scanned item corresponded with the weight of the item placed in the bag. The checkout stations also included currency readers and equipment to accept credit and debit cards, which allowed the customer to pay for the goods. The results of the initial tests were quite encouraging; thus, in 2002 the company began a large-scale rollout of selfcheckout units.
Wal-Mart is installing self-checkout machines in most new Supercenters and Neighborhood Market Stores. A significant number of existing stores were also retrofitted with the new technology. Typically, the company installs from four to eight self-checkout stations in a store, depending on its size and sales volume. The main reasons that persuade retailers to adopt the new systems include the desire to provide a better customer MKT experience and the need to control costs. Self-checkout stations occupy 25 percent less space than traditional registers, which allows retailers to place more stations within the same floor space.
Furthermore, with only one employee overseeing four machines, the store is able to keep a sufficient number of registers open while driving down labor costs. A set of four registers, which costs $80,000 to $100,000, has a payback period of only 6 to 12 months, if implemented correctly. Consumers enjoy shorter lines, faster service, and greater control over the checkout process. As self-checkout machines gain the capabilities to perform the functions of human cashiers (with some help from shoppers), they gradually displace store employe