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Opinions of Friday, 24 April 2009

Columnist: Acheampong, Stephen

ICT in Ghana

What Is ICT? Or State The Generally/Internationally Accepted Definition For ICT. B. Explain the Important Terms in the Definition (Possible ICT Examination Question).

What is ICT?

Think about this quote; “Merely having access to a box – an information box – does not necessarily mean that you have improved, or that you’re more literate, or that you’re better able to solve problems in the community” – president of Morris Brown College (Young, 2001). The International Literacy Panel based on this quote to give a generally acceptable definition for ICT. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is not just about knowing computers. It involves being able to use digital technology as a tool to create information, that works or innovate so that you can function in the emerging digital global society. The rate at which ICT is transforming lives and causing digital divide (The difference between those who have access to and the opportunity/capability to use ICT and those who have not) has become a great concern to world leaders. Several research institutions and World Associations have tried to define ICT in various ways and the definitions provided a foundation for the generally acceptable one worldwide. Some definitions examined the effects of ICT at work, teaching and learning, literacy or fluency, research and creativity etc. For instance, Education Development Center and the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) came out with a model for integrating technology skills into curricula (EDC, 2000). The computer Science and the Telecommunications Board of National Research Council also worked on a framework for fluency with Information Technology (Committee on Information Technology Literacy, 1999). Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris also wanted international definition to include skills along with literacy and numeracy. The purpose of finding an acceptable definition is to determine how the individual can achieve ICT competency to function in the knowledge base and the emerging digital global society. In view of this, Educational Testing Service (ETS) organized an international ICT Literacy Panel meeting to come out with an acceptable definition for ICT. The panel included technology experts, educators, scholars and industry and labor representatives from France, Canada, Brazil, United States and Australia to come out with the following definition:

NOW, WHAT IS ICT?

Definition-“ICT literacy is using digital technology, communications tools, and/or networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate and create information in order to function in a knowledge society”.

b) In order to understand the most widely accepted definition for ICT, we need to consider the important terms.

Literacy - The International ICT Literacy Panel agreed that the term literacy was a necessary universal condition to be fulfilled to ensure full and equitable socio-economic participation. To be literate in the emerging digital society means continue to learn and be updated with the digital technology in order to function. Societies, business organizations and individuals who fail to acquire ICT literacy cannot function in the digital society. “Research indicates that general literacy proficiencies play a critical role in determining educational success, enhancing productivity and innovation, and in improving social cohesion” (International ICT Panel P.10). Knowing computers or being technology expert alone does not make one an ICT literate. The ability to integrate digital technology with cognitive skills, core competencies and core principles/values to create information, business, innovate or invent to positively affect lives or transform lives makes one ICT literate. For instance, Bill Gates used his digital technology skills plus cognitive skills, life experiences, and core principles including creativity, positive thinking and hardworking to create Microsoft that has transformed the world and has made him a billionaire.

In order to be ICT literate, one needs to apply digital technology with traditional cognitive skills, values, principles and practices including creativity, positive thinking, honesty, hardworking, frugality and ability to plan. In view of this, governments, educators and policy makers need to integrate digital technology with cognitive skills to enable the learner function in the digital world. Just providing hardware, software and internet will create the problem of digital divide and the associated vices like unemployment and poverty simply because the learner cannot apply the digital skills. There are a number of people who have acquired digital knowledge but unemployed or unable to create, innovate or invent. Such individuals are not ICT literates unless they integrate the digital technology with the traditional cognitive competencies.

ICT is simply the marriage between Information and Communications Technologies. IT – ITAA defines IT as “the study design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems, particularly software applications and computer hardware”. The International ICT Literacy Panel agreed that IT simply refers to the electronic display, processing, and storage of information but communication concerns transmission of information.

Digital technology, communications tools, networks. Digital Technology – Refers to the hardware and software products. Hardware is the physical components of the computer which consist of input and output devices. Computer products may include personal digital assistance (PDAS), calculators, digital video recorders (DVRS) etc.

Software – consists of programs or lists of instructions that tell the computer what to do. Software controls the operations of a computer. Communications Tools – These are the products and services used to transmit information. They may include cell phones, radios, PDAS, and communication networks.

Networks – refer to the pathways for transmitting information and these could be wired or wireless (we shall discuss the details later).

“To access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information”. Access means knowing about as well as knowing how to collect and retrieve information.

Manage –Is to plan, initiate, control and stabilize or sustain. Management may need to integrate ICT into the business plan to be more competitive in the digital society. Companies need to promote creativity, teamwork, learning and human capital development. Government needs to combine local resources with knowledge and technology and sustain a change. “Without a change there can be no breakthrough and without a breakthrough there can be no future”-At-a-glance. Integrate – the need to summarize, put together, compare, contrast, coordinate or interpret and represent information. Integrate or blend ICT into your business, culture, development plans, education and government. Evaluate – Form an opinion or make judgment about how useful, relevant, efficient and quality information is. Begin to ask important questions and find out how ICT can help solve those problems. What aspects of your culture do you think will promote development and therefore needs to be integrated into ICT? What aspects of our business processes need to be ICT enabled? Does unnecessary bureaucracy promote or hinder development and how can ICT minimize the bottlenecks of bureaucracy? Why do we need e-government and what do we need to do? Does the current system of education promote entrepreneurship, inventions and innovations? What can we do to make the people function in the ICT society? Why is this business not making enough profits? How can management use ICT to improve upon quality, customer service and delivery systems?

Create –To create is to come out with a new or different information or product by applying, inventing, adapting, authoring and designing. Do something that no one has ever done. You need to see opportunities that others cannot see in order to create. Do not just be a user of ICT products Including cell phones and computers but an inventor or a creator of ICT products. Use ICT as a tool to create businesses or systems that work instead of learning computers just to find a job. Use digital technology to turn Ghanaian games such as “oware” and “ampe” to computer games and sell to the world to influence global culture. Use the natural resources in Ghana to create computer chips and pen drives as well as using computers to design “kente” cloth.. “Be a bringer of light to illuminate the world”. The greatest capital human can ever have is the mind. God has given you the power to create […] (Deuteronomy 8:18). The first action word in the bible is “to create”. Genesis 1:1. Creativity is the most important and the Alpha (beginning) of everything. The first action God took was to create and become the copyright owner of the world. Individuals and countries that promote creativity are the most developed in the world. Creativity is the secret of wealth creation. To promote ICT is to promote creativity because ICT empowers the citizens in the digital global world to create their own businesses than to search for jobs. Most successful ICT businesses started from homes and dormitories. Most of them were still in the primary, middle and High schools when they started making millions of Dollars in the ICT businesses they created. Bill Gates was 13 years old when he formed the Lakeside Programmers Association. Michael Dell was in High School and first year college when he made $6million. David Filo and Jerry Yang were in high school when they created yahoo. You need to use your talent now. What can you do better than most people? Do you have a passion in doing something that most people admire? Pursue that and you will succeed.

HOW CAN I CREATE WHAT GOD WANTS ME TO CREATE?

To be able to create, the following conditions are necessary;

? Think positively. - Believe that you can do anything that comes into the mind. You need to have the “can do it attitude” because “with God all things are possible”. You need to see a cup of water as half-full but not half-empty. Take responsibility, stop complaining and giving excuses that you have no capital to do something. Capital is wisdom and ideas that work. Remember that God has given his talent to you to create and expects you to render account one day. God reward people who use their talents to create wealth but those who misuse talents are faced with abject poverty. Compare the lives of Bill Gates and the Wright brothers in USA with some Ghanaians who do not create. Stay focused on your dreams and goals, avoid detractors because if you take your eye off your goal, all you see are obstacles. Great achievers like Thomas Edison were positive thinkers. “There is nothing like failure but there are a thousand ways of doing something” – Thomas Edison. When your life is free of failures then you are not doing much because “failure is a step stone to success”. It was positive thinking that led to the industrial revolution and inventions. The good news is that “those who say it cannot be done are always overtaken by those doing it”. The people of Ghana and Africa must believe in themselves and develop talents because talents are the greatest capital from God. The Western societies including USA, UK, and Germany are interested in developing talents and promoting creativity/innovations more than natural resources like gold, oil and silver.

? Be a dreamer- dreams are work in progress. You are capable of bringing whatever you dreamt of or thought about from the metaphysical world to the physical world. To dream also means spending time to think and imagining how wonderful it would be if you were able to create a business or invent something that could help people in your community. When you think well about people, great ideas come into the mind to mark the beginning of greater things.

? Planning – ICT needs planning because you will know your mission, goals and strategies that will lead you to success.

? Hardworking – Great achievers work harder than most people do. “If you don’t work your hardest you will never succeed”. - Bill Gates. You need to work extra hard in order to become extraordinary. Study more than the average student does and make a difference.

? Focus on your core values and principles - What do you stand for, believe in or value most? These include honesty, integrity and hardworking. Some companies believe in quality, creativity, innovations and team work. Core values are the reasons why the individual, business or society exists. For instance, Bill Gates believes that “if you don’t work your hardest you will never succeed”. Most successful business people also believe in honesty as the foundation for success. Honesty is the top business strategy of most successful companies in the digital world. It is the most important business culture or core principle to adopt in the digital society. Be honest and sincere to your customers, suppliers, bankers and all business partners. Offer the best quality of goods and services, at the right time and price in order to create loyal and profitable customers. Successful companies like Toyota have integrated quality and dependability into their business systems and processes. E-marketing is based on honesty because you have to respond to the exact demand of your customer or else you lose him/ her to competitors. Honest people are succeeding in e-marketing because they deliver the right product at the right time to people in different parts of the world they do not know. Ghana and Nigeria are losing 30% and 60% respectively of E-commerce partly due to dishonesty and mal practices thereby exposing these countries to the problem of digital divide. Dr. Stanley stated in his book the Millionaires Mind that, among the 30 success factors common to all the successful business people he studied in USA, “honesty” was number one.

? Take risk –When you do things that everybody says you cannot do but you rely on your ingenuity to get it done, then you are a risk taker. When you take risk you empower yourself. When your life is free of risk then you are not doing much. “It is risky to take risk but you are doomed when you do not take risk”. Do not follow the crowd but be different. In the world of business, success depends on the level of risk that you take. The Wright brothers took the greatest risk to invent and fly the airplane but the reward was awesome. Great achievers plan to succeed but not to fail. Remember that the greater the risk, the greater the reward. ICT empowers the individual to exploit the global village and come out with innovations and inventions, to create new avenues, new businesses and technologies. “Until you spread your wings you will never know how far you can fly”

? Study the Success factors/principles of successful People and Apply to your life- Example; study the life history and the works of Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Thomas Edison. You will realize that most of the highly innovative and creative people have some principles and values in common. 1) They were early starters from the age of 2, 6, 13, 19 years etc. Do not wait till you are in the university, you can create a business or invent now. 2) They worked harder than most people. 3) They thought positively. 4) They believed in honesty, integrity and personal responsibility.

In order to function in a knowledge society – ICT literacy will equip the learner with the necessary tools, skills, core competencies, principles and values in order to fit into the society and to contribute to personal/community development. Here we are in the 21st Century where ideas and information are the necessary agents of change. Technology and access to information have the potential to change lives. Those who are not prepared to gain access to information and technology will be adversely affected by the digital divide. Remember that, “lack of knowledge my people perish” probably in the knowledge and information society of the 21st Century.

The time has come when we need to integrate core principles and values namely honesty, integrity, creativity and hardworking into ICT curriculum. These values are the most important assets or goodwill that competition cannot destroy.

Suggestions:

i. Ghana needs to integrate the International ICT Literacy Panel’s scope and definitions into the Ghanaian ICT curriculum or else teaching and learning will just focus on computers and expose the country to the problem of DIGITAL DIVIDE.

ii. ICT curriculum must integrate our culture, values, traditional production systems, available resources as well as our ingenuity so that we can turn things around to be innovators and inventors.

iii. ICT must be part of our daily lives just like food. Just a few inventions can turn Ghana to be a developed/rich nation. The wealth created by Bill Gates alone is more than all the gold, oil, diamond etc. put together in Ghana. Americans invest heavily in technology and promote innovations. The difference between the rich and the poor is the difference in technology rather than differences in natural resources. Watch your finger print and you will realize that yours is unique. This means God wants you to use the talent he has given you to create something different. God created every Ghanaian to create something so Ghanaians need to create over 22 million products by now.

TO BE CONTINUED

References:

1. ICT FOR HIGH SCHOOLS, Book 1. S. ACHAMPONG (ACHIE SERIES)

2. ICT FOR HIGH SCHOOLS, Book 2. S. ACHEAMPONG (ACHIE SERIES)

3. STUDY THE RICH AND BE RICH; S. ACHEAMPONG

For books, check all leading bookshops.

S. ACHEAMPONG. MBA (USA), PG (Dip. Ed), BA (Hons) Ghana. (AUTHOR OF ACHIE SERIES) For questions, suggestions and contributions; Email: acheampongst@yahoo.com