ACT Essay: The Ambit of Information Technology

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India is today experiencing an IT revolution. There is hype about information technology and the common perception is that it is a solution for each and every problem of the country, state, city or even individuals. Hypes are essential tools for waking up the sleeping and lazy lots. But at the same time realistic visualization of the potential, constraints, limitation as well as common maladies are required.

Coupled with this, is the confusion on the definition and scope of IT. For a large number of persons IT is nothing but internet, and its related applications. IT would be only limited to www or dot com or similar acronyms. Most certainly, internet is one of the strongest means for information exchange and due to this, physical distances have become meaningless and the world is reduced to a global village a very often used phrase. Another common definition of IT is the integration of computers and communication. This will mean that any application on a single computer from desktop to super computers will be outside the purview of IT. In order to understand the ambit of IT in wider contexts, let us get down to the basics of information.

Any action by individual or process may be categorized in one of the three:

  1. Information
  2. Interpretations
  3. Instruction

In fact the world is being ruled by the three՚s. At the individual level, for example, a per-ion ‘X’ wakes up in the morning. He looks at the watch. It is 6.00 a. m. He collects information Oh! I am late interpretation and he takes II actions to get ready fast instruction. A suspicious wife receives her husband who is 1 hour late information. She asks questions and may examine his manner-ms or clothes information. Based on previous experience, the information is processed and a value judgment interpretation is obtained. What are the actions instruction taken if the judgment is orated? In fact, so much of knowledge based processing goes on in our brain that even supercomputers feel shy.

Thus a human being is an information technology system par excellence. One can go on debating whether micro-computer is computer or not. However, let us pause and think. Internet would not grow grains, weave clothes or construct houses. Perhaps the latest information on pest management, grain prices, clothes design and architecture practices may be provided through Internet and shared. Thus Internet is one of the means of information exchange and sharing, but not a total solution. However, without going into the merit or demerit of the arguments, we shall like to analyze whether out of the 3 I՚s mentioned above, at least 2 I՚s are present in such systems and applications.

These are simple information display applications. The computers and networks are used only for information entry and supply. The applications include display systems in banks, stock exchanges, railway stations and utilities. These may be completely detached from the main applications like railway reservations or may be interfaced to main applications for information collection.

There are large numbers of applications in this group. These may be put in the following categories:

  1. System software and utilities
  2. Transaction processing systems
  3. Communication systems and protocol
  4. Specialized applications systems
  5. Microcomputer based systems
  6. Data acquisition and supervisory control systems

The system software and utilities include compilers, interpreters, DBMS, case tools, GIS, mathematical modeling systems and expert system shell. The system software and utilities are the backbones of any computer system and demonstrate the power of the computer.

The transaction processing systems include all those on-line applications where interaction with customer is the main part. Railway reservations, banking, post offices, stock exchanges are some of the examples. These applications require large database as well as computer network mostly intranet for transaction processing. Some of the applications also have Internet connections for information dissemination eg. Railway reservation.

The specialized application systems include large and complex systems having both hardware and Software combined, designed specifically to cater for any particular application domain. Example include weather forecasting system, aerodynamic modeling systems and nuclear reactor simulation The applications involve data collection through sensors, knowledge base and powerful inference engine, mathematical modeling and equations solving.

In general, micro-computer based systems are basically used to collect, process and present information to the user on some specific parameters of interest. In case of instruments, micro computer interprets it, based on either previously stored look-up tables or equations and then the output is presented on LED-LCD display. These would include agri-instruments, medical instruments and instruments for other applications, including test and measuring instruments.

Data acquisition systems applications are varied and thus various names are prevalent arid are used interchangeably. These are data loggers, data acquisition system and alarm an enunciator, where data loggers are used for remote applications, in which the system senses, processes and collects the information for defined parameters. These can be printed and even communicated to computers using standard protocol. The Remote Terminal Units RTUs perform the same tasks for telemetry operations i.e.. . The information is transmitted to computers using VHFUHF, wire line or even satellite communication mode. The distributed data acquisition systems are a higher end system and may have many RTUs and data loggers are their components. They perform the task of information and Interpretation over a large area. The information and interpretation may include even plant modeling, analysis large historical database or even knowledge based system, expert systems or fuzzy systems.

These are most powerful and complex application in which the instruction mechanism controls the system to achieve desired pre-defined information environment. The applications include from simple temperature control to satellite tracking, missile control to power plant control and gas powerwater distribution control. Control and automation are generalized names for these applications, it is basically an extension of data acquisition systems with instructions part also. Thus all the three functions, information, interpretation and instructions are present in automation or control in general. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition SCADA system is a generalized name of such systems. The technologies used for interpretation and instructions may be simple PID or one of the intelligent control techniques like expert systems, model based self tuning, or adaptive control. The systems used are DDC Direct Digital Control, Distributed Digital Control, RTU based telemetry control or programmable controllers.

It is important to look into IT with a holistic approach rather than in a limited and compartmental way. The real life situations are multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary. Solutions for real life problems thus, can be found by adopting a total definition of IT.