The Importance of Information Technology — Why is IT so Important?
It’s hard to comprehend how much Information Technology (IT) pervades and influences our daily lives. Or, more specifically, its practical application in the computers, tablets, and smartphones that we use. It’s on these devices that we spend a large number of our waking hours while either at work, play, or communicating with coworkers, friends, and family.
IT influences almost everything we do, including shopping online, learning, going to the doctor, banking, and dining out. In fact, it is in the industries of business, higher education, healthcare, banking, finance, and food service where IT has made the most improvements to our lives. While some individuals refuse to see the advantages, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
What is Information Technology?
Information Technology can be many things and cover many facets of life. Merriam-Webster defines it as, “Technology involving the development, maintenance, and use of computer systems, software, and networks for the processing and distribution of data.” This definition, however, makes IT seem like a strictly utilitarian tool. In fact, IT is really about innovation. As stated in Forbes, the true importance and purpose of Information Technology is to “research and develop new technologies in cognitive science, genetics, or medicine” so those advancements find solutions to the problems we all face. It’s that innovation that has allowed for improvement in so many industries outside the sciences.
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Business and Information Technology
Winning over clients with great products and making sales are the two main goals of any business. IT has made that process more efficient, easier, and attractive, especially through web marketing. But IT does more than that for businesses. It also helps automate certain processes, target objectives, generate revenue, and reduce inefficiency. Ultimately, IT assists businesses in achieving three main goals:
- Building and growing commerce in the business sector
- Minimizing the time needed to generate new business
- Adding and providing electronic security, data storage, and efficient communication
These successes are due to the implementation of IT in business where it harnesses its power to create new business processes, which enhance and improve the way businesses work. Thus IT is of profound importance to businesses. Specifically, IT supports the work of the business world in the following ways:
- Allowing for the building of smarter applications
- Improving data storage
- Enabling faster data processing
- Distributing data more widely and efficiently
- Enhancing quality and value, and heightening productivity
With the use of IT leading this innovation, the business world applies that knowledge to create new ways to reach, support, and sell to customers, such as:
- Strategic business planning
- Effective digital marketing
- Higher global sales
- Systematic management
- Real-time monitoring
- Instant customer service
- Online shopping
- Social networking
- VoiP communication
- Cloud computing
Another way IT has helped the business world is in the creation of a new area of employment, the IT department. Because of the influence of IT, many jobs exist and are important for the everyday operations of various businesses around the world. Some of the most essential ones are:
- Data Scientist
- Network Administrator
- System Analyst
- Software and Web developers
- Tech Support
Education and Information Technology
The field of education is an industry of constant technology innovation. With the tools IT provides, teachers and professors can deliver information more dynamically than ever before. Perhaps the biggest advantage of this is being able to reach more students, especially those who can’t afford or devote the time to a degree program or those who live too far away from schools or college campuses.
One way IT expands the reach of education is through online classes and degree programs that students can complete remotely. While the University of Phoenix adopted this approach back in 1989, students attending school and obtaining a degree fully online from major universities is still a relatively new phenomenon.
Educators also support the importance and use of IT as a delivery method for their curriculum. 81% of teachers say they see significant value in using digital learning tools in the classroom and online. Additionally, 57% of them believe that IT and the use of digital learning tools help personalize instruction and learning, and that these digital learning tools effectively engage students.
Such engagement is improving as newer technology, devices, and software improve. Technology is becoming smarter, allowing for the inclusion of those who might not do well in or can’t afford to be in a regular classroom environment, such as students who are on the autism spectrum.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are both becoming mainstream and more accessible, so educators plan to incorporate these technologies into their curriculum. New technologies like VR and AR have received positive responses from students and educators, with educators saying that students find that they’re creatively more stimulated, information is more easily retained, and the coursework is more engaging.
While some may say the use of technology in educational environments can be distracting, lead to less social interaction, make lesson plans more complex, or isolate and eliminate those without the budget for expensive devices, most responses to using IT in education are positive. Students, teachers, and professors generally agree that IT enhances learning for some of the following reasons:
- High quality and current information is more accessible
- Students learn much-needed tech skills
- Student performance and participation improves
- Automation reduces repetitive tasks
The Importance of Technology in Banking and Finance
If there are any two industries that are most affected by IT, they would be banking and finance. These two critical industries have been using IT in one form or another since the 1970s. IT allowed for the growth of small financial firms that do electronic data processing and the creation of nationwide financial services like electronic check and credit card processing. IT has also brought security and stability to how people and corporations access their critical financial accounts.
Most importantly, IT and the rise of the internet gave banks and other financial institutions even greater revenue. By 1998, $50 billion worth of commercial transactions occurred online, a number which doesn’t even account for the transactions related to personal banking. In the 21st century, banks would likely fail if they didn’t invest in secure information networks and dedicate their brand to an online presence. As for the realm of global financing, IT allows financial institutions to:
- React in a timely fashion to global developments
- Successfully compete against other finance companies
- Track credit scores and credit ratings of their lenders, insurance companies, and businesses seeking viable and financially responsible customers
Social media is another way banks and financial institutions can engage with their customers to understand their needs. This outlet also helps these institutions build brand loyalty. And since younger demographics are the primary users of social media outlets like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, banks and financial firms see their potential for snagging new customers.
Information Technology in Healthcare
The healthcare industry has embraced innovations in IT to have a better relationship with patients and ensure their privacy, security, and confidentiality. Because of the internet, patients can research symptoms and converse with their doctors through email, text, or video conferencing to see if they even need to schedule an appointment or if they can treat their symptoms with over-the-counter remedies. As a result, IT has improved medical care, reduced patient errors, and lowered health care costs in many ways, including:
- Improving the delivery of accurate medical information
- Customizing information to meet individual patient needs
- Sharing decision making between healthcare professionals and patients
- Providing networks of social support for patients and healthcare professionals
- Allowing for faster, more informed decisions that can impact individuals and the public
The importance of IT in the healthcare industry can’t be emphasized enough, especially when there were 44,000 avoidable deaths due to the failure of providing patients with treatments their doctors recommended. Electronic health records and computerized orders have allowed for easier access to care guidelines and resulted in better patient care.
In fact, directly due to IT, a new health care discipline has developed called Informatics. Informatics aligns nursing with IT management to provide customized care for patients. Consequently, nurses can identify errors in medical records, thus reducing the time needed to document patient care. This allows nurses to focus on the most important aspect of their job: caring for and attending to their patients.
If there is a negative aspect to the use of IT in the healthcare industry, it is that information breaches sometimes occur, which puts patients’ medical information at risk. This is why the HIPAA Privacy Rule regulation went into effect in 2003. This regulation controls and protects the dissemination of patient information, with layers of security used by IT tools adding a wall of defense against technical predators. So despite this risk, the use of IT in healthcare has improved it. Examples of this include:
- More accurate information
- Customized care for patients
- Improved communication between healthcare providers and patients
- Enhanced medication management
- Easier access to medical records
- Reduced costs from doctor office visits and hospital stays
- Improved record processing
- Enhanced patient privacy and security because of HIPAA regulations
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Information Technology in the Food Service Industry
While it’s easy to see how useful IT is in business, education, banking, finance, and healthcare, it may not be quite so obvious in the industry that we have the most face-to-face contact with: the food service industry.
IT, in fact, has become quite important to the restaurant and bar industry, which, at times, is maligned due to employee turnover and customer service issues. Those in the industry face the constant challenge of making customers happy, keeping employees happy, turning tables over quickly, and eliminating costly food waste.
One major way restaurants use IT to improve service to customers is through digital ordering over the internet or a restaurant-specific app downloaded to a smartphone or tablet. For restaurants, this means:
- Higher revenue
- More accurate orders
- Better data tracking (the ability to see when an order is ready for delivery or pick-up)
- Greater customer convenience, in that they can know what they ordered, how much it will cost, and when it will be ready in real time
Another boon for the restaurant industry that also illustrates the importance of IT is the use of POS (point-of-sale) or electronic register systems. 81% of restaurants now use these types of systems. In many restaurants, the customer uses a tablet-based touchscreen to view a digital menu, place an order, and then pay with little to no interaction with a restaurant employee. 37% of restaurant owners see customer ordering as the most important type of technology that would benefit their businesses.
IT also benefits the restaurant industry in backend operations. This is where restaurant owners try to establish not only a conversation with their customers but also improve the connection to their employees. Restaurants can build loyalty programs online or through a restaurant-specific app. These allow customers to use their account information on the restaurant website or in its smartphone or tablet app. Emailed newsletters tied to the restaurant’s loyalty program are another way restaurants can use IT to stay in contact with customers.
One of the greatest sources of frustration for both restaurant owners and customers is making a reservation. Fortunately, IT has been improving this as well. Instead of customers walking into or calling a restaurant to see if a table is available, they can now check a restaurant’s web page or app. Many restaurants in the industry work with reservation companies like OpenTable to do this. So, with the assistance of IT, customers can now:
- Learn about a restaurant and its location
- View table availability on an integrated calendar
- Search for nearby restaurants taking reservations
- Book a table at a specific time
- Email reservation confirmations or cancellations
Another challenge restaurant owners face is scheduling employees for the hours they can work and their time off. Scheduling software helps alleviate some of those headaches by offering automated schedules, tracking for vacation requests, and scheduling checks for employees so they always know their hours.
ConclusionThe role of IT in today’s world will only continue to grow in importance and usefulness as computers, networks, smartphones, tablets, and other devices become smarter and more capable of performing different tasks. And we will only become more entrenched in the information and data that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Would you like to know more about the topic of IT and what it can do for you or your small business? Online courses are a great way to gain a large amount of knowledge in a short amount of time, so find one today and begin your journey towards learning more about the importance of IT.
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