Even those that go on about how technology is ruining the world, knows that that isn’t entirely the case. They write their rants on their compact mobile phones, and post them on social media, where they scroll through a feed curated just for them by some algorithm, and sit in their air-conditioned homes where the temperature’s somehow just right, and book their next flight tickets on travel sites.
When you hear about Information Technology and the IT industry, you often hear a lot of bad stuff. You hear about mind-numbing work hours, high turnover rates, computers stealing employment from humans, privacy breaches, and at worst, a vision of a dystopian society of the future where AI has taken over.
But there is a different, better side to this story. The growth of human civilization has always been characterized by technological growth, be it the development of stone tools, the wheel, the steam engine, or Information Technology. Technological advancements make life better for the whole of the human population. To such an extent that in most circumstances, the bright side far outweighs the dark.
So for once, let’s talk about how the IT industry, and technology in general, has improved our lives.
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The Big Picture- How the IT Industry is Good for the World
A lot of time has passed and a lot has happened since the first programmable computer was invented in 1940. As of the beginning of 2021, 65.6 per cent of the world’s population have internet access. The Information Technology sector has grown and thrived. And the world is better off for it.
So let’s begin by talking about how the world and society as a whole have benefitted from advancements in the IT industry.
Increased Standard of Living
The rise of the IT industry has resulted in an increase in the standard of living for the population, especially in developing countries. Some of the facets improved include-
Health: How much worse would the COVID-19 pandemic have been without IT support? Advancements in IT and technology gave us better hospitals, testing facilities, laboratories, patient care, and communication and organizational capabilities, and helped spread awareness and manage large amounts of data. Without all of these, the pandemic couldn’t have possibly been managed.
The spread of IT in developing countries has helped advance healthcare there. Information about symptoms and cures are readily available at the fingertips of any average person, thanks to the internet. Better communication has helped in spreading resources and aid where needed. The efficacy of technology in healthcare has become more noticed in light of the pandemic, but it has been a slow ascent, and will continue in the post-pandemic era.
Education: IT resources can make education accessible on an enormous scale. Courses from say, Harvard, become available to any student anywhere in the world, despite geographical, financial, or social limitations.
Remote learning has become the norm in these situations, and if technology had not progressed to such a place where even those with severe financial strain could afford a smartphone, the education of millions of kids from developing countries all over the world would’ve come to a halt. Further bridging of the digital divide can open up access to even more remote corners of the world.
The exact reasons are not mapped in detail- but better education and employment opportunities, an easier and more convenient life, and a rise in awareness due to internet access, are all probably contributing factors.
Also, several MNCs adopt a method of large scale outsourcing of low and middle level IT jobs to developing countries. The large and comparatively flexible workforce available there is suited for their needs. In this way, the growth of the IT industry results in employment and thus the economical growth of these countries.
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Increased Personal Comfort and Convenience
Life is simply, easier, because of Information Technology. And a look through history will show that that has always been what humans work for. How to make life more comfortable and convenient.
Communication: One of the most important benefits of the IT wave is the ease of instant communication. From phone calls, to emails, to texting, to video calls, and now social media and virtual meetings, there seems to be no limit to how much we can interact and communicate virtually.
Everyone who has a smartphone or internet connectivity is available at all times to anyone anywhere on the globe.
Personal comfort: The level of comfort and convenience that technology provides at a personal level is not to be overlooked. In the smart homes of the future, all menial tasks will be delegated to some smart mechanism, while you can use your time for more valuable, human, pursuits.
Finding directions on Google Maps, Spotify algorithms that suggest songs, writing on laptops instead of laboriously scribbling on paper, ordering food at home on an app, these are all small examples of how products of the IT industry work to make our lives easier.
Good for the Environment
This point may seem like a reach but it isn't. Information Technology helps in several ways to pave the way for more sustainable living. These are some of the ways where IT directly or indirectly helps the environment-
- Smart home devices are programmed to power off when not in use, and adjust according to need, thus saving electricity.
- Reducing dependency on paper and shifting to digital.
- Finding, inventing, and designing truly renewable and reliable sources of power requires the support of IT. For example, recent developments in generating fusion nuclear energy would not have been possible without the advancements in IT.
- Building awareness on environmental issues around the world.
Understanding the Secrets of the Universe
The search for answers, the pursuit of truth, has been humanity’s defining characteristic. Humans were never satisfied to just know that the rains come during certain times of the year and help their crops grow, they needed to know how the sky produced this rain. Although rooted in utility, this need to understand is even more than that.
Information technology helps in this pursuit by, for example, assisting in gene sequencing, understanding complex natural phenomena through computational science, processing large amounts of data to recognize patterns in human, animal, and climate behaviour, and so on.
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The Bright Side of the IT Industry
The Inside Perspective- How the IT Industry is Good for Workers
The inside perspective is as important as the external. Are those working in the IT industry satisfied and happy, or underpaid and overworked?
There seems to be a prevalent myth that the IT industry doesn't offer much in terms of job satisfaction. That is far from the truth. Reports show that 72% of IT professionals in the world are satisfied with their jobs.
There are several possible reasons behind this, including-
Professional development: People feel like they can truly grow in the IT sector, and throughout a person’s career they will find opportunities for personal and professional development. Trainings and educational resources are abundant here. Managers offer full support and encourage the education of their employees in a way that isn't seen all that much elsewhere.
Versatility: The IT industry is constantly changing and shifting, more than any other field perhaps. So if someone is not happy with doing something, there’s always something different that is bound to be more interesting. There are several interconnected but diverse fields within the sector.
Flexible Work: Even before the pandemic forced a work from home lifestyle on everyone, a lot of IT professionals were already comfortable with it. Depending on your type of work within the sector, one can enjoy a great amount of flexibility regarding work hours and location.
Practical Approach: Yet another reason that drives job satisfaction is the sense of achievement that one feels when working in Information Technology. Even in entry-level jobs, the results of a day’s work is visible in a way that even the smallest things you create or fix can be seen. This helps in having a sense of purpose that is necessary for any individual.
Considering the US, the median annual wage for IT jobs is $88,240, which is more than double that of other jobs. And the unemployment caused due to the pandemic is also significantly less, at 2.8%, which is way less than the national average for all occupations which stands at 6.1%.
The IT sector is one of the very few fields where the average salary of professionals increases from year to year. This also contributes to job satisfaction, in addition to the above-mentioned factors.
The high turnover rates in IT is not due to low salaries or unsatisfactory employment, it is because the IT sector encourages versatility and workers are empowered to seek more challenging areas. Those who do leave IT for good are mostly those who find it unsuitable for their interests and choose to do so.
With Information Technology, there is never any need for a fear that you will become outdated or replaced. Sure, you will have to constantly work on learning and updating your knowledge, but IT will never become obsolete. There is only a steady rise in demand for IT professionals.
Your demand as a professional will only be determined by your skillsṣet and expertise, and as long as those are valid, you wouldn't have to worry about anything else. The problem the IT industry faces right now is that there aren't enough skilled workers, and it seems that that will be the case for some time.
Specific Education Requirements
The IT field is one where, famously, a lot of people don’t demand that a professional have a college degree. You can accomplish more in the IT sector with a year’s worth of free coding classes or the like, than with four years of college, granted that you have the interest and drive.
This means that people from any economic background have the possibility to attain an education required to make a living in the IT sector with nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection. Jobs also transcend geographic bounds, so a job in Information Technology is thus well suited for those of limited means who are looking for more.
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Dark Side of the IT Industry
It wouldn’t be a complete account without at least touching on the dark side of the IT industry.
In the short term, spread and advancements in the IT industry do result in unemployment. Technology has enabled a level of breach of privacy that is unfathomable, and leads to cybersecurity concerns. At the individual level, humans face difficulty in connecting with each other in this overwhelmingly digital landscape.
But the thing is, going back to a cottagecore life isn’t the answer to solving problems that innovation poses. The answer is to fix the mechanism, not to abandon it. The fourth industrial revolution creates problems, as did the ones before it, but those problems will be overcome, in just the way that we managed to overcome all those before.