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Chapter One

Overview of Information and Communication Technology

1.1 Defining ICT
Why learn about computers and Information systems?
Computers and information systems are the tools that allow you to transform data efficiently and
effectively into information and distribute it to where it is needed. If used properly they can also
improve your productivity. Productivity refers to the amount of time and resources required to gain a
desired result. In recent years, the growing use of computers has brought the benefits of these tools to
anyone who wants to take advantage of them.
Preliminary Definitions
Data: are raw facts that convey little meaning by themselves and hence need further processing.
Information: it is the result of processing, gathering, manipulating and organizing data in a way that
adds to the knowledge of the receiver. Both data and information might take any form such as text,
picture, audio and video.
Technology: the application of scientific knowledge to benefit humanity
Electronic device: a device that is made up of semi-conductor materials (materials that fall between
conductor and insulators).
Computer: An electronic device that has the ability to store, retrieve, and process data. A computer
consists of hardware and software.
Hardware: the physical part of a computer that can be seen and touched.
Software: Instructions that direct the operation of a computer.
System: A collection of components organized to accomplish a specific function or set of functions.
A computer-based information system collects, processes, transmits and disseminates information in
accordance with defined procedures.
Information and Communications Technology, also called Information Technology (IT) is the
study, design, development, implementation, support and management of computer-based information
ICT deals with the use of electronic computers and computer software to convert, store, protect,
process, transmit and retrieve information, securely.

It represents the convergence (merging) of Computer Technology, Telecommunications (satellite

communications, telephone, mobile phone etc) and Data Networking Technologies into a single
technology which took place in the 1980s.
An information system is a set of components that work together to manage the acquisition, storage,
manipulation, and distribution of information.

The components of an information system are

hardware, software, people, data, and procedures. A person who uses computer hardware and software
to perform a task is called a user. Procedures are the instruction that tell a user how to operate and use
an information system.
Information systems designed to be used by many user are called multi-user information systems.
These are found in most businesses and organizations, and are vital to their successful operation. An
example is a banking software used to store customer related data that is critical to the operation of the
Information systems that are designed for use by an individual user are called personal information
systems. Examples are Microsoft word, access, excel and so on that are used for personal purposes.
An information system has three basic functions:
(1) to accept data (input) ,
(2) to convert data to information (process), and
(3) to produce and communicate information in a timely fashion to users for decision making (output).


What is a Computer?

A computer is an electronic device that accepts data, performs computations, and makes logical decisions
according to instructions that have been given to it; then produces meaningful information in a form that is
useful to humans.
Computer derives directly from the Latin computus and computare. Both Latin words mean the same as the
English verb compute: to determine by mathematical means. Putare means to reckon (to calculate an amount,
a number, etc), and com is an intensifying prefix. An intensifying prefix heightens or stresses, but does not
change the meaning of the word it modifies; for example, in the word inflammable, in is an intensifier, and
inflammable means easily inflamed.

1.3 Characteristics of computers

The characteristics of a computer show the capability and the potential of the computer for processing data.
This saves time, space, money, labors etc. And they answer the questions why computers are used? Why have
they become so popular?


The ability of the computers to carry out their instructions in a very short period of time is one of the main

reasons for their popularity. Computers can perform within a matter of seconds or minutes tasks that
would be impossible for a person to complete by hand in lifetime.

Its speed is measured by the amount of time it takes to perform or carry out a basic operation. And its
speed measured in terms of micro second (10-6 one millionths), nano second (10-9 one billionths), or
Pico second (10-12 one trillionths). Hence a computer with speed 1 microsecond can perform 1 million
instructions in just 1 second. Speed is also given as 3 GHz (3.1 billion instructions per second)



Nowadays computers are being used in life-and-death situations (For example, jet pilots rely on computer
computations for guidance, Hospitals rely on patient-monitoring systems in critical care units) which needs
almost hundred percent accuracy. From this we can understand that computer is accurate and consistent.
Unless there is an error in the input data or unreliable program the computer processes accurately. If
computers are given wrong input, they will produce wrong outputGarbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO).


The ability of computers to store and process vast amounts of data continues to grow. A computer operating at
200 MHz can move data from one location to another at a rate in excess of 1.2 billions characters (symbols)
per second.

Durability and reliability

Computers are durable and extremely reliable devices. They can operate error-free over long periods of time.


Because of technological advancements in the computer industry, most computers today are considered to be
general-purpose computers That is both their computation and input/output processing capabilities are such
that they can be used for almost any type of application. For example, the same computer that is used to
handle engineering companys mathematics, and design computations can also be efficiently used by the
company to track inventory, process payroll, project earnings, and fulfill all its reporting needs.
Todays computers are versatile in what they can do; computers and their components part being used in
application never before envisioned. For example; in home appliances (washing machines, ovens) home
entertainment centers, traffic lights, automobiles, banking, assembly plants, space probes, art, music,
education, hospitals, and agriculture, to name few. The versatility of the computers and its use in a wide array
of application are limited only by the imagination of the human mind.
Note: Even if the above main characteristics of computers are increasing with time, the cost and size of
computers are decreasing.

1.4 Application of Computers

Why we use Computers?
The following are some of the capability of computers, which are reasons to use computers.

Store and process large amount of information with high speed and accuracy;
Transmit information across continents via communication channels;
Simulate events;
Perform complex mathematical computations and make comparisons;
Monitor ongoing industrial operations;
Perform repetitive processes with great ease, speed, and reliability;
Therefore, computers are applicable for any functions or process that requires these abilities.
The main areas of computer applications can be listed as follows:
Learning Aids:

learning toys
programs range from simple arithmetic to calculus, from English grammar to creative writing and
foreign language, and

from basic graphics to engineering design models

Entertainment: Examples : Games

Commercial or business applications
Computers are needed to perform business operations that require handling large amounts of data. Several
computer applications are available to assist business in working with large volumes of data.
Examples are:
Text processing
Accounting and Finance management
Inventory control
Database management
Statistical analysis
Scientific engineering and research applications
Using computers for scientific research, complex mathematical calculations, design work, and
analysis and control of physical systems.
Examples are:
Space technology
Meteorological observatory systems
Astronomical investigations

Design of machines and

Control of manufacturing process
Information Utilities
Information utilities companies use large computers that store huge amount of information about many
different subjects. These computer systems and their vast amount of data are available for personal use. For
example: information utilities can allow a computer user to read the daily news , research published works,
send a letter to a friend, play games, make airline reservations, obtain the latest stock market quotations, and
perform many other activities.
Example: Internet.
Ethiopian airline is a member of World-Wide reservation system called Gabriel system.
The main database is located at Atlanta, Georgia
More than 48 airlines including EAL share /extract/transmit information using Gabriel.
Facilities included:
Booking of passengers on Domestic and International flight on EAL or Other carrier (Example:
Making hotel reservation for the travelers (i.e. the system is connected with major hotels & travel
Message correspondence with all stations which are members of Gabriel (i.e. reconfirmation, space
availability, etc)
Elements involved in the reservation system are:
Computer Network;
Computer terminal;
Communication Channels ( telephone lines, satellite, etc)
Electronic Banking and Service:

Teller Machine:
o is a computerized telecommunications device that provides the customers of a financial
institution (such as banks) with access to financial transactions (e.g. withdrawing money) in a
public space without the need for a human clerk or bank teller. On most modern ATMs, the
customer is identified by inserting a plastic ATM card with a magnetic stripe or a plastic
smartcard with a chip that contains a unique card number and some security information to
prevent from credit card fraud. Security is provided by the customer entering a personal
identification number (PIN).

o Most ATMs are connected to interbank networks, enabling people to withdraw and deposit
money from machines not belonging to the bank where they have their account or in the
country where their accounts are held (enabling cash withdrawals in local currency).
o An interbank network, also known as an ATM consortium or ATM network, is a computer
network that connects the ATMs of different banks and permits these ATMs to interact with the
ATM cards of non-native banks.

Online banking: A bank customer can use his/ her computer to check account balances, transfer
funds, pay bills

Shopping from Home

Individuals may now shop by computer in the comfort of their home.
Household Control
A growing number of the recent houses hold devices that are computer controlled. For example: Security
systems, refrigerators, microwave ovens, washers, stereos, and televisions. This computer controlled home
security system monitors movements, broken glass, unlawful entry without a security code, and so on, and
alerts the local police department.
Weather and Environment
Computer equipment may show temperature ranges, precipitation levels and wind flow and can be used in
weather forecasting.
Computers have affected almost every kind of transportation. Many aircrafts can fly under the control of the
computer; in this situation, the captain simply serves as a manger by telling the computer what to do. In Cars,
computers have provided functional controls such as spark and fuel control.
Medical and Health Care
Computers have long been used by hospitals for routine record keeping. Today, however, many people owe
their lives to the computer. Computers are used in hospitals as sensors (device that detect changes in blood
pressure, heart rate, temperature), testing (scan the body and provide 3-D figure), patient treatment.
Routine and Dangerous Tasks
Computers are used in routine tasks. And they can perform tasks in environments too dangerous for human
Consultant (Expert system)
An Expert system is a computer program, which can solve problems from a specific knowledge base. These
systems don't replace expert humans because the knowledge base of expert system is given from the skilled

Example: Mycin: a medical diagnostic program by using sophisticated decision making process). This expert
system was designed to identify bacteria causing severe infections, such as bacteremia and meningitis, and to
recommend antibiotics, with the dosage adjusted for patient's body weight.