Is Information still a challenge in the 21st century

Businessman Overwhelmed with Paperwork

In the world we live in, there are only a few people that we know who do not use Internet. The web can be a really helpful for households and businesses when it comes to approaching people and accessing information. However, it can also turn into information overload or the fact that people have too much information and do not even use it. The question therefore is: “Does the expansion of Internet and IT’s and their democratization only has positive outcomes?”

The last decades have witnessed the democratization of computer systems, leading people’s lives to change radically. In ten years in the US, the number of households that owned a broadband Internet went from 4,4% in year 2000 to 68,2% in 2010. The same year, more than 71% of American households had Internet, whether it’s broadband or not (see graph). This massive democratization of computers and the related use of Internet have led people to have access to a huge amount of information, that they could use in many ways. Even more rapidly than the households, the business world adopted the web and used it in many different ways.

Sans titre                          source: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/data/figure1.png
 

Web became a way for businesses to improve communications among the employees and a good way to improve networking. This made the business world much smaller as the companies would communicate between each other much more easily and stay in touch with each other, with their partners, clients, customers investors, wherever on earth they are located. This is also a way of improving their network and having an enormous mass of information about competitors and what they do in the market.

Internet is therefore a way to access key data like information on competitors, products, markets, industries, distributors and even market researches. If companies do not use available market researches straight away, Internet is a way for them to have access to a lot of potential customers and submit them some questionnaires or some surveys to spot some trends or see what preferences they would have for a certain product or service. What is even better with the web is that all of this can be done costless.

Web is also a way of advertising products and services to a maximum number of people through mailings, banners, online newspaper articles, newsletters, etc. It is a way to reach mass markets more easily. ‘Anyone in the world becomes a potential customer’ if they have access to Internet and have the possibility to buy online.

In a nutshell, the web has had many advantages for businesses as well as for households. However, there might be a limit to it. The loads of information that go online are increasing every day and it is becoming harder and harder to filter and select the information. So in the end, this information might become an overload and have an impact on business or be useless to them.

Where is the limit of this information? As we said we can find almost whatever information we want on the World Wide Web and also put whatever information we would like. The consequence of this information is that the entire knowledge of mankind became available for human being. We can see here Diderot and d’Alembert’s dream becoming true: a universal access to culture and science for everyone.

However this universality is not a “Long and Quiet River”, and the access to information is marked out with different obstacles. We can first wonder where the balance between information and information overload is. Accessible information is huge, Google counted more than 1000 billon web pages, and increases faster than the brain capacity of an individual or even a group of individual. What’s the point then to produce information mankind will not be able to process and to treat?

The other problem of this information overload is that anyone could post whatever almost everywhere, and if search engine has pertinent algorithm they cannot really treat the intellectual level or the truth of articles. With this limit a problem is arising: how reliable is the information I’ve found the internet? The best example for this information trustworthiness is probably the well know free encyclopaedia: Wikipedia. This website is the perfect example for the dichotomy between reliable information, which represent the major part of the website, and fanciful information. For example, Thierry Henry the former French National Football team forward was listed as a Handball player after France Team scored a goal thanks to his handball.

The last main limit we can list with this information overload is that people are losing their time to find the best solution for a problem or the best information to answer their questions. People sometimes forget the simple way to obtain information: their personal eye! Internet is focusing the entire attention of today’s people who do not pay attention to other communication media or even stop paying attention to other people around them.

As we already said internet and more generally the new communication media are a very powerful source of enrichment for mankind. However, internet is the origin of a major breakthrough in economic strategies: information is becoming standard to everyone. This new situation means that companies and people, to be successful in the 21st century will have to focus their attention on the way of using IT’s and treating information and not anymore on having more information than competitors.

Aymeric de Gélis in cooperation with Olivier Chanteloube, December 2013

One thought on “Is Information still a challenge in the 21st century

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