The information age can also be referred to as the computer age, digital age, or data age. The information age timeline can be dated from the 1940s when digital computers were first developed to solve human problems. It has moved the world from the industrial age to the current information age where “one who has information is the king”.
The main characteristic of the information age is the digitalization of data, globalization, infobesity, and automation among others. The main benefit of the digital age is high data processing speed while the challenges are data privacy and over-dependence on technology.
Characteristics of the digital age
The information age is characterized by the following:
- Digitalization of data: the digital age has changed how users consume data from physical to digital data stored in compact spaces like disks. Data from books and all other primary sources are converted to computer-manipulated forms for sharing and use.
- Infobesity: this a is condition where a user has so much information that they are consuming that it reduces their concentration of productivity. In the current age of information, super highway many users are consuming too much irrelevant information.
- Automation: this is another characteristic of the information age where procedures and operations have been fully automated. The digital age has moved most of the work that used to be done by humans to machines that work with minimal supervision.
- Globalization: this age is characterized by making the world a global village. Today anything that happens in any corner of the world can be shared in real-time. This makes the world a small area in terms of information flow.
- Privacy and data security issues: digital data is more susceptible to misuse and violates user privacy. The age exposes users’ private information which can be spread at a very high speed.
- Overdepends on information: The digital age depends on information and computers to make most of the decisions. If no computers or digital devices to process data for decision making then it becomes hard for the computer age to function.
Advantages and disadvantages of the digital age
The Computer age has its benefits and challenges. Below we discuss some of the few merit and demerits of the digital age.
Advantages of the information age
1. High data processing speed.
With computers and technology, data can be processed quickly and used for decision-making. In this digital age where computer technology is the norm of the day, data is processed faster than at any other time in the human age; this means it can be delivered to the relevant people for action.
Most business operations and procedures are either semi-automated or fully automated which reduced human interaction with the machine. The computer can operate with minimal human involvement. This means businesses cut the cost of operation and human resources compared to manual systems.
The computer age has made the globe become a village of information. You can follow what is happening in the neighboring country or continent in real time. In the information age, the community is connected in such a way that people can know, what is happening where and at what time as if they live in a small village.
4. Cyber community or virtual community
The community in this age creates virtual communities where they can share ideals. Today relationships are created and broken in cyberspace because that is the environment that people live in. Most human interactions are moving to cyberspace.
5. Change the way of doing business
In the information age, brick and wall buildings are eliminated to have limitless “room”. The businesses are carried out in cyberspace and all related activities are carried out. Most of the service operation of the business has been automated or moved to the online platform.
Disadvantages of the information age
1. Information overload
One of the main challenges in the digital age is that there is more information than our brains can process at the same time. Today almost anybody can be a publisher and disseminator of information regardless if it is correct or not. This leaves people with so much information to process. People can suffer from infobesity where there is much information that negatively affects the user.
2. Addiction to technology
The information age is characterized by many social media. This means that with every passing minute user what to know what is happening on social media like Facebook WhatApp, and TikTok. This leads to addiction to the internet and the information that they read on these platforms.
The user can experience what has come to be called (F.O.M.O, Fear Of Missing Out). Many are using computers at day time and they switch from computers to mobile phones as they go to sleep, this means most of the time is spent on the internet and social media instead of other worthwhile activities
3. Over-dependent on technology
Most companies adopt information technology and all major business procedures and operations depend on the information. This means if there is any interruption and the information system cannot be accessed then the company doesn’t operate. This can mean disaster in case the critical component of the company data such as the server is affected and cannot be accessed.
Since most companies have moved their operation online, it increases the vulnerability of data being transmitted because it can be intercepted. Enough measures should be put into place to ensure the safety of transmitted data. There are many cyber crimes such as hacking, phishing, tapping, and denial of service among many others.
Hackers are known to target websites and use different methods to disrupt the normal operation of the website, if the company depends on the website to offer its services then it means they can be interrupted.
5. Privacy and copyright in the digital age
With everybody being able to publish anything on the internet many people are violating the privacy and copyright act by publishing content that doesn’t belong to them. Some of these website publishers don’t even acknowledge the original author of the idea. This makes it hard to control any information when it gets to the internet.
6. Digital divide
The digital divide is a situation where society is divided into those who know how to use computers and those who don’t. The information age has created a big gap between these 2 groups of people. Some can afford computers and know how to use them while some cannot afford them and don’t even know how to use them.
4 Ethical issues for the information age
According to Richard O. Mason, 4 main ethical issues related to the information age that he denotes by PAPA. PAPA represents privacy, accuracy, property, and accessibility. We will discuss each of these ethical issues.
- Privacy: he asks the question of which information should be shared and which shouldn’t. Who decides which data should be private and what can you be forced to reveal? This becomes a big dilemma in the digital age since what one person may think is private may be different from another person
- Accuracy: data accuracy and authenticity are other ethical issues that we face in this information age. Who should authentic information be consumed by people and what criteria are used to measure the accuracy? Who is responsible for wrong data and the negative impact of that data? All these are issues that the computer age faces in trying to authenticate information in circulation.
- Intellectual Property: This ask the question of who owns the information. Information is a property and an asset. But the big question is, it belongs to who and how can it be shared while still acknowledging the owner? What are the limitations of how information should be used or misused?
- Accessibility of information: information is the “oil” that runs the digital age. The question is how can it be accessed and who determines what to be accessed and by who.
The information age with all its advantages and disadvantages will continue to be part of human life. The future of information age technologies has already started with technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing that are expected to be the driving force in human life next decades.