Information and Communication Technology or (ICT) as majority would prefer to
call it, is today playing major, if not critical role in all aspect of human life and more so,
in communication. ICT has touched and will continue to touch and influence human life
in the spheres of politics, governance, and economic; social and cultural development
for a very long time to come. In this 21 st century, ICT has continued to influence the way
people do business, access information and communicate with one another.
There are many definitions of ICT as there are authors. Jager and Lokman
(1999) has defined ICT as ‘ a generic term referring to technologies which are being
used for collecting, storing, editing and passing of information of various forms.’
According to Olademeji (2005), information and communication Technology is “the
manipulation of data by electronic means to collect, organize, record, process, distribute
and store information for decision making purposes”. Perhaps in my view, United
Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization – UNESCO (2006) definition of
ICT as “forms of technology that are used to transmit, store, create, share or exchange
information” is the most comprehensive of the many definitions as it includes such
technologies as radio, television, DVD, telephone, computers, internet, satellite
systems, hardware as well as software. In addition, this definition by UNESCO includes
equipment as well as services associated with these technologies such as electronic
mail, video conferencing, electronic commerce and online banking among several
Communication on the other hand is part and parcel of human existence.
According to Samovar et al (2012, 8), communication is inescapable. It is something we
have to do and something we enjoy doing and in the digital age we do a lot of it. When
The Role of ICT in Communication 3
we listen to music, or watch television; when we send or receive messages via email,
face book or twitter, we are indeed engaged in communication. What then is
communication? Samovar et al (2012, 9) citing (Griffin, 2005) defines communication
‘as the management of messages with the objective of creating meaning’. This means
that we communicate with an intention of achieving some objective hence
communication is intentional and purposeful. In order to manage and create meaning,
communication involves the aspect of the sender who wants to communicate, the
message itself to be communicated, and the channel through which the message gets
to the receiver. The receiver after internalizing the meaning in the message prepares
response which he or she sends back to the sender, now being the receiver, through
the process of feedback.
Communication is therefore a systematic process through which people interact
through the use of symbols and language to create and interpret meaning for the
purpose of achieving some objective. Since human beings are social being,
communication therefore assumes a more central and critical as of human life if not
existence. Having looked at the both the definitions of the ICT and communication, the
remaining pages of this paper will try to look into the role that ICT play in
Computers Today’s world appears to have shrunk in size. One can move across
the globe faster and without losing contact with one’s own environment. One can travel
to the remotest part of the world and still maintain touch with his fellow beings.
Communication between distant locations has evolved to such extent those expeditions
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to such places as the moon is possible and information between these two planets
Modern telecommunication and wireless communication techniques have
ensured that people remain in touch even when they are on the move. Kundu (2009, 1)
tells us that the entire world of communication has been tapped within seconds by the
mere click of a computer mouse. Our ability to store and share information has been
tremendously made possible by the advent of computer technology supported by ICT.
The advent of computers has revolutionized communication. Computers were
originally used by scientist to calculate numbers. But today, simplified models have
been made that can be use virtually by anybody and everyone. Computers are
nowadays part and parcel of our lives. We use them at home, at school, as well as in
the offices to do research, write letters, print book, newspapers and magazines, draw
pictures and diagrams; compute statistics, mathematical and keep financial records. We
also use computers to make, store and play music and videos; control traffic lights, fly
and guide aero planes as well as send and receive messages.
Shelly et el (2010, 2) defines a computer as ‘an electronic device operating under
instructions stored in its own memory, that can accept data, process the data according
to specified rules, produce results and store the results for future use’. The power of the
computer lies in its ability to process data at an amazing speed accurately and reliably;
its capacity to store huge amounts of data and information as well as its ability to
communicate with other computers. ICT has made it possible for computers to perform
all these hence aiding in communication.
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The advent of technology has ensured that computers can be as small as a note
book! As a result one can easily carry a computer and by extension its information with
them wherever they go. Computer lap tops are nowadays common and have
revolutionized communication. With a laptop one can work and communicate even in a
car, aero plane as well as on train- virtually anywhere with ease and comfort. All this is
as a result of ICT.
Electronic communication – the internet Without the ability to transfer or share
information, computer would have been relegated to if not limited to only creating and
storing of data and information. The potency of computers has been enhanced by its
ability to electronically communicate through the internet- the ability to network
computers. Internet is basically a collection of many types of computers and computer
networks that are linked together. Communication being the basic process of
information exchange has been made possible through electronic linkages. Electronic
communication according to Kundu (2009, 21) is the act of relaying information or
massages in the form of electrical signals from one point to another through electronic
means. These signals include the voice, video and digital data.
Prior to electronic communication, all modes of communication were restrictive in
nature. For instance, for a king to communicate to his subjects in his kingdom would
entail him sending emissaries with horns or drums to summon the subjects to the kings
meeting. This was not only slow but very time consuming and tedious. Today, a
telephone or radio announcement would accomplish that in no time at all.
Information and communication technology has made electronic communication
possible. In electronic communication, the message to be conveyed is converted into an
The Role of ICT in Communication 6
electric signal through devices called transducers, which are the conveyed from the
source to their destination either by electrical means using physical links like cables
(fiber optic) or as part of electromagnetic spectra, conveyed through use of satellite or
space, this is according to Kundu (2009, 21).
Electronic mail popularly referred to as e-mail has totally changed the way we
communicate and do business in the world today. Before the advent of email, if you
wanted to send information, one was required to write a letter and post it. The letter will
take days if not weeks to arrive, that is if it ever arrived at all! It was not uncommon to
lose very important documents over the post office. Thanks to the advent of e-mail, that
is now a thing of the past. With e-mail, one can send and receive instant mails within no
time at all electronically irrespective of the location and time differences between the
sender and the receiver. This means that with ICT, information is at our finger tips- all
we need is just a click of the mouse.
With the internet, we are able to keep in touch with other through the so called
social media sites of which face book and twitter are the most common and popular.
ICT has ensured that we can keep in touch with our friends and families. Through such
media we are able to chat and share information. Imagine you are looking for a house
and you have no time. Through the social media, your friends can assist you with such
information at no cost at all. This, thanks to ICT.
Through the internet, one can access enormous amount of information. Thanks
to ICT, such search engines as Google has made it possible for students and other
researchers to research and get information virtually in any field or topic. Before, one
could only access physical books in the library and such places but today with the
The Role of ICT in Communication 7
assistance of ICT, you can conduct your research on the net in the comfort of your
home or office without minding that the library will be close at night. Authors have
downloaded and stored their books electronically thereby not only increasing the
accessibility but also reducing on the cost and time of making such an access.
It is said that knowledge is power. This has not been demonstrated more than
the revolution that has taken place in Egypt and the other Arab countries in the recent
past. It is said that the peoples power that saw the removal of Hosni Mubarak from
power in Egypt was largely due to the ability of people to communicate through the
various mediums most potently, the phone, or to be more specific the mobile phone.
Today for most people, mobile communication has become a way of life, thanks
to the advent of mobile phones made possible by ICT. During the era of fixed line
telephoning, it would mean that one had to be in a particular place and time in order to
communicate. This limited communication to a set of location – where the fixed line was
located. Through the development and advent of ICT, this has totally changed today.
According to Höflich (2005, 19), a person can reach others without either party being
bound to a particular place. Indeed ICT has played a major role in what I would call
‘mobile communication’ which has ensured accessibility and availability of information
anytime and everywhere.
With your mobile phone, one can communicate from anywhere, be it in the office,
car, as one walks along the streets, there is no barrier or limitation as to where one can
communicate from as long as it’s not in a restricted place. This has indeed given us the
power of information at our finger tips and with us all the time. Before, one had to wait to
phone from the office fixed line or public booth. This could not only inconvenience but
The Role of ICT in Communication 8
also there was no privacy as more often than not, there would be a queue of people
waiting to also use the service.
ICT has transformed the mobile phone handset into a computer. I remember
when my brother bought his first mobile phone in the late 1990’s, he could only use it to
talk or for voice purposes. The phone was limited in terms of memory and even the
phone book could only store a few phone numbers, but thanks to ICT, today the mobile
handset is a powerful gadget that will not only keep you in touch over voice but also
data as well. You can send and receive music, video, data files from your hand held
From your mobile phone, you can listen to music saved in the device as well as
radio. You can also share your music and videos with friends thereby enhancing
communication. ICT has made it possible to have applications in the mobile phone that
will help you stay in touch with friends and family. For instance through the whatsApp,
friends can chat, send short text messages (sms) and share files and information freely
and conveniently irrespective of time and place.
In the past, one could be stranded in a place not knowing where to go or the
direction to take without proper guidance. But thanks to the ICT, with a simple GPS
application in your phone, you can be given or directed to where you are going not by
anybody but by the phone. This is not only convenient but also has improved security.
Before ICT one could be taken advantage of by thugs if you asked the wrong person for
direction, instead of helping you, they would direct you to a location where you would be
mugged. But with the GPS in your phone, you can easily find direction without problem.
The Role of ICT in Communication 9
ICT has also revolutionized learning. In the context of distance education
according to Moore and kearsley (2011, 1), teachers and students are in different
places for all or part of the time they teach and learn. And since they are in different
places in order to interact with one another, they must depend on some form of
communication technology and thanks to ICT, this has been made possible. Computers,
internet, Skype, as well as teleconferencing among other technologies have made
distance education possible.
A decade ago, video conferencing was difficult due to the fact that
communication was basically over satellite which could limit the amount of data
transmission. This has been solved in Kenya by the arrival of the under the sea fiber
optic cables which has virtually opened up communication. The fiber has tremendously
increased the speed of data connection and transmission and has connected Kenya
with the developed world in addition to reducing the cost of accessing data over the net.
Thanks to ICT, today with your television, you not only access news but can
virtually transform your television into a computer and vise vasa. If you already have a
television, instead of buying a computer, all you need is a keyboard, a mouse or a joy
stick attached to a black box on your television and you are home and dry. All this has
been made possible through the advances in information and communication
ICT has revolutionized banking and money transfer. Today with simple
technology you can operate your bank accounts twenty four hours seven days a week.
You do not need to physically go to the band to do your transaction. You can achieve
this in the comfort of your house with the use of computers or mobile phone though
The Role of ICT in Communication 10
what is now being called mobile banking. In the traditional set up, financial institutions
would entail that the bank keep in touch with her customers through having physical
Sarlak and Hastiani (2011, 2) has described e banking as “electronic connection
between banks and customers in order to prepare, manage and control financial
transactions”. Automated teller machines are common nowadays. Through ICT, one
can purchase goods and services not with cash but card. This has relatively reduced
incidences of losing your hard earned money to thugs.
Money transfer services have been made possible through ICT. Today people
have accounts in their phones thanks to such services as m-pesa that has been made
possible through ICT. This has not only increased communication but also created
employment opportunities. Walk anywhere in the city and you will be amazed by the so
many money transfer operators.
As much as I have tried to look at the positive role ICT plays in communication, it
will be disservice if I were to conclude without pointing some setback. Through ICT,
personal contact are being reduced or limited. For instance people would prefer to chat
on face book as opposed to face to face communication. Marriages have been
dissolved on the grounds that one partner or the other is spending so much time on the
net and neglecting their partners. Wright and Webb, (2011, 288) has suggested that
home access to ICT results to overworking, social isolation and endless interruption of
family life leading to higher level of stress and a lowering of family satisfaction.
The use of ICT has exposed adolescents and young people to larger amount of
information covering virtually any subject, anytime, anywhere. This according to Wright
The Role of ICT in Communication 11
and Webb (2011, 288) is a source of tension regarding boundaries in many a families.
The fact that adolescents and youths who have not yet developed good judgment can
access any information has led to moral degradation. ICT has made it impossible for
parents or adults to control or regulate external information. ICT has taken
phonographic access to the highest level. Exposure to such content may lead to liberal
sexual attitudes which may lead to likelihood of first sexual intercourse at an early age.
Exposure to sexual behavior outside cultural norms may ‘develop a distorted view of
sex as unrelated to love, affection and intimacy and a desire for emotionally
uncommitted sexual involvement’ among the teenagers, this is according to Wright and
Webb (2011, 288).
ICT has led to increased exposure to hate and hostility to others based on race,
tribe, and religion among others. It is common knowledge that the violence following the
disputed election in the year 2007 was fueled by hate messages sent via the internet.
Even before election, there were various emails doing round that may have led to
stereotypes and attitudes supporting tribal leanings. I recently saw an email so negative
about my tribe that I was left wondering are we Kenyans one nation or many nations.
The advent of internet has also increased cyber crime. Have you ever received a
mail informing you that a friend colleague or family is stranded somewhere and you
need to send them money? Or have you waited for someone for a meeting and they tell
you they are just around the corner and end up arriving one hour late. Or has a friend
told you they are in the rural area when you are actually sitting on the bonnet of their
car? ICT has made it easy for us to avoid contact, cheat and even involve in crime.
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ICT has played a major role in how we communicate. Today the world is a global
village due to the advances of ICT. Mobile phones have enabled us to communicate in
real time with friends and contacts far away from us. Through e-commerce and e-
governance, services has been brought closer to people and by touch of a button, a
farmer in Nairobi is able to find market for his or her produce in Kisumu. With ICT, you
can study at Harvard University while working in Nairobi through distance learning.
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