ICT can be defined as a set of technological tools and resources used to communicate, create, disseminate, store, and manage information. These can include video, radio, television, Internet programs, social media platforms, and mobile phones. Distinctions are emerging between “old” and “new” forms of media and technology—that is, between the use of television, radio, and other forms of traditional media that have been employed for decades and newer forms of media, including social media and the mobile phone.
Particularly in the case of the developing world, the adoption of the mobile phone has created a new avenue for combating longstanding problems. With more than 5 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, phone ownership has exploded. Two-thirds of these subscriptions are in developing countries, and it is predicted that soon 90 percent of the world’s population will be within the coverage of wireless networks. Furthermore, the number of unique users active on social networks is up nearly 30 percent globally, having risen from 244.2 million in 2009 to 314.5 million in 2010 as reported by the Nielsen Company (Grove, 2010). There are more than 800 million users on Facebook; Twitter is estimated to have more than 200 million users; and more video content is uploaded to YouTube in a 60-day period than three major U.S. television networks created in 60 years (Elliott, 2010). Teens are texting at record rates, and areas such as eLearning, remote diagnostics, and mServices are growing steadily.
Despite the hype, these various technologies are simply tools that can be used either for social good or for harm. The same was true for the invention of paper, the printing press, and the telephone, all of which changed the way in which we interact with each other. These innovations all had a positive impact on society, but these tools were also conduits for such negative things as yellow journalism and mass media campaigns against ethnic groups and certain minorities. It is also important to keep in mind that technology is only a small part of any solution.
Today, these new forms of communication and new technologies have led to some fantastic outcomes, as discussed in the next section. On the other hand, they have also elicited unintended adverse consequences in the pursuit of preventing and reducing violence. Trends in cyberbullying, losses in privacy and security, and stories of perpetrators targeting victims through social media sites—all of these must be kept in mind when we speak of using these tools for social good.