BOX 2.1 What Do Information Infrastructure End Users Do?

As a general observation and as documented increasingly in the news media, individuals and organizations are using information technology in a number of endeavors:

 

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Work: In an increasing number of occupations, work involves some type of networked computing. Within the corporate environment, about 80 percent of computers are connected to networks (IDC, 1995f). Electronic mail has become a popular way to communicate, and complex design collaborations can be carried out effectively in networked environments. Further, telecommuting and other forms of distributed work involve individuals working on line from home or while traveling.

 

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Learning: Networked access to information, be it reference material, training material, or ideas arising through discussion, is becoming an important tool in the workplace and in schools, both of which involve important training opportunities for users. Experience with using information technology at work and in school carries over into more informal, unstructured learning opportunities enabled by broad access to networks for communications and information retrieval from the home, libraries, and other places not normally associated with training.

 

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Financial and commercial transactions: Many financial transactions are conducted by the banking industry in a networked environment, and consumers spend billions of dollars buying goods through shopping networks on cable television. Online purchase transactions (plus on-line browsing, price comparison, and customer-service queries) using a PC are becoming increasingly common.

 

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Entertainment and socializing: The average U.S. household has a television set on for more than 40 hours a week (Veronis, Suhler, 1995). Television and radio provide entertainment, news, and other information. In addition to such broadcast services, discretionary user capabilities (e.g., pay per view, video on demand) are part of the future offerings that service providers expect to develop as more advanced network technologies are deployed. Games and on-line services also provide entertainment, as does socializing or communicating generally. From simple telephone calls to video and data conferencing, messaging, and collaborative work, end users communicate more frequently and in more ways via networks.

 

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Religion: Devout people are sharing faith on line. They hold religious services, complete with sermons and at times including music. There are on-line support groups for every creed.

 

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Others: The above categorization is quite broad and does not do justice to many critical areas in which technology deployment can and does have a major positive impact. For example, endeavors that rely on rapid response, such as civilian or military crisis management, already depend heavily on the networked environment, be it landline or wireless, voice or data communications.



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