BOX 4.1

Social Applications of Information Technology: Examples and Features

  • Electronic commerce—Business-to-business procurement of goods and services involves the capture and presentation of large amounts of information on available goods and services (knowledge-based features); negotiation of terms and conditions for sale and fulfillment between purchasing agents in one organization and sales agents in another organization (group-based features); periodic ordering and shipment of, and payment for, goods and services in accordance with those terms and conditions (commerce-based features); infrastructure supporting payments by credit card or bank transfer (control-based features), and post-sale support (group-based features).

  • Delivery of government services—Government tax-collection applications involve the gathering and assimilation of data from throughout the economy (knowledge-based features); conveying of tax returns with tax payments (commerce-based features); infrastructure supporting payments and refunds (control-based features); and interactions among tax agents, citizens, and accountants in dealing with exceptional cases (group-based features).

  • Manufacturing design—Computer-aided automotive design involves large repositories of design information (knowledge-based features), coordination of concurrent design activities distributed over global design centers (control-based features), and collaboration of the designers (group-based features).

  • Air traffic control—Air traffic control systems are critical infrastructures that combine the coordination of planes and airport facilities (control-based features) with the collaboration of pilots and air controllers (group-based features) and information on aircraft type, flight plans and carriers, weather, and so on (knowledge-based features). Air traffic control uses information technology of increasing sophistication to reduce the incidence of human error and extend human controller capabilities to manage a volume of air traffic.

that could be addressed if social applications were to play a more significant role in motivating IT research.

Group Applications

An important feature of social applications and their context is that they involve people as members of groups. With networking, computing moves from enhancing the productivity of individuals in tasks they perform alone to supporting the needs and enhancing the productivity or social interactions of groups of people, or helping people find other, like-minded people—a class of applications called group applications in this

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