ICT and Social Change (General Paper and O-level English)

Adapted for website  – GP  / O-level tuition articles-  copyright Knowledge Skills LLP
Adapted from J.Bradford Delong
ICT GP tuition / o-level english tuition


Commonly asked in General Paper and O-level English essay papers are questions regarding the impact of ICT (info-comm tech) or the internet and new media on society.
Such issues are popular with most students as they are straight-forward, easy to understand (once you know the issues and impacts involved) and have a high chance of coming out sooner or later in a test or assignment.

Most, if not all schools, dedicate several lectures on media and internet related content.

In discussing the impact of internet or the new media, the very mediocre student would only be able to discuss mainly the run-of-the-mill characteristics such as efficiency, outreach, speed etc.

While definitely not irrelevant, the fact that hundreds of his peers would be churning out similar points (with varying degrees of successful evaluations and examples) means the essay would be hard pressed to enter the upper echelons of the marking rubric.

In this brief note (truncated and adapted for website), we will just look at one of the many not often well discussed social impacts and benefits that the new media brings.  Hopefully, this will give you the edge or the very least, broaden your knowledge of this area.

First point: Rapid productivity and Improved well-being?

Ten years ago, the world emerged from the dot-com bust and started to look more soberly at the Internet’s potential. While speculative greed and fear of missing out might have overplayed the short-term outlook, the Internet’s immense longer-term prospects were never in doubt. Economists and sociologists assumed that free information and communication would herald an era of rapid productivity growth and improved wellbeing – to a greater or lesser extent – for everyone, regardless of their skills, wealth, or social background.

Were they right?

(points regarding information, broadening of views etc not discussed here)

Further elaboration

In many respects, the revolution in information and communications technology (ICT) has delivered more than it promised – and often in unpredictable ways. For many, the true marvel of the digital age is its creation of a parallel universe. Anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection can gossip with (or about) virtual friends; witness extraordinary events that may or may not have happened; or play games in a mock world of incomparable complexity.

At this stage, should a student mentioned such examples, it would be best they elaborated on how such new modes of interaction has altered and shaped society. One point they can raise is  . . . (truncated)

Generally, it’s not so much the pros and cons but to elaborate “to what extent”. Such evaluation is key to securing higher marks than paragraphs which are just example driven or mostly descriptive.

Point 2: Accessibility

The Internet has created a dreamscape that is accessible to all and that can inspire us to still greater heights of imagination.

Yet we musquestion – what forms of accessibility, who is getting accessed and more importantly, how does access affect the way …(truncated)

But the benefits of the Internet have come not just to those who work or play online. Everyone has gained to some degree. Go to a WalMart, Costco, Amazon or anywhere in the world, and compare the price, quality, and range of today’s goods with those of a generation or two ago. This dramatic change for the better largely reflects the rapid development of global supply chains, with real-time monitoring of customer preferences enabling manufacturers located on the other side of the world to know instantly what, when, and how much to produce. (please read Globalisation notes for more clarification)

Point 3: Economic revolution and impact

There is much more to come. Companies are using the Internet to “crowdsource” new ideas, and even let customers co-design their own products. New Web-based platforms allow ordinary people – without money or special skills – to share their cars, spare bedrooms, or even do-it-yourself tools, thus challenging the dominance of global corporations. The “Internet of Things” is connecting simple household items – like a thermostat – to the Web, helping owners to save money and even reduce their carbon emissions.

And yet we must still ask: Is everyone really benefiting in the new economy? Only a fortunate few, especially those who combine innovative thinking with financial acumen, have fully captured the monetary profits of the ICT revolution, becoming its poster children in the process.

Lower down the economic scale, most people, though enjoying easy access to technology and low prices, have lost ground, with real wages falling for many years. This is not a temporary decline: labor in advanced Western economies can no longer command a large wage premium, and workers’ situation may worsen further.

Moreover, white-collar managers and employees – the brainpower that keeps the intricate global corporate machinery whirring, and once the backbone of the middle class – are no longer in such high demand. Many of their skills, which long underpinned their status, careers, and livelihoods, are becoming redundant. (details in Science and Tech notes)

For today’s ordinary middle-class family, a medical mishap can become a financial catastrophe. Owning a home involves a life of indebtedness. Providing a decent education to one’s children requires struggle and sacrifice. The assumptions that defined middle-class households – and many working-class households – for at least two generations are disappearing before our eyes.

Who is speaking out for them? Most households stand to gain from the continuation of the ICT revolution. But middle-class and working-class families would benefit more if the hyper-cheap products and services, free information, and virtual leisure experiences augmented, rather than eroded, their marketable skills. The politician who can figure out how to steer the revolution accordingly might never lose another election.

This is of course is ideal for exploring questions which requires you to evaluate to what extent has the new media or advances in technology affect us.
Yet, remember that such issues are but a few among several others (see Media and Technology notes) which creates news social repercussions. Of course, to include all points in such detail might not be realistic especially given the time constraints.

A student should apply the following considerations to ensure the essay is fully relevant and  . . . (truncated)

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