IT and ICT: same difference?

No, it’s not, and I think it’s about time these two things were separated out more clearly because the difference is neither subtle nor inconsequential, despite that fact that many people believe the two to be essentially the same thing.

The key is in the word ‘communication’ (as if that weren’t already a clue) and to ignore it is to demonstrate that you’ve missed the point about Web 2.0 entirely.

In this day and age, IT (Information Technology) should really be only used to describe the ‘inner’ workings of digital technologies – i.e., stuff that relates to Computer Science, hard coding, software development, hardware development, scripting, and all that. ICT (Information Communication Technology), on the other hand, should be used to refer to the social aspects of digital life, to Web 2.0, and to anything that funnels the flow of communications between people.

Thus, “I am an IT specialist” should be taken to mean “I have a functional knowledge of how the web works and I can write source code and run servers and do other awfully clever, technical things.” Whereas “I am an ICT guru” should mean, “I know how to find, evaluate, and effectively exploit for social ends the tools that other people have built.” Quite a different thing, really.

People tend to use the terms interchangeably, but that single word, ‘communication,’ makes all the difference because there’s quite a distinct skill set involved in successfully engaging with either. Just because you can write javascript doesn’t mean you know how to make the most of participatory culture.

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6 Responses to “IT and ICT: same difference?”

  1. leigh blackall Says:

    Interesting point, can’t say I disagree but it does worry me that IT folk might become communications ‘experts’. Seems to me the older discipline of social science and media studies covers off the ICT side of your point better. In other words, I would make them much more seperate.

  2. Nicholas Gruen Says:

    Agreed – and one reason why we called our report “Engage“.

  3. Jake Francis Says:

    Spot on, as usual, Meg. Being an IT specialist and an ICT handyman, the difference is obvious to me. While each appears to imply the other, the common thread is actually digital literacy.

  4. Leonard Low Says:

    Being both an “IT” *and* “ICT” specialist, I’m going to propose an alternative model. Rather than ICT and IT being separate – or even intersecting – domains, I believe ICT is a subset of IT. On a Venn diagram, rather than the two domains not touching, or overlapping, I believe ICT would be wholly contained with IT (which also contains other “specialty” subsets). Yes, there is a distinction to be made; but it is not “ICT is not IT; IT is not ICT”. Rather, ICT *is* IT, but IT *is not* ICT. This is analogous to all humans being mammals, but all mammals not being humans.

    I don’t think that IT should *just* be considered to be about the “inner workings” of technological devices or systems. In the design of hardware or software digital interfaces, human factors such as usability, accessibility, and interpersonal communications are often fundamental. Some aspects of IT may have limited human interfaces (e.g. a RAM chip), but they lie in the area of the IT domain outside of ICT. Conversely, ICTs all relate to IT in some way, and as such, I posit that they exist as a subdomain of IT, rather than as an intersecting or separate one.

  5. Y0 Says:

    I think ‘IT’ and ‘ICT’ are the same, but ‘ICT’ is just a more detailed way of describe the professional area.

  6. luke Says:

    IT and ICT are related but not the same.

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